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Jessica Koncz from EatSee – formerly Crave

Get a list of the one piece of advice from over 15 startup founders interviews.

This episode was made in part by the support of New Economy Media, publisher of new economy news – innovation news without the jargon. Read more at neweconomy.media

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Today you’re going to hear the story of Crave and it’s founder Jessica Koncz. Jessica didn’t go to university. Jessica began to work in cafes and restaurants as soon as she could legally work. Today Jess is the director of a successful social media marketing agency employing 6 full time team members and has won a pitch competition that will see her with the opportunity to launch her new app, that as of recording has well over 15,000 downloads in Newcastle alone, into the U.S market backed by a successful American angel investor.

We will get to that but for now let’s go back to Day One, where this story begins…

Transcript

Music

Jessica Koncz:

I always had an idea of working for myself. I just felt like I had it in me to run my own show I guess.

Peter James:

She’s fantastic, a born winner as far as I’m concerned. A born winner

More

Adam:

Hi, I’m Adam Spencer and welcome to day one, the show that goes back to the very beginning, to share the story of some of Australia’s most incredible regional startups and entrepreneurs.

Today you’re going to hear the story of Crave and it’s founder Jessica Koncz. Jess didn’t go to university instead she began to work in cafes and restaurants as soon as she could legally work. Today Jess is the director of a successful social media marketing agency employing 6 full-time team members and has won a pitch competition that will see her with the opportunity to launch her new app, that as of recording has well over 15,000 downloads, into the U.S market backed by a successful American angel investor. We will get to all of that, but for now, let’s go back to day one where this story begins…

Jessica:

I was that annoying person that used to take photos of food and post it to.

It was actually a friend that was like, you post so many photos on Instagram of your food… Why don’t you just start up your own Instagram page so you can post photos of food there rather than clogging up our newsfeed and I was like, fine I will then.  

Jessica:

But I think the momentum started when I would tag other businesses in it, then tag the person who took the photo as well to give credit. And I used to promote in the caption, you know, tag hashtag crave Newcastle for a chance to be featured. And then people started using the hashtag. So I started featuring them.

Jessica:

…The first feature I ever went to I had an iPhone, and I took a photo on my iPhone and I walked out and I was like, I need to go buy a camera because it just was not professional. I didn’t feel professional, and I wanted to portray professionalism, and I didn’t by taking photos on my iPhone.

Adam:

Over time the Crave Instagram page became a place people visited to discover cafes and restaurants.

Jessica:

So people were like, oh this is a cool place I didn’t even know existed and it’s being featured on Crave. And then people started referring to Crave as the guide to look at for where to eat in Newcastle.

Adam:
So, where are we up to? Jess loved sharing pictures of her food which was born out of a love for hospitality. The same love that helped her facilitate her love of people and relationships.

Jess was then encouraged, for a lack of a better word to start an Instagram account specifically for her food photography which gained popularity from a blossoming food culture in Newcastle. Timing played an important role here but does not discount the groundwork Jessica put in to put herself in a position to take advantage of this underserved market.

People began to refer to Crave as the place to go to learn about new and recommended places to dine and to find a truly amazing food experience.

We now have a popular Instagram page bringing value to thousands of people. What we don’t have.. yet.. is an actual paying customer and therefore no business. 

Introducing PJ.

Peter James:

I’m Peter James, and I’m the director of the Blue Door restaurant here in Newcastle. And also the owner of the Blue Door kiosk at Merewether beach.

Adam:

I spoke with Peter James, or PJ, about meeting Jess when Bluedoor was just getting on its feet.

Jessica:

I was there with a friend when it first opened up, and I was like this new cafe just opened up we should go check it out.

Peter James:

Her experience here the first time, when we first opened up, and it was all mayhem, we were still trying to get on our feet…

Jessica:

And I actually sent him an Instagram message privately, through Crave and said, just wanted to let you know I came to your cafe and it actually wasn’t a very good experience, and I wanted to give you some internal feedback about it.  

