Entrepreneur Spotlight: Wesley Hsu & Swingby

Wesley Hsu @ Swingby
Wesley Hsu @ Swingby

Meet Wesley Hsu: 

We’ve ALL been there. Sitting at home or the office feeling super hungry but don’t have the time or energy to run out and grab some food. Thanks to Wesley at Swingby you don’t have to ignore your hunger any more! I recently had coffee with Wesley in Kensington (San Diego) and was inspired by his passion to work with local businesses and provide a needed service to the community. Remember Swingby the next time you’re craving something from a local San Diego restaurant that doesn’t deliver! Enjoy my interview with Wesley!

What is the name of your business and your website URL?

Wesley Hsu: Swingby

You can find us at www.swingbyfood.com

Sarah Nance: How did you choose the name of your business?

Wesley Hsu: It’s a great casual saying. “Can you swing by that Thai place and grab me a pad thai on the way over?” I like to think we’re a very friendly and personable business.  It’s not just food delivery from any restaurant, we’re like your buddy that’s coming over and happens to be passing by your favorite take-out spot.

Sarah Nance: What inspired you to create your company?

Wesley Hsu: I’ve always wanted a service like it myself.  With the advent of crowdsourcing and the shared economy model, it solved one of the largest issues people told me I’d face: scaling and turnover.  Nowadays, it’s not crazy to expect a stranger to also be honest and reliable in driving you somewhere, providing you with a room to crash at, or in our case, delivering your food.

Swingby
Swingby

Sarah Nance: How and when did you start your business?

Wesley Hsu: It’s all been bootstrapped so far.  I started just experimenting bringing food to friends and coworkers back in June of last year, working through the kinks for a couple months.  It was just me at first, and soon I realized I’d need a dispatcher, because obviously texting, driving, and looking up addresses and numbers is a horrible idea.  I come from a user interface and user experience design background, so I built the website myself.  I’d always envisioned it to be a pretty large platform eventually, so I knew I needed to have a technical co-founder.  I reached out to the startup community and the reddit community, and eventually met a fellow UCSD Triton who saw the same vision as me.  Together, we’ve managed to grow from less than a dozen orders a month to now over a hundred a month.

That said, we’re definitely open to talking with investors, as long as it’s the right fit.  We’re also planning to launch a crowdfunding campaign in late March/early April! So look out for that!

Sarah Nance: Tell me about your professional background and experience.

Wesley Hsu: I come from a user interface and user experience design background.  I’ve worked in the museum field (Balboa Park) for a couple years now, designing websites, mobile experiences, digital exhibits, and conducting user testing on products and exhibits.  I’ve become fascinated by creating enjoyable and intuitive user experiences.

Sarah Nance: What should your customers expect when they come to you?

Wesley Hsu: They should expect to satisfy a food craving and to have some great customer service experience! Our business thrives on building relationships.  We want to be more than just a delivery person bringing you food.  We’re neighbors that live and eat in the same places you do, so we hope that’s reflected in our customer service.  Feel free to text us or call us for any recommendations on food! We’re all about food.

Swingby
Swingby

Sarah Nance: Is this your first time operating and managing your own business? 

Wesley Hsu: Yeah, I’d never set out to be an entrepreneur!  I don’t have a background in business, so a lot of this has been an incredibly steep learning process, and I’ve still got plenty to learn.  It’s exhilarating though, and I’m learning more every day.

Sarah Nance: What has been the toughest lesson you have been taught about owning a business?

Wesley Hsu: For a business like ours, I think the toughest lesson has been learning the nature of marketing and how quickly people move on with their lives. Everyone loves food, and I think we provide a very valuable service not just to folks in the community, but also local restaurant businesses in the area.  That said, it’s not just a matter of letting people know about us, it’s also a matter of reminding people about us again and again, even if they’ve already seen us or even already used us.  It’s fascinating how much of marketing ends up being about reinforcement.

