It’s #EntrepreneurTuesday!!! When technology meets food, what happens? CookShop happens! Cookshop.biz is an online platform that lets you browse and order food from the best restaurants in Monrovia, Liberia via your mobile phone or computer. It’s the brainchild of two young ICT professionals Charles Dorme Cooper and Mlen-Too Wesley .
Their motivation, challenges and more? Read on.
Formed in 2013, the CookShop platform is designed to enable customers browse through food options and make their choices, paying heed to the location, cuisine, restaurant, time of day, day of week, and availability. Through Cookshop.biz you can place orders for delivery or pickup, browse images and descriptions of menu items, and stay updated on the status of your order.
The Dynamic Duo:
Born in Monrovia, Charles Dorme Cooper attended the Maryland Institute College of Art, and has degrees in Graphic Design and Visual Communication. He has had over fifteen years of experience in branding, marketing, graphic design and web development. According to the CookShop site, his clients have included corporations such as the Bank of America and ePals, and organizations such UNICEF and USAID. In Liberia he worked with the Liberia Maritime Authority, the National Investment Commission of Liberia, and the National Port Authority of Liberia.
Mlen-Too Wesley is a graduate of the University of Rochester and specializes in Software Engineering and Network Administration. He has over five years of experience designing and developing web and mobile solutions specific to West Africa and has worked with SGS, Esoko, the International Trade Centre, and the Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs, and Tourism of Liberia.
A home-grown enterprise, CookShop received its initial capital from a private Liberian investor, is powered by local food vendors, and provides employment for the cyclists who deliver the food.
Some of their challenges -as with most developing countries- is a lack of infrastructure. On the upside, the advent of the ACE undersea internet cable has increased broadband access in Liberia and reduced the costs which means that potential clients should not have challenges with accessing their online platform.
The Ebola virus health crisis which almost crippled the Liberian economy in 2014 was worrisome, but Mr Cooper and Mr Wesley have forged right on, overcoming that dry patch and expanding their horizons.
In an interview with HowWeMadeItInAfrica, they shared their greatest mistake and their most exciting moment as entrepreneurs:
“We initially underestimated how severely the unreliability of local infrastructure would affect our service, but we quickly adapted. Though we are a tech start-up, we now have the ability to run Cookshop completely via mobile phone and SMS in the eventuality of a power outage. We also source our broadband connectivity from multiple providers so that the platform is continuously operational.”
They dealt with their mistake by diversifying and switching to other options.
Heady moments? After CookShop.Biz re-launched in 2015, they were able to triple the number of users which led to a sizeable increase in the average number of orders per day.
How was this achievable though? A pint of faith, a dose of persistence, and I imagine, a healthy serving of hard-work.
CookShop.Biz aims to be the online destination for food in Liberia and to compile the most comprehensive food menu available in Liberia.
Their short and long term goals include the expansion of their delivery network and diversification of their revenue streams with the launch of a complimentary online grocery delivery service. They also hope to extend the business to a regional market outside of Liberia.