Ep. #1027 - Building Community with Food
In today’s episode of Startup Hustle, we’re looking into building a community with food. So Lauren Conaway lets Sophia Rascoff lead the conversation with her insights. The CEO and co-founder of Recon Food reveals what inspired her to create an online community focused on one’s love for food and cooking.
Covered In This Episode
Social media is a double-edged sword for entrepreneurs. If done right, it can bring more leads and helps with brand engagement. However, one wrong post and your brand image can suffer.
Fortunately, for foodies and business owners in the food industry, Recon Food poses a great solution. Lauren and Sophia’s discussion leads us to how the company built a community through food. And ease the pressure and toxicity of social networks for those focused on food.
If you’re into the food and cooking industry, as well as entrepreneurship, tune in to this Startup Hustle episode.
- Sophia’s journey into entrepreneurship (01:41)
- On being influenced into having the entrepreneurial mindset (03:58)
- Her story on working with a parent (05:48)
- Being a member of an entrepreneurship club helps (09:37)
- What is Recon Food? (11:39)
- Social media burden on entrepreneurs (14:30)
- The Recon Food founding story (16:12)
- Finding inspiration for the love of food (19:33)
- Recon Food’s revenue model (23:12)
- A unique approach to building a business (24:58)
- What it’s like to be a young entrepreneur (26:46)
- Things you need to know about the Recon app (29:44)
- Building an app for everyone who wants to cook (32:35)
- Sophia’s favorite encounters (35:32)
- On creating communities (37:01)
- Providing a roadmap for users (40:49)
Hey, parents, if you want to foster that entrepreneurial mindset, it sounds like one of the easiest things you can do is just talk about it. Share your story, and talk about news and exciting things that are happening.– Lauren Conaway
The idea was to create a vertical social media network that was just for food all the time. So it solves those three problems that I outlined. It’s less toxic because it’s just food.– Sophia Rascoff
When you’re trying to create a community, one of the most powerful things that you can do is provide that roadmap to your users.– Lauren Conaway
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Following is an auto-generated text transcript of this episode. Apologies for any errors!
Lauren Conaway 00:01
And we are back. Thank you for joining us for yet another episode of the Startup Hustle podcast. I’m your host, Lauren Conaway, founder and CEO of InnovateHER KC. And, friends, I gotta tell you, today’s episode of Startup Hustle is sponsored by FullScale.io. Hiring software developers is difficult. But Full Scale can help you build a software team quickly and affordably. And they have the platform to help you manage that team. And we sure do love them around Startup Hustle. Visit FullScale.io to learn more. All right, friends, we’re about to have a very interesting conversation. We have with us today Sophia Rascoff, CEO and co-founder of Recon Food. So Sophia brings to the table some really interesting knowledge, you know, about food and photography, and community-building technology. Like all of these really beautiful spaces and these things that we absolutely love talking about. So I can’t wait to jump in. But, Sophia, thank you so much for being on the show.
Sophia Rascoff 01:01
Thank you for having me.
Lauren Conaway 01:03
Absolutely. I want to maximize our time together. So I’m gonna go ahead and just hop right in. And I’m just gonna say, Sophia, tell us about your journey.
Sophia Rascoff 01:12
So I grew up around entrepreneurship my whole life. My dad is an entrepreneur. And so ever since I was young, I had been hearing about his companies and visiting his office. And it’s something that was a really big part of my life. And so I always knew, in some sense, that I would be so interested, in love, to go into this business tech world. As I grew up, I now live in Los Angeles. I’m a senior in high school. And at my school, I’ve had the opportunity to get involved with different organizations, including our school’s entrepreneurship organization, which supports students who are starting their own startups. And we run an incubator program. We host speaker events and workshops. And it’s been a really great experience for me. So that was sort of my second experience in entrepreneurship. And most recently, well, I skipped one, I have had a few perfume companies.
Lauren Conaway 02:08
A serial entrepreneur. I love that. What was the one you skipped?
Sophia Rascoff 02:14
Well, I’ve skipped, obviously, a classic cookie-lemonade stand and a perfume business. I started with my cousin; we had many fun stories. But my latest and most prominent venture into entrepreneurship has been with my startup Recon Food. Recon Food is a vertical social media network for food aiming to create a new platform, which is less stressful and chaotic, and toxic at times. Then more mainstream social media, which becomes a catch-all for the very best of everything and can just feel stressful. It’s essentially like Instagram for food. However, there are more food-specific features, like a recipe feature and a map feature, to show restaurant locations. So if you’re a foodie and interested in downloading, it’s called Recon Foods. You can find it in the app store now.