Sarah Nance: What has been the most rewarding part of owning your own business?

Wesley Hsu: I think getting to know the community has been immensely rewarding.  The relationships you build by reaching out into the community, and seeing the positive response, has made all this worth it.  We’re just starting to make it to the business association meetings, so we’re starting to meet other local businesses, many of whom have gone through the same struggles we’re going through now, and who are so willing to help out.

Sarah Nance: What are some of your specific marketing strategies?

Wesley Hsu: Marketing has definitely been one of our toughest hurdles.  Social media has been helpful.  Specifically reddit, organic facebook posts and recommendations, and nextdoor.com.  We’re starting to work more closely with restaurants now so that we can act as their delivery team.  Through them, we’re able to help them reach those customers who couldn’t or didn’t want to come in to the store, and we’re also able to let customers know they can now get delivery from any restaurant in the area.

Sarah Nance: What is your target market?

Wesley Hsu: There are definitely a few different ones.  Generally, customers are from the 18-35 year old range.  They are oftentimes either students, young professionals, or new parents.  They’re likely food enthusiasts, or just really crave specific types of food.  We’ve also found they’re generally technology buffs, food enthusiasts, movie lovers, and entertainment buffs.

Sarah Nance: Do you have any specific books, blogs or podcasts that you recommend to other business owners?

Wesley Hsu: I’m trying to finish reading through “The Lean Startup” by Eric Ries.  I’m also planning to read through “Without Their Permission” by Alexis Ohanian.  There’s also, of course, Paul Graham of Y-Combinator.  I also, honestly, get plenty of interesting and great advice from people posting questions on Quora and reddit.

Sarah Nance: Do you do much in person networking? If yes, what do you like and don’t like? If no, why not?

Wesley Hsu: I do indeed.  I really like that the startup community and the local business community is so supportive in everyone’s endeavors.  That said, it can also be intimidating as a new entrepreneur to get into that space and feel comfortable.  I think the more you spend time as an entrepreneur, the more you realize, though, that it’s all about building relationships and chance encounters with the right people.

Sarah Nance: Has there been anyone in particular that helped motivate you to start your business? If yes, tell me about them and how they helped you.

Wesley Hsu: Early on, I established a pretty good relationship with the owner of Twist Sandwiches, who I currently work with doing deliveries.  I think by building that relationship, I’ve been able to experiment with some ideas that have really laid the foundation in getting Swingby off the ground.  He’s been incredibly gracious and helpful in providing insight into the restaurant industry and how things run, and also giving me the opportunity to experiment with him.

Sarah Nance: What are your long-term goals for your business?

Wesley Hsu: I’d love for Swingby to expand its coverage areas to all of San Diego as well as go to other cities.  We plan to launch a mobile app as well, so that’ll make ordering food even easier.  We intend for Swingby to ultimately revolutionize the food delivery industry, offering people a gateway into an entire city’s restaurant scene, which they can enjoy from the comfort of their own home or office or wherever they happen to be.

Sarah Nance: How can people find you on social media?

Wesley Hsu: Our Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram handle is @swingbyfood!

Sarah Nance: Share some fun facts about you!

Wesley Hsu: I can eat A LOT of food.  Maybe that’s not that surprising 😛 I also really enjoy rock climbing!

Sarah Nance: Tell me a story about one of your favorite projects / customers.

Wesley Hsu: We once brought 50 In-N-Out burgers to a wedding after party all the way in Coronado.  It was one of the most memorable orders we’ve done, since she’d thought of the idea just 2 days before her wedding. It was such an awesome idea, and we simply couldn’t pass up the opportunity.  We showed up dressed up in slacks, button ups, and everything.  It was awesome seeing her so happy.  Obviously, we took a bunch of silly selfies with her and put it all over social media!

Swingby
Swingby

If you are interested in being featured in this “Entrepreneur Spotlight” series contact Sarah Nance today!  

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