Rowena Scherer | Building a Cooking Kit Company, Exploring Different Cultures, and Mentorship

John Corcoran 10:49

Now I have to give a shout out to my friend and neighbor, Adam Zbar. He’s one of the co-founders of Sunbasket. And so I know, you have talked to him about kind of some of the constraints and limitations of doing a company that’s shipping fresh ingredients. And one of the really hard things about it is you’re building multiple different types of businesses at once. And another company in Montreal, I remember interview reading an interview with the founder, who said it’s where we’re building a distribution system, we’re building a web based company with all those tech and software challenges. And then we have perishable foods that we’re shipping around the country. And in a labor shortage is all. So there’s all these different constraints. So did you bootstrap this whole thing yourself? Did you raise money? Did you have other co founders or team members that were helping you that how did you even manage this from the beginning.

Rowena Scherer 11:39

So I actually self funded this. And I bootstrap it. But I did bring in a also I did a fun a friends and family round. And I have a angel investor join me in 2020, late 2020. Just because of from a marketing perspective, he’s a travel guy. So I have organized like you said, having the dealing with fresh ingredients is another level of complication. But you are a logistic company, because you have to deal with all the shipping, you have the fulfillment company, right, and then is the E commerce. So you, you have to have the tech. So we use Shopify, and we do have our own inventory system. And Shopify is great, you can always set subscription, and everything is very seamless. But we fulfill everything from our warehouse in upstate New York. So I will at some point, start looking to for VC funding, I don’t know about when but because now it’s just not a good time. But in the meantime, we’re doing fine. And I have, you know, invested my own money. And I’m very confidently with and my angel investors just just up his investment as well. And he is more like a partner now because he is the key he built in an own and so marketing firm for tourism, like tourists, foreign tourists, tourists board. So

John Corcoran 13:14

similar kind of interested interested in world cultures.

Rowena Scherer 13:17

Exactly. And he used to be a professor at Kansas City, university. And so he he knows the travel part. And it’s very connected, which is,

John Corcoran 13:29

by the way, that’s an additional component that you have on top of what Blue Apron did on top of what munchery did, because you have the educational component. So you’ve also partnered with educators slash chefs, how have you managed that? How do you go out and find chefs that are interested in educational component it to partner with, you

Rowena Scherer 13:49

know, I think most people believe in the mission, because our mission is really we want to educate the next generation to be more aware of different culture and make it fun to food. And I think it’s very important, and there’s so much element of learning here, right? There is math and science, you know, we have a shopping list where you can actually make into a budget so they can go to a supermarket and say you give them $20 You know, let the kids budget and figure out how many they want and everything. So you have that. At the same time. We work with educators where we have materials for you to learn the geography and history, music and art and that’s like linked to virtual museum, there’s books and YouTube videos. And so it’s it’s a it’s a box of surprises and learning. And so it’s a fun way for children to expand their mind. And on top of it. We’re also very sensitive about food waste, and we tried to, you know, teach kids you know what to use and what in fact, we were working with rethink rethink food, to add some pamphlets of how to have another recipe of scrap carrot So you know, and so, and health, there’s health and mental and physical learning for Withoutabox.

John Corcoran 15:08

Hmm, yeah. Very cool. So

Rowena Scherer 15:11

with that said, most chefs that we talked to and get excited. So,

John Corcoran 15:16

yeah, it’s also imagine a challenge, because as you pick another country that you’re going to add on, I understand you’re adding on Thailand soon. Jamaica is another one. You’ve been partnering with local travel bureaus to curate this information, this content. But I imagined even it’s a little challenging, too, because how do you encapsulate an entire country entire cuisine entire history? In a box? What do you choose? So it’s,

Rowena Scherer 15:46

I feel the way it is, is to get you started. It’s not the whole thing, right? That’s a country have so much to learn. But it can get you started to explore it, and maybe in smaller steps, right? And then if you really want to do it, and learn more, and then you go to the country, to the gateway to gateway

John Corcoran 16:08

drug, basically, it’s the gateway drug into the Yeah, that’s cool. And then talk to me about, you know, there’s been global supply chain challenges over the last couple of years, you’re shipping physical items, you’re getting spices from overseas, bringing them into the country, how has that affected you.