Lauren Conaway 03:04
That is incredible. So I gotta ask you, well, I have about like 20 things that I want to ask you. So first things first, I’m gonna walk it back just a little bit to address something that you mentioned. So you mentioned that you’ve been around entrepreneurship your whole life. And you, in particular, mentioned that your dad was an entrepreneur. So can I ask you how he has encouraged you or fostered that entrepreneurial mindset in you as you’ve grown up? I’m just really curious because clearly, you have the kind of mind that we love as startup founders. Like you’re already thinking about that next step and that next level, so I want to know what your dad did to get you there.
Sophia Rascoff 03:46
Well, let’s see, starting off when I was younger, and now sometimes to around the breakfast or dinner table, we’d have tech news, where he would read articles from the New York Times, and everything from tech and like, sometimes political things to new tech innovations to especially med tech, my mom’s a doctor and has taught me so much about hard work and everything. So I’ve learned from both of them for sure. So learning about new innovations in the world really helped foster that. And then additionally, as I’ve grown up, I’ve gotten to really just discuss with him about what he’s working on. For the startups that he’s hearing about, he’ll send me pitch decks that he gets sent just so I can take a look. And it’s been amazing to have that really close look at all that type of stuff. And now he’s my co-founder for Recon Foods. So I’ve actually gotten to work with him myself now, which has been nice.
Lauren Conaway 04:45
Well, that is super cool. And I want our listeners at home to know like, hey, parents, if you want to foster that entrepreneurial mindset, it sounds like one of the easiest things you can do is just talk about it. Share your story, and talk about news and exciting things that are happening. I love what he did then the next question that I gotta ask is because I don’t think I could do this. What has it been like working with a parent?
Sophia Rascoff 05:08
It’s been great. I think it’s the biggest. There are definitely some logistical pros, including we have meetings whenever and wherever, from the dinner table to 10pm. Because we live in the same house. Exactly. It’s super convenient. Yeah, it’s been, I think part of what made it such a special experience for me too, is just I’ve grown up around people who have worked with him and seeing sort of an outside view of his companies. And now I’ve gotten to really experience what it’s like firsthand. So in addition to getting my own entrepreneurial experience, I’ve been able to work with him and really get involved in that world. And through this, and especially now, I’ve also gotten involved, much more broadly in the tech community, which has been a really interesting experience for me. I’ve attended tech conferences and networking dinners. And that’s something that was really hard for me at first, I’m a very introverted person and had to get outside of my comfort zone in order to just walk up to people at an event and start talking. So it’s helped me grow a lot which has made it such a great experience.
Lauren Conaway 06:13
That was awesome. And if that, I mean, honestly, if that is something that you pick up early in life, it’s going to serve you well. I am actually also an introvert, and most people don’t believe me, but I’m like, you know, it’s actually what you see is very much learned behavior. Like I had to force myself to break that ice and, you know, figure out how to talk to people when I feel so awkward. But if you do it often enough, and you get yourself outside of your comfort zone often enough, it’s kind of like working a muscle, like the more you work it, the easier it becomes. And then you get to try better things, right?
Sophia Rascoff 06:48
Like also, it’s been nice in that community to where once I started to get to know people, then this the power of networking. I feel so stupid saying that. But it’s true that people introduced me to more people. And now when I attend one of these la tech events, and I’m based in LA, the LA tech community is huge. But when I attend a tech event now, I note that I walk in, and I know people, it’s an amazing feeling to see people that I recognize and I’ve talked to and no. And that was sort of startling to me to where I feel like I’ve met people in the community now and it makes me feel so much more. Like, connected.
Lauren Conaway 07:27
Yeah. So I am dying, like friends, you can’t see this, but I have a giant smile on my face. And I’m kind of giggling as Sophia is talking. Because when I started out in my career, it was one of those things where I realized pretty quickly that I get very uncomfortable and that I feel super awkward in big rooms filled with people that I don’t know. And like, you know, one on one meeting someone new, I’ve always been fine, like, hi, nice to meet you, like, let’s chat. But when it’s giant blocks of people, I struggle with it. And what’s making me laugh is like it at some point, I realized I was like, well, then the goal is going to have to be like, I’m just gonna have to know people in every room that I walk into, like that’s, and so I built my network. And now, you know, I’ve reached a point in my career where I walk into rooms that I know most people in most of the rooms that I walk into, so I have that kind of grounding competence thing, like, okay, there’s someone I feel safe with. And like, you know, so it’s really funny to me. But yeah, I mean, it’s great connecting within a network is such a fantastic way to not only help your company but to really grow as an individual. Now, I do want to ask you a little bit more about growing as an individual piece. You mentioned that you’re really involved in entrepreneurial pursuits at your school. So talk to us a little bit about that. You said that you belong to an entrepreneurship club, the young entrepreneurs club.
