Cookin’s Co-Founder and CEO Has a Recipe For Success—A Growing Community of Entrepreneurial ‘Food Creators’
This October, Canadian Business and our partners are celebrating Small Business Month by championing innovative entrepreneurs and small businesses contributing to Canada’s economic growth, connecting them with the right resources and people to foster continued growth, and showcasing incredible success stories.
Founded in 2022, Cookin is a new Toronto-based startup that offers chefs working from home the opportunity to provide homecooked meals through their delivery app. In conversation with Phanikar Yenamandra, VP of Cardmember and Client Engagement at American Express Canada, Cookin’s Co-Founder and CEO Morley Ivers speaks about the biggest lessons while getting started and the importance of partnerships in growing a business in service of its community.
PY: What inspired you to start Cookin in a crowded food delivery market?
MI: Cookin strives for a world united by food. Many believe that the conventional hospitality model won’t change. We see it differently: With the labour force–the talented people making our food–undergoing a shift in how they want to live, the way we nourish ourselves and our families has been impacted. Cookin lets culinary creators transform their gift of preparing food at home for others into the talent powering the commercial kitchens of their own delivery restaurants.
We’re different from other food delivery apps because more than 10,000 talented professional chefs have applied to turn their talents into a small business on our platform. When you taste food being made with care and appreciate a chef’s background, you become part of a community united by food.
PY: Was there an “aha moment” that helped shape your growth trajectory?
MI: We realized that we had more demand from chefs wanting to become food entrepreneurs than we could have imagined. Our best-case scenario models for supply side demand of the marketplace were exceeded almost overnight—and we still can’t onboard chefs fast enough. We witnessed how restaurants are becoming more automated and less human. And we understood that the best food is made by our talented creators, and that the people who make your food deserve to have their freedom—of will, time, and tradecraft. We’re convinced that Cookin is the best place to attract and retain local culinary talent, and through our platform’s growing community, we produce the finest meals for our customers.
PY: A recent survey commissioned by American Express Canada revealed 56 per cent of business owners agree managing cash flow and working capital is key to success. This underscores why products like our refreshed Business Platinum Card® continue to give business owners more spending power and payment flexibility. What were the biggest challenges you encountered along Cookin’s journey when it comes to capital, and how did you overcome them?
MI: We founded Cookin in January 2022, raising our first institutional capital round in December 2022 once market conditions began to improve. Our ambition is to build a global consumer brand known for incredible experiences, but we launched when the era of seemingly unlimited capital from long-term investors was waning. Our ability to realize our ambition is challenged by an economic environment where our positive unit contribution as a company is impacted by a decrease in access to capital and customer acquisition in a crowded marketplace. We respond to this existential challenge by fostering what Cookin refers to as our ‘unfair advantages’—our team, technology, relationships, and partnerships—that level the playing field.
PY: How important are partnerships in helping to get your business started? What information and resources did they provide and what impact did they have on Cookin’s business?
MI: Our greatest advantage has been leveraging meaningful partnerships to grow consumer interest in Cookin. Our first corporate collaboration was with American Express Canada, where I’ve been a Cardmember since 1998. Their brand resonates with me for several reasons, like empowering small business, supporting the lifestyle and dining industry, and unparalleled customer service. Each of these pillars aligns perfectly with our business model. When we shared Cookin’s vision with American Express, they immediately recognized the synergies and got excited about how our partnership supports small business growth. Through the Amex Offers program and dedicated marketing support, we were able to catapult Cookin’s growth while delivering value for customers.
PY: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve heard that aspiring entrepreneurs should know, or that you wish you’d known when you first started Cookin?
MI: A ‘life’s work’ entrepreneur thinks and acts differently and will never waver from the conviction that what they are building simply must exist, regardless of the hurdles, naysayers, or obstacles in their path. Ask yourself this question before starting your business: Does this represent your life’s work? If so, do it and never stop. Cookin represents my life’s work.
Join Morley Ivers, Phanikar Yenamandra and other Canadian entrepreneurs for a panel discussion on October 24, as part of Canadian Business’ CB Evolution summit together with Signature Partner American Express Canada. Click here to get your tickets.
American Express Canada recently refreshed its Business Platinum Card, with expanded travel and business benefits designed to meet Cardmembers’ needs. Cardmembers can earn up to $820 in NEW annual value.