Rowena Scherer 16:29

So are spices I actually work with a McCormick’s supplier, so they’re all so he will have his supplier of all the different spices. So I just, we, I’ve tried to simplify. So I have, you know, my shipping broker, I have my spice person, I have my condiment person, I have my bots person, you know, so I kind of everything, it’s sort of, we have known and tried and finalized that there will be our supplier. So I, maybe some down the road, there will be things where I’ll get directly from the country. For instance, I’m negotiating right now, with a pie spice supplier that’s directly from Spain, you know, so so slowly, as we grow, I have more leverage to then say, I can I want to do directly. And hopefully I’ll get to travel there and visit your site will make you more fun.

John Corcoran 17:26

Well, we were talking beforehand about how I said the probably the most amazing part of your job is just being like, Okay, we’re going to add Spain, or we’re going to add France or we’re going to do a box from Brazil, and then getting to try it out yourself and learn about the culture and the history and deciding on I mean, I would pay to be in your your kitchen for that. What is that like for you as you decide on what cuisines what countries to expand to next.

Rowena Scherer 17:52

So everyone would love to ask me that. So all countries that Hi, I have in my adult few that haven’t been, but most of them I have been to. And and there’s a story behind those recipes. For instance, our Kenyan one, I actually got got to cook with the chef at a safari park. And that’s the recipes that we used. And so it’s it’s most of them are places that I’ve been in, I try to get a local sheriff or local influence. As we grow with the, for instance, our Jamaica one. It’s true, a Jamaican Top Chef in Harlem, that’s a friend of a friend. And then we got introduced to the Jamaican Tourism Board. And now they’re looking to potentially put our bosses in the upcoming Astronomy Center in Kingston. So so that’s what I would love is like be able to Den associate with the travel bureaus and be available at airports or, you know,

John Corcoran 18:57

Oh, absolutely. I, I, my wife and I took a cruise around, jump around the Caribbean, and one of the stops was in Jamaica. And if you’re walking back to the ship, and you can buy trinkets and all kinds of stuff, and there’s a box that you can have shipped directly to your home. That sounds amazing to me.

Rowena Scherer 19:13

Yeah, yeah. 

John Corcoran 19:17

I wanted to ask you about the pandemic. So, you know, March of 2020, a lot of country, a lot of companies didn’t anticipate how it was going to affect them coming into it. They just had fear immediately. People were afraid. Take us back for you to that period of time. What were you thinking? How did you think it was gonna affect you and how did it actually affect your company?

Rowena Scherer 19:40

So so it looks started 2019 The current model 2018. So we were small, but I have a great head of operations. And when pandemic hit in March of 2020, we were starting to grow and we might feel First, my first worried when that happened was how do I manage my team, make sure everyone is safe. The good news was all my team, except for my head of operations, who’s in the fulfillment center with another staff, everyone is remote. So when I started this firm, I really want to empower women who is working from home. So I hired freelancers, they’re all moms from like Denver to Florida to Asia, like everywhere, who want to work but want the flexibility. And most of them are experts in their field. So that’s so when COVID it, I have no issues because everyone’s already already working from home. Except for Trisha and Stephanie, who’s in my office in my fulfillment center. So with that I make sure it’s, it’s only one person, like we give Stephanie, a break. And then Trisha was the only one there. So the that was the first thing from operational perspective. What also happened is, I see that most a lot of people are now homeschooling, they’re not going out to eat, they’re more time they want to cook. So I told my husband, I said, if this is a poker game, this is when I’m saying all chips in all in on this game. And so I just ramp up my marketing, I told my digital marketer, I’m like, Just go as much as you can to promote it to explore, and what we can help families during COVID. And what we saw, which was so touching to me, was when grandparents started buying it, and they cook together virtually with their grandchildren. So they’ll buy two box once it’s a gift and one for themselves. And then they’ll do it together as a connection, because they don’t know each other.