Sophia Rascoff 08:57
Uh-huh. It’s an entrepreneurship organization. Let’s see, let’s go get my little tagline from Harvard venture is the school is an entrepreneurship organization aiming to support and inspire student innovation on campus. So that’s my nice little pitch or tag. It’s been an amazing experience for me. I helped really bring the program to middle school. So we have two campuses, 789, and then 10th, 11th, and 12th grade. So I really wanted to help students get involved even earlier because, as a ninth grader, I was honestly jealous that I couldn’t really be a part of the Upper School Program and pass that it’s an amazing experience to work with people, students who are also interested in entrepreneurship, and want to create that real world, real-world experience. And we’ve so the program before my time has launched startups, including a student backpack company called Prova. And let’s see, A microfinance nonprofit called souls for good is now called stepstone. So it’s done really great things. And I’ve now been a leader of it for a few years and have loved the opportunity to work with other students and help support them in their endeavors. Because as interesting as my own entrepreneurship, life and world are, I really love helping other students get involved in it and get into it.
Lauren Conaway 10:21
That is so cool. Now, do you think, alright, so let’s think forward a couple of years like you’ve graduated high school, maybe you’re in college, maybe you’re not? I don’t know what your long-term plans are. But do you think that you are always going to want to be an entrepreneur?
Sophia Rascoff 10:39
I think I definitely see myself in the tech business entrepreneurship industry. Exactly where that falls, or how do I get there? I’m not sure. Definitely, as you said, I don’t know where the path is. My current plan is to continue along it until I find my spot.
Lauren Conaway 10:59
Very, very cool. Well, so talk to us a little bit about Recon Food, because I’m very intrigued. So one of the things that you said and I absolutely agree is that sometimes social media can get really toxic. And I mean, I do think that social media can serve you know, serve for good at times. But I love that you’ve kind of taken the things that you hear anyway. I’m gonna check my understanding, but it sounds like you’ve taken the things that you love most about general social media and gotten really specific and niche with it. You know, food is one of the great unifiers.
Sophia Rascoff 11:37
You know, everybody eats. I totally agree.
Lauren Conaway 11:38
Everybody loves food. Food can serve as such a cultural touchstone, like it’s part of who we are and not just what we do. You know, I know so many, so many people who tell me stories like, Oh, my grandma, and I used to make this together, or in my culture, this is a thing that we love to eat. And it becomes, again, it just becomes a unifier. And so I love that you’ve taken something that you clearly care about, and turned it into an entrepreneurial opportunity. So talk to us a little bit about your thinking or how you came to start Recon Food.
Sophia Rascoff 12:14
Totally. So social media is, in my eyes, a very powerful tool and a great concept. I love the idea of connecting with people and staying connected with people through technology. It’s exactly what we should be doing. No, it is deeply flawed, and there are a lot of problems with it. But as a young person in this world, whenever I hear people discuss the problems with social media, their responses always, or their responses often well, if it doesn’t make you happy, you just delete it. And to me, that feels like just ignoring the problem instead of actually trying to solve it. I think there are three main problems with social media, or at least three negative emotions that social media can make you feel it’s toxic, stressful and confusing. So toxic, I think everyone is aware that social media has negative effects on your mental health, it can make you feel like you’re not as great as everyone else. It can make you feel like you’re not as pretty as everyone else, or having as nice vacations. It’s a negative environment sometimes because it lends itself to comparison.
Lauren Conaway 13:15
Well, I learned to never read the comments. Never read exactly that as well.
Sophia Rascoff 13:19
Especially with a platform, like Instagram, for example. It’s really the top 1% of everything. So it’s the best vacation you’ve ever had. It’s the best meal you’ve ever eaten. It’s the best picture you took out of the hundreds you took on your phone of the whole trip. So because of that you end up comparing your whole life to the best parts of everyone else’s lives. The next thing I mentioned was stressful. I think social media can also be a really stressful place. Every time there’s a story in the news cycle, I see it reposted hundreds of times on everyone’s stories that I follow. And I love that I think it’s great that my friends and people I follow are politically active and willing to reshare that, but it definitely feels like a burden, especially when I counted one day. This is definitely part of the founding story of Recon, where Recon Foods were one day. I was looking at social media and this was home, and when there were two I remember there were two negative news stories going around. And I clicked through Instagram 253 times like I clicked the stories 253 times and it was just negative news story after another of this Yes, like tragic stories. And it was just, it was upsetting, especially as a young person in this world where it feels like you have to solve those problems. It’s a really big burden to feel.
Lauren Conaway 14:43
And the last thing you have to solve all of those problems, right? Well, it was great, but like pick one, maybe two.
Sophia Rascoff 14:51
Exactly. I totally agree. And then the last thing is just it’s confusing with Instagram for I think I’m a good example of this. I have a public Instagram account. I use it to connect with everyone from my friends, my school friends to my friends from Seattle, I used to live there through fifth grade to my parents, friends to people I meet at these tech events. So it’s networking and social and, like random people who follow me, but I don’t even know. So it’s just a confusing audience to post to and it doesn’t feel right for anything. I have so many things I would post but I’m like, oh, like, I don’t know if that’s right. I don’t know if that’s whatever. It feels confusing to me as a user sometimes.
