Interview With Seema Shenoy
Describe your product or service:
Chef Avenue produces innovative cookware that melds culinary art with modern science. Our cookware helps the home chefs enjoy cooking and achieve great results in the kitchen, every single time.
Describe your company culture in 3 words
Innovation. Diversity. Inclusion.
Describe your company values in one sentence
We believe in building socially, ethically, and environmentally responsible products and company.
What are you ultimately hoping to achieve with your business?
I envision Chef Avenue to be on the forefront of innovation in kitchen related products. I want people to think of our products, when they think of saving time and efforts in the kitchen, while enjoying the cooking process.
How are you funded?
How big is your team?
Tell us about your team
I am the founder of the company. We have 2 very talented and 100% dedicated full-time individuals plus 3 freelancers who are very good at what they do.
What made you want to become an entrepreneur?
I have always had an entrepreneurial spirit within me. Even as a child, I had set [up] a small profitable business. :-)
How did you come up with your startup idea?
Own experience, unmet market needs.I have been obsessed about cooking and food all my life. But I never considered that as a business. It was always a hobby. In 2019 I decided that I am going to make my hobby into a business. I researched various ideas for packaged food and cookware. In cookware, I wanted to design something that will save time and efforts for the home chefs. I realized that there isn't any cookware in the market that goes from prep to refrigerator, to oven, to dining table, to freezer with left-overs, to microwave, to ultimately dishwasher to clean. This would remove the "friction" and make cooking more hands-off and cleaning more effortless. After extensive research, I found 100% Silicone material that would help me to create exactly what I envisioned.
How did you come up with your company name? Did you have other names you considered?
I wanted a name for the company that will allow me to have the flexibility to be in any products related to cooking, including food. I do not recall the other contenders for the company name.
What is something that makes your company unique?
We value quality over expediency and people over profits.
What is the greatest challenge you faced in starting your business, and how did you overcome it?
Greatest challenge was that all my previous experience was in the software business, where there is no designing and manufacturing of physical products involved. I had to learn every aspect of this business - industrial design, material composition and qualities, writing technical specs, package design, prototyping, testing, production, supply chain, logistics... the list goes on and on. I am a quick study. I did a lot of research and talked to several people. At times, things got so complex that I almost wanted to quit. But then I kept reminding myself why I am doing this and one day I can look back and say I did it. I do not want to go through life and wonder what I should have and could have done. I don't mind making mistakes and learning, so that I know that I did everything I ever wanted to do. This is what kept me going and still does.
Is this your first business? If not, how did your experiences with past businesses influence your decision to start this new business?
This is my second company. I am a co-founder of a high-tech company in Silicon Valley that has been running successfully. The experience of being an entrepreneur, especially when you have gone through all stages a company goes through, is invaluable. It cannot be replaced by anything else. You develop hunches and insights, and you know what it takes to build a successful new business. I cannot imagine going into my current business, without the prior experience of running a company.
Who is your product or service made for?
Our current product, Omnipan, is made for home chefs who want to cook great food with minimum efforts. People who like home cooked meals, but do not enjoy standing next to [the] stovetop and later spend time cleaning.
What's your marketing strategy?
Marketing strategy is to offer people a "complete solution" to make their job easier in the kitchen. The 3 sizes of Omnipan are designed to cook [a] complete meal effortlessly. It's hands-off cooking at its best. Since the oven does your cooking, you do not need to stand in front of the stovetop. We have designed recipes for main dishes, side dishes, and desserts specifically for Omnipan. We have a combo pack where home chefs can get a Mega Set of Omnipan with a cookbook, Cooking with Omnipan, that I have personally written. My hope is that these recipes will not only inspire home chefs to make delicious food, but also be inspired to create their own masterpieces in the kitchen.
How did you acquire your first 100 customers?
Crowdfunding - first 2900 customers
What are the key customer metrics / unit economics / KPIs you pay attention to to monitor the health of your business?
We have not reached this point yet. Currently the product is being manufactured. First we will fulfill our obligation to the crowdfunding backers. After that we will be releasing the product on e-commerce sites.
How has your approach to managing your business changed from when you started to now?
When I started, everything was more theoretical - how everything is supposed to work in the perfect world. Now that I have gone through various stages, I am more practical.
What’s the #1 resource you rely on for success?
Self confidence - knowing I can do what I set out to do
What is the biggest lesson you learned during your journey?
Do not take anything on its face value. Do not go by what people say, but watch what they do.
Who is your support system?
My husband and my son are my biggest supporters.
Who or what inspired you to start your business?
Love for food and cooking
What motivates you?
Making a difference, even to a single person
Did you have to develop any habits that helped lead you to success?
Eating well and walking to keep myself healthy, so I have the needed energy and drive
How do you define success?
When you know that you are doing your best
What are you most proud of as an entrepreneur?
I am proud of the small team we have, to see how dedicated everyone is
What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Do your homework. Trust your gut feel and intuition. If something does not sound right, do not justify how that is right. Trust yourself and believe in yourself.
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More on Chef Avenue
Chef Avenue's primary product, the Omnipan, cuts the excess work out of cooking and provides users with a multi-use cookware alternative that works in the freezer, oven, dishwasher, and more.
We were fortunate enough to hear some valuable insights during our interview with Seema Shenoy of Chef Avenue that will inspire, motivate, and teach aspiring and established entrepreneurs alike.
We have developed this list of five creative and impactful ways to support cookware startup Chef Avenue.
Cookware startup Chef Avenue blew past its fundraising goal on Kickstarter, amassing over 10x the expected amount within only eight days into its crowdsourcing campaign.