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ChefPrep’s three top tips for starting a side hustle

3-minute read

Whilst the COVID-19 pandemic has been tough on individuals and business owners alike, for 344,000 Australians it also presented an opportunity to turn their sound business idea into a successful side hustle. 

Key take-outs
  • Co-founders and owners of ChefPrep, Josh Abulafia and Elle Curran, quit their fulltime jobs to start their side hustle after identifying a gap in the ready-made meal market
  • They credit research, building strong relationships, hiring good people and smart forecasting for their success over the past three months
  • Josh and Elle now work solely on ChefPrep which recently added 15 NSW-based restaurants to the platform and has seen a 400% weekly uplift in customer orders 


After long days in the office, former lawyer Elle Curran and her partner Josh Abulafia were frustrated with the time spent preparing meals that weren’t high in quality but high in price.

 

After noticing that several restaurants had started selling their own ready-made meals during the COVID-19 lockdown, the pair came up with the idea for ChefPrep - an online marketplace where customers could buy ready-made meals from award-winning restaurants at an affordable price.

 

To help validate their concept, the pair setup a landing page where customers could join the wait list for ChefPrep. Within weeks, 2000 people from NSW had registered their interest in the service which gave Josh and Elle the confidence they needed to start meeting suppliers.

 

Since launching in May, the team have not showed any signs of slowing down with 15 NSW-based restaurants now on the platform and a weekly uplift of 400% in orders.

 

Here are three tips they have for other business owners who are starting the journey from side hustle to success.

Test, measure, build

Pre-launch, Josh and Elle decided they didn’t want to spend heaps of time and money validating ChefPrep so they opted for something cheaper and easier. “By quickly validating with something as simple as a wait list, it helped to identify the gap in the market,” Josh said.

 

Once validated, the team continued to evolve their model to ensure it met their restaurant partner and customer’s needs. “It’s important to run and measure your product and elements of your business to understand what needs to be built, refined or improved. One example of this process was when we decided to move away from fresh meals into the frozen model space. After testing the idea of fresh meals, we decided that it limited both customers and restaurants alike – customers need to consume the meals within a short window and restaurants were unable to produce in bulk due to short shelf-life.”

 

It was here that the pair decided to pivot: “We decided to switch the model to focus on frozen meals, reducing the problems associated with short shelf-life and unlocked restaurants’ ability to prepare the large batches of stock for the service. We then focused on building our operations and technology around this model.”

Surround yourself with good people that share your vision

Having a strong list of partners, suppliers, employees and customers has helped ChefPrep get to where they are today. Josh, a former tech and marketing executive, spent most of his time meeting restaurant partners in person to encourage them to get on board. “We found these catchups with partners essential in building a strong foundation for our business,” Josh says.

 

“We had a very strong response from restaurant partners who saw ChefPrep as a way to unlock an additional revenue stream by preparing the meals in their kitchens during quiet times with limited staff. They also realised they could limit their food wastage.”

 

As they grew, the pair turned their attention to hiring top talent who shared their vision for ChefPrep. “Great people are the olive oil to ChefPrep,” Josh says. “They just makes things heat up a lot quicker. We look for people who are customer-obsessed, entrepreneurial and have shown an aptitude for success in their relevant field.

 

“We take time out to find the right people for the job and have been very fortunate to hire an amazing team so far.”

Get your finances in order and know your numbers

At launch, Josh used Westpac products and services to save and manage the money needed to establish ChefPrep. “I used my Westpac credit card to make purchases for the business prior to us securing financing,” he says. “I also used my savings account to manage my own personal finances to ensure I was in a good financial position to be able to setup the business.”

 

Now, as the business evolves, Josh and Elle want everyone to have a good understanding of its underlying unit economics. “Employees who better understand cashflow constraints, forecasting and key financial metrics are often more more equipped to accurately forecast budgets and manage their own P&L,” Josh says.

So, what next for ChefPrep?

For now, the co-founders are focused on growing the service and building a business that they can scale effectively.

 

In the short-term, their focus is on building a solid operations and product framework for their business whilst developing a strong playbook for future growth. “As a double-sided marketplace, we need to ensure that we provide the best possible experience to our customers and restaurant partners.

 

“We have been working hard to internalise a lot of the operational elements of the business as this gives us greater control over the customer experience.

 

“Next, we will be looking to broaden the product range available on ChefPrep by allowing our partners to supply wine and cocktails, which can be paired with meals and artisanal dry goods that can be stored for long periods of time.

 

“We have plans to move into different states across the country, and we are committed to broadening the market for the right restaurant partners.”

 

If your side hustle really takes off, you could consider making it your full-time job and becoming your own boss. Look out for inspiration and tips in the Growing a business section of our Help for your business pages.


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Things you should know

This article is a general overview and should be used as a guide only. We recommend that you seek independent professional advice about your specific circumstances before acting.