Lauren Conaway 15:32
Well, it’s not just you, I’m sure that you’re not alone in that. So you experienced a problem. But it was one that you know, many people around you’re experiencing so and that’s what entrepreneurs do. Like your problem. Exactly.
Sophia Rascoff 15:44
So all that’s a pretty long winded way of getting to the founding story for Recon Food, which was founded during COVID. Food had a very interesting time during COVID. It’s something that brought a lot of families together, brought our family together through sharing recipes, coming up with new recipes, cooking meals together every night, it was really great time and food was bringing us together. Well, it was a great time to be brought together.
Lauren Conaway 16:12
Food made it a better time in a time when all of the sudden we were thrust into environments where we couldn’t come together, you know, so you had design alternatives. And so what you were doing and I love this swapping recipes idea, by the way, exactly. I’m gonna rip that off.
Sophia Rascoff 16:30
So exactly, it was a really interesting time for food in the recipe sense. And also, that food was having all these social trends. I don’t know if you remember, but there was sourdough and cloud bread and whipped coffee and all these things everyone was trying. Yeah, so I kept baking things and cooking things, and we baked a lot during quarantine. But every time I would cook something or try something new, the thought in the back of my mind was basically that I wanted to share it with friends, but it wasn’t social media worthy. Like why should I cook and have ended up on Instagram? Especially because at that time, Instagram was being used as a social justice rallying site, essentially, to communicate important information about protests. And all I could think was Why am I clogging, clogging up Instagram right now, with a mediocre photo of a mediocre meal I cooked. And that was kind of a depressing thought. But it felt valid to me. And I know a lot of people who are feeling that way. And so the idea was to create a vertical social media network that was just for food all the time. So it solves those three problems that I outlined, it’s less toxic, because it’s just food. Instead of getting that top 1% of every vertical, you get 100% of the food vertical. So you get the gourmet meal, but you also get cold cereal, scrambled eggs and a bowl of mango. Whatever it is, you gotta be intentional. Exactly. So it’s a really large variety. And that’s one thing I love about the app is it, you really get so much of everything. The next thing is it’s not stressful. It’s intentionally a bubble. There’s nothing in there. But food. And so I can open the app and scroll for hours. And I know I’ll only see pictures of food and that is freeing. It’s like the best part of the Instagram explore page, essentially, with no ads. And then the last one was confusing, we created an app only for food. And so the only people who follow me on the app, well, actually everyone follows me and my dad on the app, because we’ve got to set the tone for it. But the only people who follow you on the app are people who want to see pictures of your food. So you can post pictures of your food because that’s what people are there to see. It really boils down to that. And so we created a really strong community of people who are lifting each other up and supporting each other through their cooking and connecting people across the world and across the country. And it’s been a really amazing experience so far.
Lauren Conaway 18:53
That is really cool. I love that, and I just find the opportunity to connect over something that’s that impacts so many people and so many so many various ways. You know, like I mean, like I said, you know, food is a unifying factor. And I think we all each in our own way have an appreciation for food, even if it’s just like the Food is fuel camp, you know, like the folks who were like, oh, shit playing chicken, breast and rice every day. Well, cool. That’s a totally valid thing to do. But you are engaging in this food process. I love it. Real quick, I just want to hop in here and talk a little bit about today’s episode sponsor. We talk about Full Scale a lot around Startup Hustle, they are our producers. They are the team that makes all of this work, and they are total rockstars. But one of the things that Full Scale knows is that finding expert software developers doesn’t have to be difficult. I know we all think it is. But it doesn’t have to be especially when you visit FullScale.io You can build a software team quickly and affordably. Use the Full Scale platform to define your technical needs and then see what available developers, testers, and leaders are ready to join your team. Visit FullScale.io to learn more. All right, so we are talking to Sofia Rascoff of Recon Foods. Vertical social media environment for food. We’re talking foodies here. And Sophia, I got to know. You know what inspired your love of food? I’m just very curious.
Sophia Rascoff 20:27
Well, food is definitely something that brought my family together. I know I mentioned during COVID, we had a really great time exploring new recipes together. But it’s also a cultural thing. My mom is Colombian. And so I’m half Hispanic. And every year around Christmas time, we have lots of family recipes that we make, that are Colombian food. So some of our favorites. And you can find these all on Recon Food. We’ve made Jaco which is a traditional soup dish first, like celebratory meals, and Boone willows, they’re different from Mexican oils, they’re the Colombian ones are more. They’re like a cheesy bready biscuit type thing kind of hard to explain. But it’s like a fried dough ball. If it’s like bread, sort of, they’re very good. I highly recommend intentionally trying to make me hungry. I’m hungry now to last we’ve made it to which is sort of similar to fun. So that’s been something that’s fun, too. It’s really been something about food that made me look forward to Christmas. Every year, we have our traditional recipes that we always make. So that’s something that’s been really nice too, and seeing those recipes. little fun fact here, in the movie and gumbo, the Disney movie that takes place in Colombia, in the scene where the family is having dinner, you can see all of these dishes that I just mentioned on their table on their plates, they’re sharing together, which was just amazing for me to see, that is incredible.
