The pandemic stopped Angela Shen’s Seattle food tours — and tech powers her pivot to delivery

The pandemic stopped Angela Shen’s Seattle food tours — and tech powers her pivot to delivery

Angela Shen turned her Savor Seattle food tour business into a delivery business. (Courtesy photo by Angela Shen)

It is difficult to run a business dependent on tourism when there are no tourists and when the places you would show tourists are shut down by a global health crisis. None of these facts stopped Angela Shen when the startup entrepreneur started over.

Shen is the founder and CEO (Chief Eating Officer) of Savor Seattle. For the past 13 years – prior to COVID-19 – she was a director of food and culture walks in Seattle. When tourism and hospitality stalled, the business turned into the curated and aggregated food delivery room almost overnight.

How hard can it really be to pack a few groceries into a box and deliver it, right? Well, it actually takes a surprising amount of technology for our new business to run smoothly.

“If we couldn’t get people to Pike Place Market anymore, we’d bring the market right to people’s doorstep instead,” said Shen, our youngest geek of the week.

Shen and her team are now building iconic market boxes that contain a selection of at least nine different vendors. With new boxing topics added weekly, they have worked with over 100 companies in 25 weeks and contributed nearly $ 1 million in direct sales to small grocery businesses.

Savor Seattle has shipped boxes to nearly all 50 states and has distributed more than 9,000 boxes locally. They went from shipping 48 boxes in the first week of business – with Facebook and PayPal as the primary promotional tool – to more than 1,200 boxes in the busiest week. Each box sale also includes a donation of at least $ 5 to a relevant non-profit organization. To date, Savor Seattle has donated $ 55,000 to the Black Lives Matter Fund, Pike Place Market Safety Net Fund, and FareStart.

Some items for an Iconic Market Box from Savor Seattle. (Courtesy photo by Angela Shen)

Savor Seattle also offers special themed boxes. This month, a Hispanic Heritage Box features 10 different food artisans that will benefit Casa Latina.

Many tech companies and other businesses have been spinning since March when the pandemic hit and hit the economy immediately. Shen said technology is important in her food tour business, but she can use out-of-the-box ticketing platforms to meet her needs. The new business is much more complicated.

“It feels a lot like we’re building the parachute as we’re falling off the building!” She said. “Without intensive investments in an e-commerce platform, customer-specific sales and inventory management software and route optimization software for our drivers, we would not be able to maintain and scale our processes so quickly.”

Savor Seattle faces new technical hurdles every week as customers expect more sophistication and easier connectivity to the company. She works on subscription management and forecasting tools that minimize product waste and receives help from technology experts. The L&W team offered to create Shen’s first Shopify site for free to help manage and improve Savor Seattle’s platforms. Realizing what Shen was doing, Slalom Consulting offered to run a hackathon project to develop a long-term growth strategy.

Learn more about the geek of the week, Angela Shen:

What are you doing and why are you doing this Functionally, we offer curated, aggregated grocery deliveries and statewide deliveries that showcase the best small business grocers in Seattle. Our mission is to “serve joy”. Although our approach today is different from what we did before COVID-19, we are still ambassadors of local pride.

Small business and entrepreneurship is the definition of the American dream. My family immigrated here from China and I was part of the first generation to be born in the United States. I couldn’t stand idly by as small businesses in Seattle were crippled within weeks due to a global pandemic and racial injustice.

What is the most important thing people should know about your subject? How hard can it really be to pack a few groceries into a box and deliver it, right? Well, it actually takes a surprising amount of technology for our new business to run smoothly! None of this would be possible without a number of sophisticated back-end systems that support our e-commerce, supply chain, inventory, and delivery systems.

Where do you get your inspiration from? The best business consultant I’ve ever had is my 9 year old daughter Kira. She is the one who suggested this idea first!

In all seriousness, the best ideas come to me when I travel. There are very few new ideas these days. But seeing other people doing things and figuring out how to do it better can often produce remarkable results.

What’s the only technology you couldn’t live without and why? My mobile phone. For all the obvious reasons!
I remember the first time I had a smartphone in my hands many years ago. After berating others for “needing” a smartphone that does more than just making calls, it’s like heaven parted when I held one in my hands. I’ve never looked back since!

(Courtesy photo by Angela Shen)

What does your workspace look like and why does it work for you? I’m in a massive transition from moving, so my workspace is pretty dire right now. Probably more interesting is what’s on my desk at that moment and probably talking more about how my brain works. I am told that I process very different topics and tasks at the same time and quickly in no particular order. But it all seems to be working efficiently for me.

I’m sure it’s happy hour at 3:30 p.m. somewhere in the world, so a glass of red wine spurs me on for the rest of the day. I’m hungry so this is a can of sardines I just devoured. It’s just protein! And on the posh end of the spectrum, there’s a bar of black sesame chocolate from Fran’s Chocolates. I am always testing new products for possible inclusion in future cardboard ranges. I have no problem mixing wine with sardines and black sesame chocolate. Strange, but that’s how my mind works too.

Your best tip or trick for managing day-to-day work and everyday life. (Help us, we need it.) Early in the training. I am a kinder, gentler, clearer leader and person when doing sports!

Mac, Windows or Linux? Windows.

Kirk, Picard or Janeway? Picard. My favorite gift as a kid was a mug that revealed a Klingon warbird when hot liquid was poured into it!

Transporter, time machine or cloak of invisibility? time Machine

If someone gave me $ 1 million to start a startup, I would … I would start a company connecting interested parents in their communities with teaching assistants / nannies to facilitate pod training.

I waited in line once for … 3 hours to get Matcha Soft Serve in a fish-shaped ice cream cone.

Your role models: Howard Wright and Tom Douglas. Two of the smartest, no-nonsense, and knowledgeable Seattle businesspeople I know!

The greatest game in history: Tetris.

Best device ever: DVR.

First computer: Sony Viao.

Current phone: Pixel 2.

Favorite app: Marco Polo.

Favorite cause: DoStart.

Most important technology of 2020: Grocery and delivery apps.

Most important technology of 2022: Technology that provides step-by-step home school curricula that uncertified educators can deliver effectively.

Final advice for your fellow freaks: Exercise. Sleep well. Drink lots of water!

Website: Enjoy Seattle

Twitter: @savorseattle

LinkedIn: Angela Shen