Tracy Lawrence, Founder and CEO of Chewse, understands lunch. The platform (which is currently active in Century City and Downtown LA, and will launch in Santa Monica this Monday) is “the marketplace for making catering and lunches easier for offices.” And Lawrence knows from experience how hectic it can be. “I was an event planner,” she says. “I had to endure the pain of ordering – from dietary restrictions, to budget, to the delivery radius. It took two hours to complete that first order. No one has that kind of spare time.” But by outsourcing catering departments, and handling menu rotations, order confirmations, and delivery, Chewse arranges healthy food from quality restaurants – and alleviates that stress – for corporate clients.
The idea was born when Lawrence was still a student at USC, and continued to develop as she worked day and night with Co-Founder Jeff Schenck – sleeping on his couch in Silicon Beach – eventually taking it north to work within the 500 Startups Accelerator. These roots in both Silicon Beach and Silicon Valley have offered the Chewse team complementary experiences within startup worlds. While pointing out the abundance of Silicon Valley investors who are familiar with risk (“And what is a startup but risk?”), Lawrence says that working in Los Angeles allows companies to be closer to real customers (in this case: real restaurants), and to learn their needs and to speak their language.
And understanding another language – the one spoken by female founders – is something to which Lawrence attributes her success. “As female founders, we have a high EQ,” she says. “There’s a high degree of empathy that we’re allowed to exhibit. In the early stages, you have to launch your minimally viable product, and when you do, it’s all about feedback. I spent a lot of time just listening, and I hear a lot of women in sales say they’re allowed to do this shamelessly. To have that opportunity is so valuable.” It’s evident that she values all feedback - even the harsher kind - saying that “the more a founder receives, the less they will fear it.”
Lawrence sees that opportunity and potential for growth in many of the challenges of building a business – fundraising, for example – and she credits consistency and process-oriented action. That and understanding the simple fact that most startups fail. “When we were at 500 Startups, the first day, they said ‘look to your left; look to your right; most of these businesses will run out of money and fail,’” Lawrence muses. “That lit a fire under us to engage customers and prove our businesses.”
And the proof will soon come to Santa Monica. This coming Monday, Chewse will be sending tasting platters to offices in the area (request one here). “Our vision is to make sure companies are being thoughtful about how they treat their employees. We believe food should be part of a benefits package. Because teams are eating three times a day, every day, we want to provide really flavorful, healthful options.” Chewse’s current Santa Monica partners include The Curious Palate and Country Kitchen, and the company plans to expand its offerings and partnerships to Glendale and Pasadena in the future.
Connect with Chewse by following Tracy Lawrence on twitter (@chewishgirl) or by emailing the company at [email protected]. Lawrence also recommends that anyone entering the startup community watch ‘Marcel the Shell with Shoes On 2.’ Why? “Uh, ‘cause it’s all worth it.”