Lauren Conaway 21:51
So one of the things that I love about Disney, they’ve got so intentional about representation, and you’re talking about representation in food, which I hadn’t, I’m gonna be honest, I hadn’t really thought of, but that is really cool. And it must have been really fun to see these visual, reputed or visual representations up on the big screen of things that you’ve enjoyed with your family over the years that must be really, really super cool. So question I’m gonna ask you to get a little tactical to get a little granular here with me with Recon Foods. So what’s your revenue model?
Sophia Rascoff 22:32
We are. So when we initially started, we discussed this extensively. And we decided to focus more on creating an app that we believed in gaining users and then switching to discussing the revenue model. So there isn’t one in place now. But we see lots of opportunities for that in the future. My the one, the ones that most interest me are the ones that actually improve the functionality of the app, instead of clogging it with ads or selling data or anything like that, I would love to see something in the future like a partnership with Instacart or UberEATS, or RESI, or OpenTable, where you can book a reservation or link to a reservation app directly from the app or ordering UberEATS from a restaurant directly or linked to that from the app, stuff that really enhances the experience. It’s been a priority for us in creating the app that it’s not just Instagram for food, it’s much more like Strava, for running where you could post your run on Instagram, or you could track posts and log your run in Strava. With all its run specific features that Instagram is never going to build because it’s not a running app.
Lauren Conaway 23:42
So you see, you’re less interested in the monetization aspect and more in creating a comprehensive tool plus community that’s just super useful to users. And then you know, finding a way to monetize from that angle. So I have to tell you something, Sophia, you and I actually have a lot in common there. Innovator when innovator started, we were just a Facebook group that I kind of idle, you know, just started one day because I was like, hey, you know, I feel a need to connect with women entrepreneurs around me in the space around me. And what was really great in building the company from the ground up and focusing on the community first. And the impact first is that that has now become our foundation, you know, at every level that community is baked in even to the even sometimes at the expense of revenue and profit. But that means that as founder, I get to be very proud of the work that we do. And I don’t feel like we’re taking advantage or exploiting our users or members. So I think that that’s a really unique approach. Most of the founders I know they’re just like, how are we going to make money and it’s like, ah, that yes, that is very important, but how are we going to add value to the people that we serve is the really, that’s the first question that you ask. And so it sounds like you’re starting from that place, rather than the monetary piece. Would you say that’s accurate?
Sophia Rascoff 25:15
Totally, the biggest priority was building community, even at the expense of small bits of not even revenue, just losing money. We have run lots of challenges in the past, and I hope we do some more in the future. where users can participate in this challenge. One great example we did was, let’s see, what are my favorite ones. We’ve done a few leads on a chocolate chip cookie one, potato one, and festive foods last holiday season. So for each of those, oh, our latest one was actually this summer, it was a barbecue on Fourth of July. So if users posted a photo with a certain hashtag, and participated, they could be entered to win. Like sweepstakes, gift cards, or I think one of them was a lesson with the private chef of KitchenAid, mixer, stuff like that, that really built the community and brought the community together.
Lauren Conaway 26:06
Sure. Well, so I’m gonna switch directions, just a little bit here, Sophia, and I’m gonna, I’m gonna point out, and I’m sure that you are already very aware. But you’re a little younger than the average startup founder. And so what I want to ask you is, has that been a challenge? Or has it been a blessing and a curse? You know, what has that experience been? Like?
Sophia Rascoff 26:27
I think it’s, it’s been a bit of a challenge. But I don’t think it’s been that substantial. The reaction I typically get is a little bit of surprise and a little bit of confusion. But my hope is that I’ve made enough of an impact or had enough of a conversation already, such that that doesn’t discount me immediately. And it’s happened all the time where I’ll be speaking to someone, and for a little bit, and then they’ll ask how old I am. And I think a lot of people assume college. And I’ll be like, Oh, I’m a senior in high school. And but by that point in the conversation, at least, my hope is that I impress them enough such that I’m still taken seriously. And I haven’t really experienced anything directly. That’s gotten counter to that.
Lauren Conaway 27:19
Excellent. Well, I love that that has been your experience. But the other thing that I love is, you know, if you haven’t gotten foot pushback, then that probably means that we are somewhat starting to normalize the idea of youth getting involved in entrepreneurship, you know, you are a prime example of hashtag representation matters. Because as a young founder, you get to provide the blueprint to other founders, who are in your age group and your Gen Z, right. You know, other Gen Zers, who might be interested in starting a business now they get to point to you and say, hey, well, she did it. I can do it too. Right? Do you feel a sense of pride in that? Do you feel responsible for that, like, talk to us a little bit about your examples to talk to us a little bit about that?
