EatandEvolve

10 Startups to Watch in 2018

EatandEvolve provides healthy, ready-to-eat meals made fresh and delivered to your doorstep.

Founders/Management Team
Gabriela Morin, founder and CEO, was born and raised in Venezuela and has been a health enthusiast since her youth. After working as a chemical engineer, she earned degrees in business administration and operations management at Kettering University before moving to Illinois in 2009. After working in the corporate world for several years, she decided to strike out on her own as an entrepreneur in 2016. Beyond healthy food, she is a firm believer in chemical-free living and natural medicine.

Erick Scarpone, accountant and strategist, is Gabriela’s husband and has supported the family business since its beginning. He earned his mechanical engineering degree in Venezuela and worked for an oil company before moving to the United States to pursue his master’s degree in manufacturing engineering at Kettering University. Erick is passionate about numbers and lean operations, and he strives to apply all his knowledge to support overall operations at EatandEvolve.

What makes your service unique or different from other solutions on the market?
Our meals are already prepared, freshly made and never frozen. There is no need for cooking; just order online, receive the meals at your doorstep, and heat and eat. It's a convenient service that takes the stress out of planning, shopping and cooking healthy meals. We have a price competitive advantage over other meal kit companies, as the average cost of our meals is $9.50, while other companies charge about the same just for the ingredients to prepare one meal. Finally, we are “local,” so there are not high overnight delivery charges involved.

How did you come up with the idea for your startup?
I have been always interested in keeping a healthy lifestyle for me and my family. After staying at home with my children for a few years, I was ready for a full-time job that I feel passionate about. Not being able to find a place in town to eat a tasty meal without feeling bloated and guilty was a catalyst to start selling what I was already making at home: healthy food that actually tastes good. Everybody started to love the idea of having a ready-to-eat, fresh meal at their convenience, and my business has been growing since then.

What key milestones has your company achieved so far?
We went from a couple hundred meals a month in December 2016 to 1,300 meals last October. We have tripled sales since we started in May 2016. We have gained recognition by being featured in several magazines in town, TV stations and interviews with different local organizations.

Did you have assistance from local entrepreneurial resources, or were there other key individuals who helped you launch?
Yes, the access to qualified entrepreneurial resources in Peoria is absolutely amazing. One Million Cups gave us our very first exposure back in February 2016, when I pitched what was then just a business idea in front of a small group. EatandEvolve was the first woman-owned business to win the KeyStart prize of $10,000 in June 2016, thanks to the investment of Steve Zika of Attollo. We participated in the first Brave Launch in 2016, which helped us improve our business model and come up with a good final pitch to seek investment.

The Turner Center of Entrepreneurship is one of the best resources when trying to find assistance in any aspect of the business model development; Ross Miller has been a special and incredible supporter… and continues to offer his guidance for our future endeavors. At SCORE, we have attended many seminars, from learning social media marketing to dealing with accountability and legal issues. Cesar Suarez from the City of Peoria was one of the first to hear our business idea and helped us seek a commercial kitchen during the early stages of the company.

What key milestones do you hope to achieve in 2018?
Opening our first brick-and-mortar is what lies ahead of us in 2018. In our first dedicated facility, we will not only continue the meal plan delivery service, but we will also offer breakfast and lunch Monday through Saturday. It will be a new concept in Peoria, based always on the premise of offering fresh, healthy and high-quality food.

What has been the biggest challenge so far on your startup journey?
The first year, finding a commercial kitchen was extremely difficult. It is a shame that there are so many buildings with fully-equipped commercial kitchens that are unused, but forbidden to be rented for different reasons... Fortunately, we found a facility in May 2016 after Randon Gettys from Greater Peoria EDC sent me a list of buildings with commercial kitchens in town—a really useful resource he and his team put together.

The second year, the biggest challenge has been to find responsible and honest employees. The food industry has such a high turnover, and dealing with that while fulfilling all of our orders has been really difficult.

What advice do you have for other prospective entrepreneurs?
People always say being a business owner is challenging and demanding—but you will never know how much until you actually go to bed and wake up, day after day, nonstop, thinking, working, planning, researching. I heard an interesting story recently that I think perfectly explains what being an entrepreneur means:

The bamboo is a plant that you have to water every single day for five years. If you miss only one day, the plant won’t sprout, but if you consistently do it for five years straight—and can stand people calling you crazy because you are “watering the ground”—it will eventually sprout and grow 80 feet in six weeks. Some people’s bamboo will never break through the ground, although they think they’ve watered it enough. But those who are patient and determined enough, who continue waiting and doing the work, will see that plant come alive and take all of your endless efforts higher than you ever imagined. You have to take time to grow your foundation strong enough, as the plant is growing its roots, to support its potential for outward growth. iBi

For more information, visit eatandevolve.com.

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