Adam:
Here Jess made a key decision: she doesn’t share her bad experience with the 10,000 Instagram followers Crave had at the time. This particular value would prove to be a cornerstone of the Crave brand. Not to Judge, not to critique, merely to feature. To give Crave’s followers the opportunity to decide for themselves.

Jessica:

If we had approached it the way like some blogs do, where they go to a place and write a bad review, you know, it could have been really bad for them. But I’ve never wanted to have that approach with Crave. We wouldn’t review places, we just feature them. And that, it’s up to the audience if they have a different experience than what we had.

Peter Jams:

She had a review that she wanted to give us, but it wasn’t a good one. And god love her she sent me a private message

Jessica:

… And I just said, like, this was great, the customer service was good, but you know, both my friend and I got the exact same dish and they looked completely different. I didn’t have an egg on mine, she had an egg on hers, just little things that were inconsistent. I was like, overall love the venue, but I just wanted to let you know that’s what happened when I dined there.

Peter James:

I replied back to her and I said I wanted to catch up with her personally and put a face to the name and thank her personally.

Jessica:

So he called me and he was like, Jess, come in, I want to shout you breakfast, I want to meet you, I want to say thank you for doing this privately, and not, you know, posting on your Instagram how crap the experience was.

Peter James:

And that was the beginning of our relationship

Adam:
At the time Bluedoor had 300 Instagram followers. Crave had 10,000, and PJ was impressed.

Peter James

I could see that there was an opportunity where we could turn this negative feedback into a positive experience, and potentially a business relationship…

Peter James:

And I  noticed there was a gap in hospitality in Newcastle that no one had really capitalised on the social media aspect of food. So with her credentials and my business, I thought the two of us could work together, we could help each other to create her business, and me to get that first initial stepping stone into the market before any of my competitors did.

Jessica:

I never ever thought that we were going to do social media management. I actually loathed the idea of it… And he said, I love what you’ve done with Crave, I would really like you to do the same with my account. And I want you to help us grow the audience, take the photos that you do.

Peter James:

I said I want to be your first client because I see what you can do, and there’s nobody out there doing it. And you’ve already got the credentials, mindset, basic structure.

Jessica:

And I was just like, I don’t want to do it. I was like, thank you for the offer, it’s really kind of you to, you know, have that kind of faith in me and my photographer, but it’s too much time, I spend too much time on this, I don’t want to add more time to it. And he literally, like, poked at me for months and was just like, please do it, I want you to do it, give it a go. Worst case scenario, you know, you don’t like it and you gave it a shot.

Adam:
Jess did give it a shot, and over the next few years with Crave’s help, Bluedoor went from three hundred Instagram followers to twenty thousand. Bluedoor was the first business Crave did social media management for, but despite Jess’ initial hesitation, it wouldn’t be the last.

Jessica:

We were able to help them, and they were able to help us. So we picked up a lot of clients because people were asking PJ who ran the social media, and he was like, oh Jess from Crave does.

Adam:
Whenever a new cafe or restaurant opened in Newcastle, their first feature with Crave was always free. This led to Jess meeting many cafe and restaurant owners.

Jessica:

Well, it was always quite natural, because the person that would ever meet, would always be the cafe restaurant owner. So it was them that we’d be associating ourselves with, which was great because they were very curious about what we were doing. They were like, how did it start up? What else do you girls do for work? And I’d just be like, well this is our job, this is our full-time job. And they’d be like, how? How is it your full-time job? Well, we also run a social media agency, we actually do social media management for a lot of cafes and restaurants in Newcastle, as well as content creation, as well as consulting etc. And that was then that they were just like, oh! We actually, like, we need photos and you know, I’d actually love to learn more about social media. And that was just a follow on from there. And so I think the fact that we were never trying to sell anything, it was just, hey by the way if you’re interested in services we offer them.