Sophia Rascoff 28:09
Totally, I totally hear what you’re saying. And I love it. There’s a great organization that I’ve worked with in the past called Gen Horatian.
Lauren Conaway 28:22
It’s like the generation spells her play plays on her innovate her exactly.
Sophia Rascoff 28:25
So they do lots of networking events for women in the business and tech fields. And they run like leadership camps and field trips for younger girls especially. And I had the opportunity not this past summer, but the summer before to speak on a panel for them at one of their summer camps, or it was on Zoom, but for one of their summer camps with two or three other fellow young female entrepreneurs, and it was just a great experience. And I treasure it, but I really love being able to set that model and really hope to inspire other people interested in the field.
Lauren Conaway 29:04
Yeah, well, well, that is very cool. And my hat is off to you. I’m giving you all of the applause in my heart, because I just love that, you know, you’re taking that responsibility seriously. And you’re providing opportunity for young women and Well, honestly, young folks, just like you. And so that’s, that’s really exciting to me, of course. Now, what do you wish you knew you like? What do you wish other people knew about recon apps? Talk to us a little bit more about the app and what you’re hoping to bring. Bring to space? You know if our listeners have one takeaway about the recon, Recon Foods, what, what do you want them to know?
Sophia Rascoff 29:52
Let’s see. I’ll give one feature. I’ll do one one underrated feature and then one more general what to know about the app I’d say the most underrated feature, which I don’t think is used nearly enough is that map feature I mentioned, it’s such a great feature. So you can open the map, it’s in the top right of the home screen. And on that map, scroll to any area near you, or in a country that you’re going to visit or a new city. And see restaurants start popping up populated with the faces of users on the app, specifically people that you follow on the app, who have been there and posted from it. So it’s sort of Yelp ish. Except for this, I guess, people could look at this app and say that Yelp already exists. My counter to that is that Yelp is not as social. This is a social media app. Yelp is a travel recommendation app. And the main thing is that when you look at Yelp, you get what’s essentially the average review of everyone who has ever visited the restaurant. When you use Recon Food, you see what your friends think. So I can click on a restaurant that one of my friends has been to and posted from. And as I scroll, I can see every post that anyone’s made on that restaurant. And all of those posts come with pictures and a little rating. We made our rating system a smiley face, like a medium face and frowny face, just to make it more fun. So I can see all the posts that my friends have and from that place, I can see the dishes that they got, I can see pictures of the dishes that they got, which is amazing. So that’s definitely the most underrated feature I would highly recommend. And then generally, I think the thing I would say about the app is that you don’t have to be a professional at all. It’s not built for professional chefs. It’s built for amateurs like myself. And when you said at the beginning, that I was an expert in food and photography, I sort of cringed a little bit because the point is that I’m not. I know I use flattery.
Lauren Conaway 31:46
And at some point you were talking about your mediocre food. And I was like, Well, I don’t. I highly doubt that your food is me. But I find that I appreciate it.
Sophia Rascoff 31:55
Whenever I cook something I will say it always turned out a little off. Maybe it’s just me being overly judgmental of myself. But the app is really built for everyone who just wants to cook and that is everyone honestly, I post because I think the food world understands that when you bake something, it tastes amazing. It doesn’t always look great. And if it looks amazing, it doesn’t always taste great. And it’s much more honest. And so if the app is really, really for anyone, I promise, you don’t have to be a professional chef or an influencer. We’ve had influencers look at the app and say to us, oh, what about creating a third tab that’s like, for professionals. So it’s, you can scroll through and see either the, or the it’s sorted, so that you can see either the people you follow everyone on the app, or just professional chefs and bloggers. And we were like, Oh, that’s a good idea. But that’s not the point of the app. And honestly, I love that it’s all mixed together, it’s sort of you really, you really get everything and it doesn’t feel like your food is ever out of place.
Lauren Conaway 33:03
Yeah. Well, there are two things to acknowledge in what you just said. And number one is, you know, I think one of the most important things that you’re doing like with that, that philosophy around food photography and the food world, you’re creating accessibility in food, because you because you’re absolutely right, like, you know, I’ve cooked things, and I share them on my social, but there’s always that pressure to like, alright, is the lining, right? Like, I got to make sure that it looks picture perfect. And the fact is like, it doesn’t really have to be picture perfect. You know, you just have to cook and you have to love food. And you have to want to show off something that you did. And I mean, to your point, if that is a bowl of cereal, and that is what you are good at, then. Yeah, let’s celebrate it, you know. So I love that, that there’s a piece of accessibility that you wouldn’t necessarily find on other social networks. Now the other piece that you kind of profoundly hid in there is the fact that one of the things that I love most about food is how experimental you can be. And so like having the opportunity to showcase maybe the odd choices that you made, or the things that to your point didn’t turn out as well as you might have liked. But hey, show it anyway, you did the thing. You tried it. And so it’s, it’s really, really fantastic to gain acknowledgement. Even if you’re not like the Michelin starred chef, you know, the fact is, cooking is a joyful life, or it can be a joyful activity. And you’re really just kind of celebrating that and all of its forms. And that’s that must be really, really fun for your users now and now to talk to us about your users. Like is that the feedback that you’re getting from them?
