For the uninitiated, Dah Makan is an online platform dedicated to making food accessible and affordable. Meals are available via subscription of credits which users can spend as and when required, rather than a mandatory daily delivery. This is what sets the platform apart from the plethora available out there, which is especially convenient for those who tend to be more mobile!
Co-founder Jonathan Weins will be joining the upcoming 3rd edition of BFM Enterprise Takeaway on 13 July, so we decided to speak to co-founder and COO Jessica Li, for a taste of what’s to come.
Congratulations on your successful seed funding round this year! What made you decide that now’s a good time, and why not when you first started?
Thanks! Our recent seed round was the first outside investment round with regional and international VCs. Before this we were fortunate to start dahmakan with our savings and angel funding from friends and family who believed in the potential what we were building. We decided to bootstrap until the point in which we had found good product/market fit and we were ready to scale up quickly.
Any advice for budding entrepreneurs out there on seeking investors?
Picking an investor is just as important as picking a cofounder so we took a lot of time to build a relationship with them to see if there’s a good fit. More than anything, they need to believe in the vision and the team. Get a reference from a few of their portfolio companies to see what it’s really like to work together with them and where they add value.
Dah Makan runs everything in-house – cooking, delivery, etc. – to control quality. What are your top management tips that have helped you successfully manage so many things at the same time?
Hire great people and give them more responsibility and freedom than you are comfortable with. In an environment of rapid growth and change, you need people who are happy to break things and build it again and go beyond what you initially hired them to do. The other thing is to give and receive feedback regularly, communicating expectations makes working together a lot easier. Don’t wait too long to have an uncomfortable conversation.
How do you achieve work-life balance?
I think the key is to really look after yourself first and figuring out how to manage your energy and that’s different for everyone. I spend the first 15 minutes of my morning meditating and writing down my to-do list for the day which keeps me sane. Saturdays, I will try to break my habit of checking emails and spend it with people who work in completely different fields.
You have dabbled with food in the past – with Food Panda and being a food writer. Do you have a passion for food? How involved are you in creating Dah Makan’s menu?
I wouldn’t call myself a foodie but I do love the F&B industry. My first internship was actually doing PR for an American celebrity chef opening restaurants in Hong Kong! At the beginning I was the only one creating the menu for dahmakan but as we grew, we also used feedback from our customers and culinary team here to come up with new dishes.
Entrepreneurs often face a lonely path when dealing with obstacles, failure, and uncertainty. You’re not alone at Dah Makan, of course, with Jon and Christian, but there is a different kind of strength needed because you’re not just an employee taking a salary anymore. How do you build yourself up, mentally and emotionally?
Great question! I think the experience of building something from scratch and going through so much together gives you a lot of emotional strength. In terms of building yourself up, I think it helps to consider each challenge/failure as part of a journey and to embrace/learn from it – you’re running a marathon, not a sprint. Speaking to other entrepreneurs who are further along can help put a lot of what you’re going through in perspective as well.
Finally, care to share any boo boos/mistakes you’ve made, and how you’ve overcome it?
I think building a startup is an endless list of lessons learned and mistakes. Probably the biggest mistake we made in the beginning was to hire for experience rather than attitude where one can be learned and one can’t. Another would be not taking more risks and playing it safe. Both you learn to overcome by being painfully aware of it.
To learn more from Dah Makan and other F&B entrepreneurs, join like-minded folks at BFM Enterprise Takeaway. You can get your tickets here.
Read also: Chic Careers: The People Psyentist®
Evelyn Chue, Managing Director of People Psyence, talks to us about juggling entrepreneurship and motherhood. Read her interview here.