Adam:

Crave grew rapidly from a simple Instagram page into a social media management and consulting agency. As part of this expansion, they created a free to download app.

Jessica:

The crave app is a platform where you can discover cafes and restaurants in a really visual way that’s personalised to you, kind of like the tinder for food. And you can go through and put in discovery settings based on things like distance, price, dietary preference, and you swipe left and right through photos of dishes.

Adam:

At first, the app was a small part of Crave’s business model. But just a few months before I spoke to Jess she made a crucial decision about how she was dividing her time between Crave the agency, and Crave the app. I asked her how she divides her time between the two.

Jessica:

If you asked me that probably 3 months ago I  would have said, 80% agency, 20% app. But now I’m 80% app, 20% agency. Completely flipped it. I’ve seen that there’s a need for me to focus more attention on the app to really see this grow…

Adam:

Almost immediately after deciding to shift focus onto the app, Jess was guided to a life-changing opportunity by her friend and close mentor Justin Hales.

Jessica:

He owns Camplify, which is like the Airbnb for caravans. So he’s again an incredible mentor that …he has helped so much. He’s opened me to opportunities that I never would have had. He’s the one that sent me the link for launch festival. I never would have applied to that if it wasn’t for him…

Adam:

The decision to enter the Sydney Launch Festival ended up being another pivotal opportunity for Crave.

Jessica:

So essentially what it is they have an incubator program that they invite seven startups every season into, and they just you know turn these companies from startups to scaleups, putting them in front of huge investors to get funding for their business… The prize is $100,000 and you get a seat in the San Francisco incubator program.

Adam:

Jess spent a lot of time preparing her pitch, and she used an interesting technique to hone the delivery.

Jessica:

I’ll spend time memorising it, and then I’ll go for a drive where I can’t look at my phone and I can’t look at notes and I’ll talk   to myself in the car, because I know if I’m saying it aloud in the car, if I can’t remember something, I can’t look back at anything and I consciously don’t remember that. So that’s something that helped me out a lot, driving, pitching to myself and knowing what I did and didn’t remember.

Adam:
As well as a relentless work ethic, Jess was lucky to have great support from her family. Her brother Ben, who has seen countless business pitches working with Telstra’s startup accelerator program mura-D, gave her practical tips on how to structure her pitch. And Jess’s mum had an unforgettable piece of advice.

Jessica:

A really good piece of advice that my mum gave me, she said, people won’t remember what you said, they’ll remember how you made them feel. And she was like, you are the person that makes people feel things, and they’ll remember how you made them feel rather than what you said, so don’t worry about what you say, they’ll see how passionate you are and that’s all you need to do, just get your message across.

Adam:

As part of the process, Jess had a chance to pitch to the founder of Launch Festival, American entrepreneur and angel investor, Jason Calacanis.

Jessica:

… Jason Calacanis, he’s an absolute like celebrity in the business world in America, I’ve listened to his podcast for like forever.

Jessica:

So he’s invested in companies like Dropbox, Fitbit, uber, his portfolio is crazy.

Jessica:

So I got to pitch to him before I had to pitch to the rest of Sydney, and he was so impressed that the next night I got invited to a private dinner at Ester in Sydney where I rocked up and there were only 8 people there, it was like Jason, his like other lead investor, one other startup, myself and then like 3 of his closest friends from Australia. And I was just like, oh my god! -laughs- Oh my god people would pay like so much money to have the opportunity to have dinner with Jason.

Adam:

Out of hundreds of entrants, Crave went on to be one of seven winners of Launch Festival. As well as the hundred thousand dollar prize, she now has the opportunity to pitch to angel investors in the US. From its humble beginnings in Newcastle, Crave looks to be on the path to becoming an international company. And all this comes with the support of Jess’ business idol, Jason Calacanis.

