Last spring, LSA junior Danny Mak saw an open niche in the University of Michigan’s market for a grocery delivery service. Since then, he and Kinesiology junior Thomas Marcus have worked to create the Big House Market, a service that will deliver groceries to University students.
Set to launch by March 21, Big House Market, which will be accessible through its website, targets University students who are unable to travel to grocery stores off campus.
In an interview, Marcus said the pair thought a service like Big House Market is essential for the student body, and could thrive in comparison to other grocery delivery services in the area. Several other food delivery startups also exist on campus — EnvoyNow, a student-run service that launched this fall, delivers food to students from local restaurants, while Delivice, a grocery delivery company in Ann Arbor, was founded in February 2014.
“We just saw that there was an opportunity for it, and that it’s a relatively small startup, and that we think that we can do it better, just with more features to offer and a more integrative web platform that is easier to use and has more incentives for continuing to use it,” Marcus said. “We realized how many people we know for a fact we can reach right away upon starting, and we realized this is a great idea worth going with.”
The duo pointed to what they believe is a market need for same-day and next-day deliveries of food, especially for college students who don’t have cars and have busy schedules.
LSA junior Emma Planet said she thought the service would be helpful, and meet needs she has as a student.
“I think it would make things much more efficient,” she said. “It would save a lot of time and energy for someone who has a huge assignment coming up and they are frantic that they need to go get food. Also, I think that it would be convenient for people who don’t live on central or someplace where you can’t get food so easily. I would use it.”
Marcus said receiving the Evans Scholarship, which awarded both him and Mak a full-ride scholarship to attend the University, motivated them to pursue the project.
“The scholarship has kind of brought us toward pushing toward doing stuff that you’re not 100 percent comfortable with,” he said. “This is kind of the first step in our lives that we feel is pushing for big goals, trying to get big things done, and we think that it’s a great idea that’s going to penetrate Ann Arbor pretty well. The scholarship has given us those values.”
As for what makes their company unique to competitors, Marcus described the advantages of bundles — pre-designed collections of groceries — and recipes. Each “bundle” aims to target a different kind of customer and to optimize efficiency and timeliness for the customer.
“For example, some of the bundles will be a healthy bundle, a cooking bundle, a munchies or snack bundle,” he said. “ In addition to that, we think we’re going to have pre-made recipes, where we go online and we find ingredients for an easy-to-make recipe for a college student, and then sell that as a whole pack. So if it’s pasta, we’ll sell the pasta, the sauce, the butter and whatever else is needed — something like that, something simple. That’s not offered on any of the other websites. So that’s a big differentiator.”
Mak added that another perk of their service is same-day delivery, which many of their competitors do not offer. He said the team is now looking to finalize the project and hire employees by next year.
“I really think, it’s just about getting used to the process, getting used to the whole business, the ins and outs of the business and then having employees,” Mak said. “That’s really the main goal by next year.”
Marcus said he hopes the company sees expansions in the future, including adding categories to the inventory of products and launching a mobile application.
“Once we have more customers, more people relying on us, more drivers, we were considering adding to the inventory as we go along,” Marcus said. “We’re probably going to have a couple thousand options to start. However, there are still categories — not food categories — but stuff that Kroger would sell that people could find useful, that we’re not going to have. Like toiletries, for example."