Interview With Sam Nasserian
Describe your product or service:
“As the premier destination for culinary experiences, Cozymeal features the largest collection of virtual and in-person culinary experiences (cooking classes, private chefs, mixology, wine tasting, whiskey tasting, coffee tastings, and more!) hosted by world-class and exhaustively-vetted chefs, sommeliers, food tours guides, etc. In addition, we have a Cozymeal Shop featuring premium cookware curated and endorsed by professional chefs. As the only place with authentic and verified product reviews, you can count on recommendations for the best culinary products at the lowest price guaranteed.”
Describe your company values and mission:
“I grew up in Europe, where one of my first hobbies was watching cooking shows and cooking competitions on TV. My passion for great food grew when I moved to California and experienced first-hand the great local produce and diverse food scene, especially in melting pot cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles.
While I enjoyed experiencing new cuisines, I was often disappointed by the atmosphere in restaurants where it was often loud, the quality of the food was mediocre, and there was never an opportunity to interact with the chefs behind-the-scenes. Also, my friends who are chefs would often express how difficult their lifestyle could be with an income that didn’t match the stress levels. With my experience in building online marketplaces, I started Cozymeal to connect guests with some of the top local chefs for intimate one-on-one culinary experiences.”
How are you funded? I.e. venture capital, angel investors, etc.
“We are backed by a great group of institutional and angel investors who have previously invested in other successful food companies and marketplaces.”
How big is your team? Tell us a little about them (I.e. co-founders, freelancers, etc.)
“We have a team of 40+ employees plus around 800 host partners that include chefs, mixologists, etc.”
Did you always want to start your own business? What made you want to become an entrepreneur?
“I always enjoyed solving problems with new ideas, so when I saw the challenge many were facing with not being able to easily find high-quality culinary products and experiences, I saw the opportunity to offer a solution to that problem; it was an easy decision to start Cozymeal.”
How did you come up with your startup idea? How did you decide to actually act on the idea? What gave you confidence that you were on the right track?
“One problem I found while immersing myself into the different local restaurant scenes was that the atmospheres in these environments were often impersonal and loud. Guests did not have the opportunity to interact with or get a glimpse of the behind-the-scenes of how their food was made. Cozymeal was created to solve this problem.
We first started with in-person cooking classes in San Francisco in 2014, and we saw a lot of interest from both consumers and companies who were booking these experiences for all kinds of occasions from corporate team building activities, to date nights, to bachelorette parties, [and] to holiday parties. This gave us the confidence that we had the right product, and we continued our expansion from there into other cities and product categories (private chef services, food tours, mixology, cookware, etc.).”
What is the greatest challenge you faced in starting your business, and how did you overcome it?
“One challenge we have faced within the past year is pivoting as a result of COVID-19 and our responsibility to customers who were looking for safe culinary experiences and our partners (chefs, mixologists, sommeliers, etc.) who were looking for a source of income and were also concerned about their own healthy and safety. I am proud to say that we have since expanded the offerings on Cozymeal to include online cooking and mixology experiences, as well as wine, whiskey, and coffee tastings. In addition, we recently launched the Cozymeal Shop, an online marketplace featuring premium cookware endorsed by professional chefs and our recipes section where we produce (working with our in-house team of videographers and our large network of chef and mixology partners) a large number of recipe videos with step-by-step instructions. Also, we’ve followed all of the safety protocol and put measures in place to where we’ve been able to safely transition into hosting in-person cooking classes again.”
Who is your product or service made for? Who is your target market?
“Cozymeal covers a wide range of customers: people of all ages — but the group that is larger than the other groups (by around 10%) are millennials.”
What's your favorite book on entrepreneurship?
“‘Start with Why’ by Simon Sinek.”
What is your favorite startup or business podcast?
“‘Masters of Scale’ by Reid Hoffman.”
What is something that surprised you about entrepreneurship?
“I was surprised by how much you learn every day.”
How do you achieve work/life balance as a founder?
“Take time for other important things in life, [such as] family and health. Also, I work out every day.”
How do you stay motivated?
“Our mission is to enable customers to find high-quality products and experiences around food and alcohol with just a few clicks while being confident that they can always rely on the quality of products and services on Cozymeal. For our partners (chefs, food tour guides, etc.), we want to empower them to make a good living through our platform while staying independent and being their own boss. This keeps me motivated every single day.”
Did you have to develop any habits that helped lead you to success? If so, what are they?
“Always focus on the most important problems first. Don’t tackle tasks or problems that are just convenient to tackle but rather focus on those where the solutions can have the biggest impact.”
What are you most proud of as an entrepreneur?
“The impact we have had on people's lives both that of customers and our partners (chefs, mixologists, sommeliers, food tour guides, etc.)”
What is your advice for coming up with a unique startup idea?
“Come up with products that actually solve problems, and never give up.”
What is your advice for overcoming challenges and failure?
“Never give up.”
What is the biggest lesson you learned and what can aspiring entrepreneurs take from it?
“The importance of hiring a strong team and the big impact you can have by empowering your team. I care a lot about my employees and try to motivate and empower them every single day.”