Feedback: a Wallet-Friendly Way to Bring Meals to Those in Need

An interview with Feedback’s founder

An interview with Feedback’s founder

For most of us, the idea of starting a business, making a plan or even sharing an idea, can seem daunting or frightening. So many of us have great ideas, but for whatever reason, are hesitant to take the plunge and share them with the world. At Enactus, we value the courage to embrace this entrepreneurial spirit, especially in the context of helping those in need. And so we sat down with Josh Walters, founder of food purchase app Feedback, who told us his best advice to anyone wanting to be an entrepreneur is to “just do it”.

As Josh talked about growing his company, and his journey as an entrepreneur, the message that the world belongs to those who reach for it rang clear. To an extent, the decision to begin is just that simple. And it seems to have worked pretty well for him; his app is now transforming the way the restaurant industry interacts with customers, while feeding the Toronto community, one meal at a time.

How was the idea for feedback born?

“I went for a late night pizza and as I was leaving the owner was closing up shop for the night, and he offered me all the pizza he had left for a fraction of the price. It got me thinking [about how] restaurants experience these times of the day where there are no customers and they’re wasting food, and price is a great way to drive traffic at certain times. That’s when I came up with the idea for an app that consolidated all the restaurants that had pre-prepared food, or quiet hours of the day and they could upload these time specific promotions to reduce waste and get customers when they’d otherwise be empty.”

So, how does the app work?

“You log into the app and scroll through a list of restaurants; they’re all offering food [between] 20% to 70% off depending on what time of day. You can go directly into the restaurant through the app, look at their menu, place your order, and then you go to the restaurant during those hours, show your mobile receipt, and pick up the food.”

And how exactly does each order from the app help to reduce food waste?

“We started with just end of day deals at restaurants, and this was only pre-prepared food, sitting in a window, whether it was pizza, like my experience, or salads or sandwiches, even juices, sushi is a great example, and they were gonna throw it out. We started with that since it was most obvious, but we realized pretty quickly that restaurants actually throw out waste throughout the entire day. They prep for the lunch rush, and then when the lunch rush is over, they throw it out. And so our restaurant owners actually came to us, with this platform where they could offer time specific deals and said ‘hey can we also do this at 2:30 when no one is eating at our restaurant?’ We understood then the problem wasn’t just this leftover food at the end of the day, it was really the demand and peaks and valleys in demand at the restaurant. If you operate a restaurant you have like a huge lunch rush, and a big dinner rush, and not necessarily much traffic in between. And all that in between is what causes the waste and leftover food at the end of the day. So, in using price in sort of a dynamic sense instead of in a one-price fits all model, you can really control when customers show up, and ensure that you don’t have food to throw out at the end of the day.”

I’ve read that a portion from every purchase goes toward helping bring meals to those in need, how does that work? Do you partner with any other charities or companies to make this happen?

“When you start to deal with the issue of food waste it’s hard not to think of the issue of food security, and how many people don’t have enough food, especially when you see all this great food being thrown out at the end of the day. So we looked around Toronto for someone either to pick it up and donate it, or whatever it was, but logistically it’s very complicated. With so many restaurants all wasting a small amount. We found Second Harvest which is an incredible food rescue and donation charity, [..] we created a deal with them where from our profit we [..] give them a monetary donation equivalent to what it costs them to provide a meal to someone in need. And we do that based on each users purchase behaviour. Once you order a certain value a certain amount of times [on] the app, we obviously collect revenue per set commission on each sale, and from our profit we donate money to Second Harvest for them to donate meals to people in need.”

There are a couple other popular food purchasing apps on the market right now, what makes feedback different? Do you think it’s socially conscious positioning attracts more customers?

“Most of the food ordering apps are centered around convenience, so your paying a premium to get the convenience of delivery, or it being prepared ahead of time. Ours is kind of flipping that around, [we’re asking you to be] a little more flexible, and pick [your food up] up at a certain hour, but your getting a discount, and you’re actually helping with a larger problem. And what we talk about and what we tell everyone is that you have two major types of customers: price sensitive, and socially or environmentally conscious. The price sensitive customer is just gonna jump at the next best deal, the one who’s actually tied to the mission of our company is the one whos gonna be a loyal customer and the one who's gonna stay with us in the long term. It’s not just a marketing ploy to get people to use the app; its actually ingrained in our mission and who we want our customer base to be.”

What was your biggest challenge in growing feedback?

“Feedback operates as a marketplace, restaurants on one side, our customers or diners on the other. Growing [both] out at the same time is always difficult because you sign up some restaurants, and don't have enough customers, then [restaurants] feel like it’s not really working. Then you get a lot of customers all over and they want restaurants nearby. So in scaling our model, the trickiest part was trying to manage that supply and demand side of the marketplace at the same time.”

And how did you overcome that?