John Corcoran 21:47

That’s awesome. That’s really nice. What has been through this experience of going from banking to entrepreneurship, what’s been the hardest part? What’s been the hardest lesson for you?

Rowena Scherer 21:59

You know, I always say entrepreneurs heart, it’s you, you gotta love what you’re doing. Because I work 24/7 I don’t think ever stop. But if you don’t love what you’re doing, then it’s work for me, it’s not worth it, because I just enjoy it. So I think the hardest thing is if you’re constantly worried, no, you have ups and downs, right? You get really good market or great, great sales, and you get so excited, and you get great reviews, you’re so excited. And then you got a downtime and like you know now recession Mark gets tough. And then as you grow the team grows. And so that’s also a I have been through ups and downs with teams and you constantly trying to find the right person. I’m so lucky to have my team at an operations Who are they are lovely as for ladies, Tricia SDR, they are head of operations. And she She’s just my go to on everything. So that allows me to worry less about the operational side and focus more on how to build the company. Yeah.

John Corcoran 23:08

I want to ask you also about mentorship, because I know that’s something that has been meaningful for you and you have been serving and mentor capacity through your local Bo Entrepreneurs Organization chapter. Talk a little bit about why you you know, you are a founder of a fast growing company that lots of things on your plate, why also put time into a volunteer capacity doing mentorship.

Rowena Scherer 23:34

So first of all, I was stumbled into er through a friend and, and he she basically say, Look, you and I are the same way. Like we need someone to talk to like other than your husband, you know, you can meet someone other than your husband to talk to. And it’s so true. The other thing I am always learning because I doesn’t come from an entrepreneurial background. And I feel like every day I’m learning and EO allows me to learn so much more. And and having a mentor, I am very passionate with the mentorship because I had a great mentor going into EO and he has been an EO member forever, Chris Wilkerson, which I’m giving a shout out. He kind of guide me and give me I, you know, teach me on how much more I could be. And so don’t be shy, you know, increase your price. No, you know, so things like that. So having a mentor helps because it’s like a sounding board. You may not be in the same industry, but every every founders go through similar experience and similar struggles. So it’s not just work that’s family and personal and work. So it’s kind of the three prompts, which I really appreciate. EO always focused on, right? Because you can’t be successful unless you’re successful or around. So I feel everyone should have a good mentor, and maybe one or maybe two, where they can give you a different perspective. And if you, if possible, rotate through different mentors as well. Because then you really will get fresh ideas every time you get more involved and tell your story to others. Yeah, that’s why I’m very passionate about that. And I’m also serving as diversity, which I’m also very passionate about.

John Corcoran 25:30

Yeah. And how do you see what eat2explore does, helping with the challenges that we experienced as a country with with understanding our diversity?

Rowena Scherer 25:46

So diversity to me is not just gender diversity, like it’s it’s youth, it’s everything. So I hope eat2explore can give a diverse view of the world through food, because it just opens up conversation, the what you want is ability to have a conversation and be more aware of why they are like, Why does the Muslim fast for a month during Ramadan, you know, there is a reason for it. And you will be more sensitive during Ramadan do not like you know, make fun or look at kids differently. They have a different cultural upbringing. And, and so what that’s that’s that’s the aim is to just make a little gentler and open up conversation among our dinner table.

John Corcoran 26:35

Okay, and last question. My wife and I love going and experiencing different types of food. We got four kids. Got a couple of picky eaters, what tips do you have? I mean, I love the idea of the company, but what tips do you have for getting your picky eaters to eat it,

