Every year, Gulliver hosts a competition for student entrepreneurial ventures with the aim to support them financially with a 10,000 euro cash prize.
As part of the preparation for the final on 20th of June, we sat down in a series of interviews to understand a bit more about each of our three finalists, ShareDnD, Bonnie and Onescnd, and to give them a chance to share more about their amazing work.
First off, we sat down with Nick Plokkaar, one of the co-founders of ShareDnD, excited to hear more about what he and his team have been up to:
- What is ShareDnD?
ShareDnD is an online platform for living room restaurants. That means hobby chefs/cooks who would like to cook some more can open their own restaurant at home, for guests to reserve.
- How did you come up with the idea / What inspired you?
It’s not originally my idea, I actually don’t even like to cook, but I do like to go out to dinner. Therefore, I am so to speak on the other side of the table.
The interesting proposition and the great potential really triggered me to step in and work on the growth of ShareDnD. Now it’s my job to make sure ShareDnD reaches is full potential.
- Who is your team and why do you feel your team are the best people to be doing this?
The main team members are me and Suzan. Suzan is my community manager who is mainly responsible for the loneliness programs we do for municipalities (=a town or district that has local government). Then we have two people working in the background: Floris, he is doing the finance parts, and Ruud who is doing the business development side. Ruud is also a consultant at a large consultancy firm so he’s really an expert in that part. Floris and Ruud are part-time entrepreneurs and are more in the background for now while Suzan and I are running it.
- When it comes to the business itself, obviously you’re on the good road now, you have the final coming up, what are you most excited about in regards to the future of ShareDnD?
It’s hard to say. I think the most exciting part is the potential to growth of ShareDnD. National awareness is the main goal, and eventually to grow outside of the Netherlands as well. But for that a lot of things need to be done and it’s all going to take some time.
I think in the end the main proposition will be group dinners. That can include bachelor dinners, dinner with the family, or with your team, but there it’s really hard to boost marketing since there is a revenue model with a 15% booking fee, so marketing has to be really creative. You have to think about what kind of marketing you will do in order to break even and not have any losses. Since there’s no budget yet, I have to do it in a more creative way. That’s why I started doing the loneliness programs and more low-key dinners called “Aanschuif-diners”, which translates to Joining-the-table-dinners where people join a dinner solo. Now the idea is to raise subsidy and then promote a more low key concept: To decrease loneliness and bring people together.
So far, I started this project for one municipality, and with good results I want to do 2-3 more municipalities this year. If that succeeds, I can extend even more, but also with this I can show future investors the proposition and let them see the value and the growth I realized. With that I want to focus on group dinners again, and split the group and solo propositions into two. Because the segments in the market are completely different, I don’t want to mix them up too much, but at this point we don’t have a choice yet.
- Loneliness is an interesting angle, it’s a huge issue at the moment. Is there a specific reason you chose “loneliness” as the way in, or did you consider other concepts as well?
I had to look at ways how to raise money without actually going to investors or banks. And thinking about other, more creative ways, subsidy projects definitely presented new possibilities. Since loneliness is such a booming subject, it was a logical way to move forward.
- So far there have been many up parts and you have been achieving a lot, but I can imagine there have been some difficulties too. Along the ShareDnD journey, what’s the hardest thing you had to deal with?
I’m not sure if you’re familiar with the graph, but if you’re an entrepreneur you really vary between the ups and downs, and that’s exactly how I often feel. It doesn’t have to have a specific reason, it’s just that one thing doesn’t work out so you move on to the next one and that might work and it goes up again. It’s really a rollercoaster.
Thinking about the main down-side… When I started I wanted to work on group dinners. In the beginning I saw a growth in revenue, because I manually checked the reservations. Chefs that didn’t react I contacted and therefore the revenue increased, but at a specific moment I reached a maximum, so the manually checks didn’t do anything anymore. After that it decreased again, because there was no marketing budget and the manually checks weren’t necessary or didn’t help anymore. That really demotivated me at some point. It was roughly around the same time the municipality started so luckily that gave me some comfort.
- You’ve passed the challenges and now you’re on the up, why do you feel ShareDnD should win compared to the other finalists?
I think ShareDnD should win because it has so much potential and already come such a long way. Although we haven’t been able to do so yet, ShareDnD really has the potential to disrupt a variety of markets. Also did I realise significant growth with almost no budget, imagine the possibilities with 10k.
- At the moment you have a lot going on, such as the loneliness dinners, and also the usual ones. If somebody now wants to get involved, where do they go and how do they get in touch with you?
Chefs and guests can apply through the platform. Everything goes through there. You can make up a profile, set up a dinner and make reservations. Also payments and reviews, everything goes through the platform. And if they have questions they can call or e-mail.
For any business questions, they would have to reach out to me personally. As mentioned we want to increase the marketing side so one of the first new team members we would like to get on board would be someone with experience in marketing. Someone who is really involved in the business. That would be the next step for the team, yes.
- Ok, super exciting. It’s in an early place and yes of course there’s still a lot to do but seems you’re very happy with where it is and the team is good
Yes, but as I said, I think the team is really missing a marketing guy but it’s hard because there’s not enough revenue to really hire a co-founder or a COO. I would like to have a COO before we go to investors, to present a more complete team
Then the last real question is for younger people who haven’t started yet or people who are in the beginning of a thought-process: What’s the biggest thing you can advise them you have learned over the journey so far, that would help them going forward?
Definitely that you cannot do anything alone! Maybe in the beginning, but you will fall pretty soon, so that’s the first thing. I also always wanted to do things alone, but if you’re an entrepreneur you just can’t do that.
To find out more about ShareDnD and keep up to date with their work, check out their website at https://www.sharednd.com/or follow them on Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin or Instagram.