“[It's] still something were dealing with but now that we have over 300 restaurants and many people [are] using the app every day. I think as you scale there’s sort of a snowball effect in terms of restaurants get orders, and because they get orders the staff know how to handle the orders better and it just leads to a smoother operation.”

In what ways are you currently working to grow feedback?

“We’re signing up new restaurants every day. We found that signing up a lot of restaurants in a small geographical area is the best way to deal with that supply/demand mismatch problem, and so building the restaurants out, and following up by either digital ads or stopping by local office buildings or community centers [..], to spread the word and we’re [just] sort of being really hands on with it, and growing out both sides at the same time.”

I know this is a pretty deep question, but where do you see Feedback in 5 to 10 years?

“What we’re doing now, is gathering a lot of data around pricing. We want to know what price at what time, shown to which person will get that person to show up at the restaurant. We think after sort of dealing with this issue, that having a static price at a restaurant that just stays the same the entire day makes no sense. You’ve got other industries like [the] flight and hotel industry that have the same sort of peaks and valleys in demand, whether its a flight over the holidays, obviously more expensive, or a hotel room on New Year's Eve is more expensive, so we say why would a bagel fresh out of the over, and minutes before being thrown out, cost the same? So our idea has really flipped the industry on its head in terms of bringing dynamic pricing to the restaurant industry. Not to surge it during lunch and dinner, but to do the opposite in terms of flattening out the demand throughout the day,  and helping them manage their inventory. We believe that is the root cause of the food waste problem also. Ideas are a dime a dozen, it’s all about going out and doing it properly.

What do you think the biggest misconception about being an entrepreneur?

“That it’s glamorous. It’s absolutely not, it’s a lot of responsibility, you have a team that relies on you, and eventually you have investors that demand things of you. And at the same time you’re trying to run a business and build a culture and do all sorts of things that you don’t necessarily think about at the start but it’s definitely worth it.”

What advice would you give to anyone wanting to start their own business?

“Just to do it. So many people have ideas and want to start and don’t know where to start. Talk to people who’ve done it before, they’re more than happy to help for the most part, [...] find some good mentorship, whether that be through the university, or just friends or friends of friends, and yeah take the first step.”

From this experience, what was your biggest lesson learned as an entrepreneur?

“Not to let the ups and downs move you in either direction too much. Like, on a day to day [..] there will be great moments and moments where you think it’s all gonna end, and its important just to like stay level headed and work through that entire process toward your goal.”

Overall, the difference this app has been making socially, and the difference it has already made is truly inspiring. What I personally took away from this interview was that, although it is never easy, the keys to forming a socially disruptive company include a revolutionary idea, devout belief in that idea, and most importantly, the dedication needed to put yourself out there and try. Josh Walters and his company are a testament to the statement that a simple idea, grown through passion and dedication, can be capable of making a true difference.

Want to find out more about Enactus Ryerson and Feedback?

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Check out Feedback’s app and support their amazing initiatives.


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What Goes Around Comes Around: Kind Karma Spreads Goodness and Positivity

An interview with Kind Karma’s founder

An interview with Kind Karma’s founder

Enactus Ryerson values making a difference in people’s lives and aims to help others through entrepreneurship. We discovered Kind Karma through Ryerson’s Social Ventures Zone and saw how their values aligned with ours, so we decided to learn more about what they do.

We reached out to Laurinda Lee, the founder of Kind Karma to find out more about her, and her company that she established only one year ago to “counter negativity with hope and kindness.”

What is Kind Karma?

“Kind Karma is a social enterprise and we employ Toronto at-risk and transitioning homeless youth to handmake quality jewellery. We provide all of the tools [and] all of the training. In addition to getting paid an hourly wage, all of our youth get proceeds to support their goals, so all of our employees identify a goal; whether it’s to continue education – some courses for personal development or housing, and then we support [them] that way by giving them proceeds from [our] sales.”

How did the name Kind Karma come about?

“It’s always hard when you name your business. I feel like that’s something that has to identify you, and you always second guess yourself. I really like the idea of ‘what goes around comes around,’ so that whole karma cycle that if you exude positivity, kindness is going to come back to you. I think that’s the same thing in terms of society, if we help the people – the next generation, then they can continue to make society a better place. I mean, if we let them be, and follow a negative path, then that’s not going to do anybody any good; then you just continue a cycle of poverty and negativity. That’s where karma comes in, I think it’s that whole cycle of action. When it came to one thing that society needed more of, it was just kindness. I think kindness cures so many things. We don’t necessarily have to understand everybody’s differences or their opinions, and of course we want to educate ourselves, but even if we don’t understand, if we just be kind to what people are going through or what they believe in, and not judge them and not be rude or disrespectful. I think that in itself, goes a long way. That’s kind of where I came up with the name.”

