Student startup allows food delivery straight to dorm rooms

Wednesday, January 20, 2016 - 4:34pm

Though Forbes Magazine reports that 90 percent of startups fail overall, a startup new to the University, EnvoyNow, is defying the odds and flourishing in the college market.

EnvoyNow is a student-run food delivery service that came to Ann Arbor this fall. The startup aims to deliver local restaurant food directly to the customer’s locations.

The delivery service says it is the only service that can directly deliver food to dorm rooms and library study areas, and employs students who have MCards to deliver the food so they have access to University buildings.

“We’ve had great reception so far,”  said LSA freshman Robin Elihu, head of marketing for the University’s EnvoyNow. “Most people have told us they love the service because it is very convenient for them because they don’t have to go anywhere.”

The company was started by Anthony Zhang, a University of Southern California student, who wanted a more convenient way to have food delivered.

In an interview, EnvoyNow’s University executive board said Zhang realized that the only way the food could be delivered directly to him was if students were the delivery people and were able to get through the dorm or library security systems. This led to the formation of EnvoyNow at USC, and after a $100,000 investment from Shark Tank’s Mark Burnett, it has made its way to universities all around the United States.

LSA freshman Patrick Skelly, the senior expansion manager at EnvoyNow, knew Zhang from his high school, and brought the company to the University, where he helped develop the executive board of seven members, six of whom are freshman.

In order to use the service, students connect their credit cards to the EnvoyNow app, which allows them order food from restaurants in Ann Arbor like Burger Fi, Salads UP, Chipotle, Buffalo Wild Wings, Frita Batidos and more. The first delivery fee is waived and for subsequent orders a flat $2.99 delivery fee is added to each order.

The University’s EnvoyNow executive board noted positive responses from students, leading to the fast growth of the company — in the month and a half since launching they said they've gone from 30 orders a week to 200.

“Students reactions have been overwhelmingly positive,” Jacob Frank, an LSA junior and strategic development manager, said. “We have about an 80 percent yield rate in overturning customers, which is like 50 percent more than other delivery services. People really like the fact that it is student oriented and convenient.”

LSA freshman Rachel Liebergall, a user of the app, said she thinks the fact that EnvoyNow is student-run makes the idea of the delivery service more appealing.

“I think it's a really great app that makes food delivery very pain free and easy,” she said. “I like that it’s student-run and that I'm contributing to a student business.”

The board said they thought the high demand for the service is due to students’ appreciation for the service, and the company’s grassroots marketing strategies.

“We literally have gone up to all of the kids in Markley with their doors open and just talked to them about Envoy, and our plans for the future,” Skelly said. “We found that kids were extremely receptive and many of them helped us by telling their friends.”

They have also reached out to students studying in the Shapiro Undergraduate Library, employed 30 Envoy representatives in different sororities and fraternities to speak at their chapters and posted on Facebook and Instagram promoting the service.

“We attended the startup career fair this week so we posted a photograph of that on Facebook,” said Engineering freshman Enis Habib, head of marketing. “We are getting more likes on that page, and we want to keep growing in social media.”

The executive board is also striving to get more restaurants to sign with them. Once a contract is signed, Envoy began to receive 20 percent of the order’s profits, and Envoy is given privlages, like being able to skip the lines in various restaurants, allowing for faster delivery.

In accordance with the positive responses and fast growth, the demand for service has surpassed the company’s supply of labor. This past weekend, they had to ask customers to wait 15 minutes to place an order while the Envoys finished the orders they were working on, an issue the company will have to address as it moves forward and continues to grow.

“We found that students absolutely love our service. So much so that it is at a pace that is hard to keep up with delivery people,” Skelly said. “We are looking for more delivery people.”