Sophia Rascoff 34:52
Yeah, my favorite encounters are not users yet, but then they become users with people. I’ll start telling them about the app. And they’ll be like, Oh, actually, I got off social media. I don’t use this. I don’t use Instagram anymore, because I didn’t really like it. And I was like, exactly. And I’m always like, exactly. That’s the whole point. Like I, I totally get what you’re saying. And then we have a nice little conversation about how bad social media is in its current form. And I talk about the verticalization of social media and unbundling and everything that we’ve mentioned so far here. And I think that if I’ve found that that’s pretty convincing to people where it’s not, this is different. It’s a pitch about a place that you can go that isn’t stressful, or toxic or anything like that. And so I think people really love that. And as with the users on the app, I think the best thing about the app is the community that we’ve created. And it’s been even a curse, where I’ve heard people say about the app that they really like it, but they don’t want to invite their friends on it. Because when they get a comment from someone on the app that they don’t know, it’s like the greatest experience of their life, because it’s like a professional chef, commenting on their meal, saying that it looks great. And that’s like, amazing, because it feels validating and it feels so great. But if their friends were on the app, then they’d feel like they had to comment and like felt obligated to do it. And so this, honestly, this community that we’ve created, of people who used to be strangers who have now really gotten to know each other through the app, and I always see people are commenting on each other’s posts and saying that looks delicious, or oh, can I have the recipe or Oh, I, I’ve made that before, here’s what I did this time. It’s been amazing to see. And our development team for the app is based in Ukraine, and a lot of that, so a lot of their posts are of traditional Ukrainian foods. And that’s been really cool to see. But also, we’ve had people who are here in the US on the West Coast get inspired by those dishes, such that they’ve gone out of their way to try Ukrainian food, or tried cooking a traditional Ukrainian dish and engaging and saying, Hey, you inspired me, thanks for posting this. We’ve had users across our Yeah, I think, who live in different cities who have met up to share a meal because they met on Recon Food and discovered that they were in the same city. So the community that we’ve created is just really remarkable.
Lauren Conaway 37:20
That is incredible. And now I feel inspired. Like you’ve already made me hungry. But now I’m gonna have to pop by the store and figure out a traditional Ukrainian dish and see if I can pull it off. I don’t know. But I certainly want to give it a shot now. So I do that validation. And that inspiration must be totally invaluable to your users. Now, I’m going to ask you to give our listeners a little bit of advice. And because most of our listeners probably aren’t thinking about starting a food social network, I’m going to generalize it a little bit. And I’m going to ask you to talk to us about creating connections within the community. If our listeners at home wanted to create a community around which to galvanize and activate, what are some of the tips and tricks that you have used with Recon Foods to connect to people who probably otherwise would not meet each other or interact with each other? What are some best practices?
Sophia Rascoff 38:27
I think an important thing that we did was really try to set the tone. So like I mentioned, when you join the app, you automatically follow me. And I try to post that I can show people essentially what it’s like because with a really large app that has hundreds of millions of people on it, you sort of join and know what to expect. But for this people didn’t really. And so especially early on, we posted a lot and showed people the app is for anything and really set the tone with what it was supposed to be like. And so everyone follows me. But I also follow everyone back. I actually track how many people are on the app by how many people I’m following. So if you ever want to check it out, you can. And that I’ve really loved it because I’ve scrolled through the app. And I always like everyone’s posts and commenting and really engaging the community directly. And I think that would probably be my recommendation is just be like, be an active member of the community that you want to see. And we’ve unfortunately passed the point where I can actually look at and comment on every post which I think is a great thing, obviously. But you’re pretty good. Yeah, now I’ll get behind where I realize I haven’t opened the app and either a few hours or a few days and I realized like actually can’t possibly catch up on all these posts. And I’m sad to miss some, but I do still follow everyone back. But yeah, just really engaging with that community directly. I think for us, it’s commenting on posts and giving people encouragement whenever I see a news article. There’s really an indictment I see that they posted something, I’m always so excited. And I love that they’re joining this community. And so it’s a lot of that direct engagement for sure.