How did this start-up first come together/what inspired you?

“I was always inspired to be an entrepreneur. I remember when I was working full time, I’d go in and tell a coworker every week a different business idea. But, when it actually came down to it, I had to think about what was most important to me. Everybody has different things that drive them – some people are money driven, some people want to create a huge global enterprise, and for me, it was most important that I did something that gave back and had a positive impact. That’s where Kind Karma was born; when I originally had an idea about giving back. I combined my passion for jewellery making, [something] I had always done as a hobby. At first, I wanted to help minors in Peru or something, maybe it was because it was where I wanted to go and visit, but that was not logistically easy, so it made me rethink what I was doing. When I looked outside, I just saw all these people that needed help, and I felt like I could help them in a different way than what was already out there – by offering more of an art therapy-based employment model. That’s how Kind Karma was born.”

What has been or is your biggest challenge?

“I think my biggest challenge, on a personal level, was to balance all aspects of the business and manage it properly because when you start your own business, you drive every single aspect of it: the marketing, sales distribution, [and] customers; all of [those elements]. I think for me, it’s trying to put everything into a priority list and not feel like everything has to get done today or yesterday because that can create a lot of pressure. For me, that’s one of my biggest challenges – is to just take it one step at a time, and not feel like I have to get everything done at once.”

What are some goals you are trying to achieve with this start-up?

“I would love to see it grow. In terms of our long-term vision, I would love to have a Kind Karma office in every major city in Canada because I think youth tend to fall more into the cracks in big cities because there’s such a large population, and you’re just one of millions; I’d love to see Kind Karma grow that way. I would also love to see our youth progress in different departments. Whenever we bring on a youth, they might be a jewellery artisan, but they might have a passion for marketing or sales. We want to develop those skills, and I hope eventually as our company grows, we can have a completely vertically integrated company that’s run by street youth, and your VP of Marketing could have been somebody who started out making jewellery; I think that’s so cool. Another goal is that I would love to see [us] partner with different artisans, so it’s not just jewellery. [Perhaps] we can create clothing or different accessories and things like that, so youths have more of a variety in terms of the skills they learn, and if they are more fashion-focused or they like sewing instead of jewellery making – we have those options as well. Hopefully that can be something we can do!”

What are some opportunities the youth have been able to pursue/achieve from this project?

“We’re only a year old, so we haven’t seen a youth going to college [with us] completely paying for that, but that is definitely what we are working towards. One of our youth actually recently identified that she wanted to go back to school to be an art therapist. We hope we will be able to give her a significant scholarship to go when she starts; hopefully next year. The youth that we work with have expressed that [we are] totally different in that we’re flexible enough to give them an opportunity that takes into consideration what’s going on in their lives, and the challenges they are facing. One of our youths recently lost housing, so he had to move to Bowmanville, and he was really upset that he couldn’t continue working here and he wanted to reapply when he came back. But he’d already been with us and learned all the skills that he’s needed, so I suggested that I could just mail him supplies and he could mail me back finished pieces. In that sense, we could still continue to help him with financial independence, and he still has a connection with us, and hopefully he can continue when he finally gets housing again in Toronto. Another one of our youths was recently admitted to CAMH unfortunately, but she actually reached out and asked if she could have materials to make jewellery while she was there because she found it therapeutic. So, we dropped off materials and said, ‘no pressure if you can’t complete, this is just to help you with your well-being if you wanted to do it.’ She said it actually relaxes her, so she still can make jewellery while she’s recovering. I think it’s great in that sense, and that’s kind of what our youth has taken out of it – is it’s not just employment for them, it’s actually something that boosts their self-confidence and their self-esteem, and it gives them something to look forward to.”

What is some advice you would give to others hoping to pursue a start-up?

“The number one thing is to figure out what’s most important to you because there’s going to be times where it’s very hard and you might want to give up, and if you’re not completely dedicated to what you’re doing or what you’ve started, then it’s easy to just call quits; and that was me with my five million business ideas before this one. By identifying what’s most important to you, it doesn’t matter what it is, just commit to it and then go for it. The biggest and hardest part is to take that first step. Even with anything in life, you’re always [going to be] like ‘oh I’ll start next week,’ or ‘I’ll figure it out later.’ But once you take that first step, it’s easy to keep going. Just go for it, take that first step and don’t push it off; even if you fail at something, just find a different way around it. Always keep going and persist. Every huge business that we see today has been through periods where they’re going to close doors or go bankrupt, but if you push through, who knows what’s on the other side.

Want to find out more about Enactus Ryerson and Kind Karma?

Like Kind Karma and Enactus Ryerson on Facebook.

Follow Kind Karma and Enactus Ryerson on Instagram.

Check out Kind Karma’s handcrafted jewellery and support their youth on their website. All proceeds are returned to their employed youth to support their individual goals.

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