Founded by UW grad Niket Soni and WLU grad Patrick Valoppi, Grocera is essentially an online grocery store and delivery service. Solely and strictly partnered with local businesses such as the St. Jacob’s Farmers’ Market and Sabletine’s Fine Pastries, the two “foodies” strive to make healthy, local eating affordable, enjoyable, and most importantly: convenient.</p>
Founded through UW’s world-renowned startup incubator Velocity, Soni is yet another example of UW’s ability of making dreams come true.
Having worked in the food industry as a federal government regulator for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Soni was able to witness what goes on behind the closed doors of grocery stores first-hand. “There were gaps in the marketplace when it came to access in local food,” Soni recalled before adding on that “local food, by definition, should be easily accessible, but it’s not.” This was the initial spark that motivated Soni in starting Grocera.
There are three major factors that occur when it comes to not only food, but local food. Firstly, according to Soni, it is inconveniently located at farmers’ markets and other speciality stores, and people just don’t have the time to purchase it on a regular basis. Secondly, franchised supermarkets don’t carry local food as it is far cheaper for them to import, and thirdly, more and more people want to buy local.
Having a knack for technology, Soni soon quit his government job and decided to bring the local food market to an online platform. Soni reasoned that “Canadians are buying everything online now, why can’t it be food?”
Although their greatest demographic is what Soni describes as “time-poor” individuals and families looking to eat locally and healthily, “time-poor” students are very much a close second.
With both Soni and Valoppi being alumni from Waterloo universities, they understand just how much of an irritation grocery shopping is for students who want to eat healthy without spending a lot of money. “Either you take two hours out of your busy schedule to get on a bus, go to the grocery store, and then lug all the groceries home or you pay for a cab,” Soni reminisced when talking about his own grocery shopping issues. “It’s just not convenient. On top of that, you need that healthy, fresh food to stay sane during school.” Keeping this in mind, Soni and Valoppi have designed their site for maximum convenience.
Food deliveries are not only completely free, but can also be ordered in advance from their impressive selection — often resulting in cheaper, healthier, and faster groceries that fit individual needs.
“For the time being, we are completely focused on growth in the Kitchener-Waterloo areas. There are multiple demographics we want to gain traction in, but we’ll be moving into Toronto early next summer,” said Soni.
As for aspiring entrepreneurs, Soni’s greatest piece of advice is: “Just do it! Take the leap into the unknown, get a little uncomfortable, get out of that nine to five routine.” He describes not only Waterloo, but UW as being a fantastic resource for entrepreneurs to not only push ideas forward, but to give them the tools and mentorships they need to create dreams a reality.
“Being an entrepreneur takes you through a roller coaster, but at the end of the day, you have the satisfaction of building something on your own and doing some good in the world,” said Soni.