Lauren Conaway 40:09
Well, and I think that a big piece of what you’re talking about, and this is something that we do, or that I do personally around innovators as well, you know, we have a virtual community. And you model the behavior that you want to see like you, you are the lights or the spark that you want to see. And so when you’re trying to create a community, one of the most powerful things that you can do is provide that roadmap to your users. And so just as if, for instance, within innovators, we wanted to create a culture of winning, you know, championship, let’s celebrate each other, let’s talk about the things that we do well. And so one of the things that I do periodically, like I follow a bunch of our members on social media and like, I’ll just grab their stuff and be late once they announce a win or something exciting that happened in their business, I just go on, I just post it in the community. And I’m just like, hey, innovators, let us celebrate this thing that happened for one of our members. And I do that because I like it. But because I am showing through my behavior, I’m showing the community, how I want them to interact and how I hope we bring the change about and we bring that connection about. And so that’s exactly what you’re talking about, like you model the behavior that you want to see, you decide on the culture that you want to promote. And in the in, you know, for Recon Foods, the culture is like an active one and a supportive one. And so you’re in doing what you do to welcome your new members, you’re creating that environment by showing what that environment should look like. Right.
Sophia Rascoff 41:47
Totally. That’s exactly it.
Lauren Conaway 41:49
I love it. I love it. I love it. I love it. Now, I am going to ask you the human question. Now Sophia, and we’ve actually gone a little bit over time, because I was so interested in this conversation. But friends, I have to tell you something about Sophia here, a little bit of insight into her personality. So I think you all know that we do pre show prep before we start recording, and we talk about things and I explained the human question to Sophia. And guess what she did? She gave me a suggestion for a question. And I loved it so much. That is absolutely the question that I’m going to ask her. And I’m going to ask all of you playing at home to think about this, because I think this is such a fun question. But here it is. If you had a talk show, who would your first guest be Sophia?
Sophia Rascoff 42:38
So I actually want to ask you this, I didn’t have an answer in mind. So I’ve been sort of thinking about it in the back of my mind. And I think I’m gonna have to say Ryan Reynolds, just as a new talk show host. I feel like I’d be pretty nervous and not really sure what to do with myself, but I feel like he’s a pretty charismatic and funny guy and he really set the tone.
Lauren Conaway 42:55
He’d kind of help you along a little bit. You know?
Sophia Rascoff 42:59
Okay, I think he could carry it all by himself.
Lauren Conaway 43:03
Okay, well, well, that is a fantastic answer. I’m not gonna give you my answer, because I don’t really have one. Well, no, that’s not true. Ah, hold on, I’m gonna think about it. Who would I have as a guest on? You know who I want? I want Michelle Obama. I just do.
Sophia Rascoff 43:21
That’s my serious answer. I was gonna say Obama. For Barack. That’s my serious answer. And
Lauren Conaway 43:30
I want to talk about health initiatives. And I want to talk about advocacy. And I want to talk about all those things. With an amazing black woman that I have seen.
Sophia Rascoff 43:41
That’s an amazing answer. Now you’ve made mine look like I promised those. That’s my, that was my other choice.
Lauren Conaway 43:46
I mean, I feel like you’re your first guest. Like I appreciate where you’re coming from. With that, like, I have a lot of experience interviewing people. So I don’t really need that soft entrance. But Ryan Reynolds, I feel like he would be a really good first guest because he’s going to be interesting. But he’s also going to be kind of fun to play off of and he’s going to help you get your jitters out.
Sophia Rascoff 44:07
He also has an interesting business experience where he is involved in lots of companies. I feel like that’d be an interesting mix. All right, I’ll stick with my answer. Okay, well, Miss can be my second guest.
Lauren Conaway 44:16
Well, I’ll tell you what, if we ever do like a co-produced talk show, we can have Ryan Reynolds and then Michelle Obama, and we can both be happy. How’s that sound?
Sophia Rascoff 44:25
That would be amazing. All right.
Lauren Conaway 44:27
Well, so I cannot thank you enough, Sophia, for taking time out of your very, very busy schedule to chat with us. This was a great conversation, and I just cannot tell you how excited I am to see how you and recomb foods gross. Just very, very excited to have you on the show.
Sophia Rascoff 44:46
Thank you so much for having me. Absolutely.
Lauren Conaway 44:49
So friends. Another thing that I am very, very excited about, of course, is Full Scale. Do you need to hire software engineers, testers, and leaders? Let Full Scale help. They have the people in the pool platform to help you build and manage a team of experts. When you visit FullScale.io. All you need to do is answer a few questions and then let the platform match you up with fully vetted, highly experienced software engineers, testers, and leaders at Full Scale. They specialize in building long-term teams that work only for you. Learn more when you visit FullScale.io. And, of course, I would be remiss if I did not encourage you to reach out to Startup Hustle. We are so grateful that you have come back and listened to us week after week. But we also want to hear from you. We want to know the topics that you want us to talk about. We want to meet the founders that you want us to meet with. So let us know if you know how to find our Startup Hustle chat book chat group on Facebook. Find we have a presence on LinkedIn, you can DM us for sure. But just reach out to us and let us know what kind of topics you want us to explore. We are here for you to help you on your entrepreneurial journey. And to that end, why don’t you go ahead and get back to it, and we will catch you on the flip side.