One day in 2008, Deepti Kapur was studying for the LSATs and glanced out the library window, where she saw a food truck offering cupcakes. She wanted one—but the line was long. “I love to eat,” she says. “But I can’t wait.”
She didn’t pursue the cupcake that day, but she kept thinking that there had to be a more efficient way to connect food trucks with customers. Ultimately, she decided to ditch her law school plans and turn her idea into a business.
Today, FoodtoEat, based in New York City, has five full-time employees, 10,000 registered users, and 700 vendors. For customers, it offers a way around long lines by allowing them to send orders to trucks electronically. For vendors, many of whom are immigrants, it’s a way to use technology to connect with more customers: they can receive orders by way of a lightweight printer (for which FoodtoEat created the software), via e-mails sent to smartphones, or via WiFi. The vendors now include caterers and restaurants; users include corporations as well as individuals.
The venture connects Kapur to her own family’s immigrant roots. That she speaks Hindi and various dialects has helped her reach out to food purveyors from South Asia. In some cases, she says, it took time to earn the vendors’ trust. “Sometimes,” she says, “it was a matter of sitting down with the vendors’ kids, because they understood that if they needed any troubleshooting, their kids could help them.”
As the business has grown, Kapur, 28, has done some troubleshooting of her own. Initially, she outsourced her IT work to India, but then realized she needed to work more closely with her tech team. That part of her team is now in New York, and the company will relaunch its website early in 2014.
Kapur is finding satisfaction not only in growing a business, but also in making a difference. “Some vendors would have to shut down in January and February because they wouldn’t have enough traffic,” she says. “We’ve helped them be able to keep their carts open and not have to go looking for second jobs.”