Vasu Agarwal and Sahil Kanani weren't pursuing similar degrees, but their shared passions have led them to launching a new food delivery service in Vancouver.
Bee My Guest launched this summer to help deliver food from small businesses to customers, all with a focus on plant-based diets.
"We're essentially a plant-based meal delivery service for small businesses," says Kanani, explaining that because they have multiple businesses on the service people can mix and match what they want and who they order from.
Both Agarwal and Kanani have lived on plant-based diets their whole lives, Kanani tells Vancouver Is Awesome; Agarwal was born and raised in India while Kanani grew up in Kenya. The pair met at UBC after they both received the Karen McKellin International Leader of Tomorrow Award.
Even though they were studying two very different subjects (Agarwal studied international economics and Kanani studied chemistry) they bonded over a variety of things, from food to community to environmental issues.
"We decided to coalesce those passions and create Bee My Guest to show how easy it is to eat a plant-based diet," Kanani says.
They took the idea to the CORE program at UBC, which helps with entrepreneurship development.
"We basically applied to this venture development program with just the idea, and were told to put it on social media," Kanani explains.
They used an off-the-shelf website template for restaurant deliveries and built the system in a weekend.
"We don't have a formal background in coding and computer science, but it's been working well so far," he says.
The program connected them with mentorship and the two worked on the service while also trying to graduate, developing the business in the evenings and weekends.
"It was crazy, we started off in the last few months (at school) as we were wrapping up," Kanani explains.
While the site is polished and professional the pair is hard at work behind the scenes with a limited budget.
"All our marketing has been organic," Kanani says. "It started off with me knocking on doors in my neighbourhood and posting on Facebook groups."
As the service connects small businesses and individual cooks and customers, offering a one-time delivery from multiple sources, there's a lot to do behind the scenes.
"I don't have a license or a car so we started off doing this all by transit," Kanani says, explaining Agarwal is in India right now. She went home for a spell and hasn't been able to return to Canada, so she deals with a lot of the communications and anything that can be done online.
Once they got their cooks lined up (they had to cold call a bunch at first to fill out their roster) it was on Kanani to collect any of the food that wasn't delivered by the cooks, bring it home, organize it all, and then deliver it. By bus or train.
"By doing the deliveries myself I got to meet everyone and learn what they like and don't like," he says.
They've grown to the point now that they can hire a driver to help with deliveries during their drop-off times.
Along with connecting customers with plant-based foods, the fact they're able to support small, local businesses is a big focus for the pair as well. Creating a network and community for the businesses to share their products is important, Kanani says.
"A lot of these small businesses are owned immigrants like us; they contribute to the fabric and culture that are a part of Vancouver," he notes.
Among the plant-based businesses on Bee My Guest's roster are Kula Kitchen, The Vegetarian Butcher, and CHOMP Vegan Eatery.
Right now Bee My Guest is only offered in Vancouver, but Kanani hopes to change that as they want to expand, looking to offer more plant-based items to more people.
"We don't want to convert everyone into vegans," he says "But just show what people can swap."