Rowena Scherer 26:53

I just in fact, wrote an article that my PR firm is sharing and trying to get it published on how to get your picky eater to try it. So I’ll send you that article. And also on how to use it to explore. So so first of all, I have taught the whole third grader at least a francais in New York, on cooking classes and cultural learning. And I only do vegetables and they all look at me like funny this kids. Like what is this, but you know, what it is, is if you get them to be involved to do the work. And then they see the end results, the effort that they put together, and they know what it is don’t like demystify it, you know, like, okay, zucchini, make a zucchini boat, like this is the scoop, you know, like try to make it fun. And then then they’ll eat, they’ll try it. And over time, they will learn to appreciate more, and you can’t stop because if you stop then you they’re just gonna grew up eating, you know, pasta, eat burger, but there’s so much to learn and flavors to appreciate. And all our boxes. It’s not spicy hot. So it’s it’s flavorful without the spice. For instance, RJ Jamaica box, we don’t use scotch bonnet, which is what the chili that they use, which is like, you know, really spicy, we use just chili powder, but just, you know, have other flavors instead. And so so you can slowly introduce them to the different flavors, but making it a family meal. And so you don’t have to cook different meal, you just make one meal and just say try this. And it’s just all the time, but you got to expose them young so that they have the palate to expand to other.

John Corcoran 28:49

You mentioned Chris Wilkerson as someone who has been a mentor for you and who you’re grateful for. I’m a big fan of gratitude. Is there anyone else or anything else you want to say about Chris? Or is there anyone else who, you know, peers, mentors, contemporaries, who you would want to just shout out and kind of thank them for helping you along in your journey.

Rowena Scherer 29:10

So that first shout out was Chris Wilkerson who’s also chairing the One World, so diversity right there. And the second person is another EO and want to give a shout out to Janine Evans and Jenny we we kind of have our own little forum which she’s the one who introduced me to EO I’ll be forever grateful. So she’s another founder

John Corcoran 29:35

nice very cool and what what how has she helped you along the way? What are you grateful for our

Rowena Scherer 29:40

E commerce business? And we always kind of share ideas on who do we use like, who is doing well and it like, you know, try this digital manga try this email marketer, how about try this content producer and so even though her product is a keepsake saver keepsake mine is food, experiential. You can get by still ecommerce. And so we still kind of use Shopify and use similar apps and stuff. So it’s great to have somebody to share experience with and try to leverage.

John Corcoran 30:12

I’m not in the E commerce world, but I know a lot of people in the E commerce world and it’s really truly amazing nap between now and like, even like 10 years ago how much easier it is how many more tools exists to be able to launch a business like yours, you know, like, there’s so many different tools now that allow you to manage it from Shopify, all kinds of different stuff that would have would have been so much more work 10 years ago,

Rowena Scherer 30:35

I basically said this company would not have existed 10 years ago, it’s just so much easier. Now. I can work remotely, everything is at the fingertips. There’s so many. That’s in fact, a lot of apps, so you kind of have to be careful. So, but it’s I love to try new things, because I feel like there is definitely some technology out there that can make my work better.

John Corcoran 30:57

It is true. Now the challenge is to not have your SaaS budget exceed all profits every month. Yeah, yeah. Arena, this has been wonderful. Thank you so much for your time. How can people connect with you and learn more about your company?

Rowena Scherer 31:12

Yeah, go to So that is our website. Check us out. We are also on Facebook, Instagram, all social media sites, all at eat2explore.

John Corcoran 31:24

And is there a particular box or starting you know, subscription or something that you recommend for people?

Rowena Scherer 31:31

You know, you can you can go a subscription route, or you can buy a single boss to try out as well. Or you can even do a continent. So we have Asia continent, Europe, in a bundle of five countries. So if you want to try and explore Europe, you know, that’s all the countries in one bundle.

John Corcoran 31:49

What a cool way to if you’re like planning on traveling to somewhere or if you can’t travel there with your kids right now. You want them to learn about Asia then you can that’s really cool.

Rowena Scherer 31:59

So we have a lot of in California, we actually bake with the homeschoolers. So California State as you pay us for the homeschool education, so they buy our boxes and send it to families.

John Corcoran 32:09

Very cool, Rowena thanks so much. 

Rowena Scherer 32:12

Thank you.

Outro 32:13

Thank you for listening to the Smart Business Revolution Podcast with John Corcoran. Find out more at And while you’re there, sign up for our email list and join the revolution. And be listening for the next episode of the Smart Business Revolution Podcast.