Jessica:

And I felt so privileged and so humbled that he’d selected me to be one of those businesses. And it was funny because he actually ended up meeting my mum, when mum came and was there when I won Launch, and she said to him thank you for believing in Jess and believing in this company. I know that this will be an incredible opportunity for her and for you as Crave goes to America. And he was like, has Jess always been such an overachiever.

Adam:

I asked Jess what advice she would have for people starting up their own business.

Jessica:

My one piece of advice would be surround yourself with people that have already achieved what you are wanting to achieve. That’s it. Because there are questions that you can’t google…

Adam:

This strikes me as a key theme throughout Jess’ story, the importance of our relationships with the people around us.

Relationships that we just have no idea where they are going to come from or where they are going to go.

From Jess’ friend suggesting she start an Instagram account just for her food pictures, to P.J from Blue Door seeing Jess’ potential, then to Justin from Camplify pointing Jess towards Launch festival to Jason Calacanis.

Every pivotal moment along the way arrived at through the blessing of relationships.

The key I believe is to be genuine and something friend of mine told me once, help people even when you know they can’t help you back.

So surround yourself with good people and help them when you can.

Jessica:

But in terms of surrounding yourself with people that know how to help guide you through challenging times, that’s what will get you through. Because there have been times where Crave looks really pretty on face value and everything you see online I’m sure everyone things Crave’s absolutely killing it, but there have been times when I’ve almost walked away because I didn’t think I was strong enough to do it anymore. And it’s conversations with Justin and Ben that have pulled me back where I’m like, you know what, what else am I going to do with my life? I kind of just have to suck it up and move on because I’m not going to work for anyone else, let’s be real. And it’s people like that that help ground you, and help bring you back to help you realise you can get through challenging times.

Jessica:

I have great people around me, that’s why Crave is Crave.

(Music)

Adam:

Next time on Welcome to Day One… Justin Hales from Camplify, Camplify is the AirBNB of caravans, allowing people to easily hire someone else’s campervan or caravan for a holiday. This is where the seed of the idea for Camplify entered Justin’s mind…

Justin:

Then every day we’d go for a walk so we’re walking around, telling my wife I can’t find anything. There’s nothing available. But we’re walking past all these caravans sitting on the side of the road, and I said wouldn’t it be great if there was Airbnb but for caravans? She said that’s a good idea. Maybe it is a good idea.

Adam:

I hope you enjoyed listening to Jessica’s story, if you liked this episode please feel free to check out the show notes for this episode at welcometodayone.com which has links to everything that was mentioned in today’s episode plus a way to leave a rating for the show wherever you listen to your podcasts. If you enjoy what we are doing I would really appreciate if you would take a minute to leave a rating as it really helps the show get in front of more people that might also enjoy it. So please go to welcometodayone.com click on the Jessica episode post and follow the links to leave a rating for the show.

(Music)

Adam:

Thank you so much for giving this episode of Welcome to Day One your attention, we really appreciate it.

This show was created by Adam Spencer and Andy Jones.

Interviews conducted by Adam Spencer. A big thank you to Peter James of Blue door and Jessica Koncz of Crave for their time and willingness to be involved.

Script written and re-written by Adam Spencer and Andy Jones.

Music by Lee Rosevere, full attribution on our website welcometodayone.com

This episode was produced by Adam Spencer and mixed by Andy Jones.

Thank you and see you next time.

Less

Resources mentioned

  • Instagram
  • Instagram Blueprint: If you’d like to learn more about Instagram as a marketing tool, Facebook actually has a free course. Because as Jess shared with me in our interview it’s in Facebook’s best interest for people to get the best results that they can out of the platform so they continue investing in it.
  • Telstra’s Mura-D Startup Accelerator

Crave

Blue Door Cafe

Camplify

Launch Festival

Credits

A big thank you to Peter James from Blue Door and Jessica Koncz from Crave for their time and willingness to be involved.

Music Credits

Music by Lee Rosevere.

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