Shark Tank Idea Comes to Del.

Back in 2014, Evan Lutz learned that 40 percent of edible food is wasted, while 20 percent of the population faces food insecurity. This prompted Lutz to “rescue” fresh produce that supermarkets would normally dispose of and deliver it directly to consumers at a reduced price. He called the new venture Hungry Harvest.

In 2016 Lutz’s idea grabbed the attention of ABC’s Shark Tank, which offered Lutz the chance to pitch his idea for potential shark investment. The Hungry Harvest creator was successful in persuading one shark, Robert Herjavec, to invest $100,000 for 10 percent of his business.

In January, Hungry Harvest deliveries became available in Delaware. For just $15, you can get the “mini harvest” box, consisting of a variety of fresh, superficially rejected (“ugly”) produce, meaning the produce may be smaller-than-average or irregular in shape. To order your “mini harvest” box or view other products, visit hungryharvest.net, and use code LAUNCHDE to save $5 on your first delivery.

Dining At a Discount

Discount mobile app Spotluck is bringing savings to diners in Wilmington and now Newark—and it’s generating major business for local restaurants

Hotel and airline prices vary from day to day, so why shouldn’t the same be said for restaurant meals during off-peak times?

That’s the thinking behind discount mobile app Spotluck, helmed by Bethesda, Md.-based entrepreneurs Cherian Thomas and Bradford Sayler. The app launched in 15 Wilmington restaurants like Ernest & Scott, Del Pez and FireStone in July and since late August is now available at a handful of Newark locations, including Home Grown Café, Caffè Gelato, Klondike Kate’s, La Casa Pasta, Margherita’s Pizza, Catherine Rooney’s, Arena’s Deli & Bar and more.

Spotluck is a free app available for iPhone and Android users that solves the perpetual “where should we eat” dilemma in a fun way, with algorithms that fluctuate depending on the day, weather and time. For example, the founders don’t believe it makes sense to pay as much at a restaurant on a rainy Tuesday as on a pleasant Friday night, so the former would have a bigger discount. In the app, users can spin a wheel once per day to receive 15-35 percent off to dine at one restaurant randomly chosen by the software—and a 10 percent loyalty discount to all of the app’s other local restaurants.

“It’s a dining adventure, a dining experience—and encourages you to live a little,” says Thomas. “Wilmington is destroying it. It’s doing incredible.”

Between mid-July and mid-August, 5,000 new users signed up in the Wilmington area, and so far, this growth has been mostly through word-of-mouth. Thomas expects that number to double and triple soon, especially when Newark stats start coming in.

The app launched on the East Coast in 2014 and now services neighborhoods in Philadelphia, Maryland, D.C., New York and more.

“We created this two-sided market place that’s a win-win,” says Thomas. “A lot of times the business wins or the customer wins. But with Spotluck, the restaurants win, incentive is smart, and it reaches the masses facing the dining dilemma—whether it’s a husband and wife, coworker, or roommate, everybody argues about where to eat.” Spotluck solves that recurring problem by picking a place at random, he says.

No restaurant chains can participate in the app, and Thomas celebrates the individuality of each participating restaurant. He says the app is very neighborhood-centric, and he wants to highlight the uniqueness of each establishment and its individual story and atmosphere.

David Dietz, owner of BBC Tavern and Grill, is all in. “Spotluck is different from most platforms. To me it’s built with the restaurant in mind,” Dietz says. “Obviously, business is slower on Monday than on Friday. With Spotluck the discounts change based on the day of the week and even the weather. The customer is going to get a bigger discount on a rainy Monday when people are more inclined to stay in than on a sunny Friday when people go out with friends.”

Dietz says the Spotluck owner dashboard also provides insights into guests’ demographics. It shows him how many people have used their Spotluck discount at BBC—250 from July to August—the average age of these guests (42), and what Zip codes they’re coming from.

“Diners have come from 32 different Zip codes already,” Dietz says. 

Joe Van Horn, proprietor of Chelsea Tavern and Ernest & Scott Taproom, has seen similar results, with 220 Spotluck diners between July 14 and mid-August. “It’s free for the consumer and they don’t pay anything out of pocket, like with Groupon, so for some reason, review-wise people aren’t as vicious,” says Van Horn. “And it’s fun.”

For more, visit spotluck.com.

Wilmington Welcomes NextFab

The ‘gym for innovators’ at Fifth and Tatnall is a significant addition to the Creative District

Lest anyone doubt that Wilmington’s Creative District is for real, the mid-June opening of NextFab, the Philadelphia-based “gym for innovators,” should be ample proof that the vision is coming to life.
Its 10,000-square-foot building at Fifth and Tatnall streets offers crafters a playground where they can transform their dreams into reality, and maybe even launch a new business.

“They have taken a corner that’s been quiet for several years and are bringing it back to life,” says Carrie Gray, managing director of the Wilmington Renaissance Corporation, which has been spearheading redevelopment planning for the Creative District, an area bounded by Market, Fourth, Washington and Ninth streets.

NextFab members consist of “a mix of beginners and seasoned, knowledgeable craftspeople,” says location manager Kate Brown. “Our collaborative nature helps people develop their own ideas and see attainable goals.”

Entering the building, visitors encounter a reception desk featuring the NextFab logo designed by NextFab member Peter Brown and carved on a 3D cutter at NextFab’s main site in Philadelphia. The ground floor holds a large woodshop on one end and a laser-electronics shop on the other, with an open area suitable for small conferences in the middle. On the first and second floors are a half-dozen incubator spaces—private rooms designed for use by startup businesses—and a larger classroom area. The third floor remains open for now, available for crafters working on large projects.

Marketing Manager Laate Olukotun and Location Manager Kate Brown (Photo by Larry Nagengast)
Marketing Manager Laate Olukotun and Location Manager Kate Brown (Photo by Larry Nagengast)

NextFab’s opening raises the prospect of Tatnall Street emerging as the spine of the Creative District. The Mill, a small business coworking space, is housed in the Nemours Building six blocks to the north and Artist Ave Station studio and gallery is at the corner of Eighth and Tatnall, practically at the midpoint of the larger ventures. “This is a pretty significant presence,” Gray says.

“I think it’s great. NextFab has a lot of equipment that we can’t afford,” says Jessi Taylor, president of Wilmington’s Barrel of Makers, a community-oriented makers group whose members use the woodshop in the Highlands Art Garage, not far from Trolley Square, for some of its meetings. With its 3D cutters and laser tools, NextFab has “a level of intricacy that we don’t have,” she says.

Some Barrel of Makers participants have previously become NextFab members in Philadelphia and more will likely join to take advantage of the more convenient Wilmington location, Taylor says. She says she has been pleased with the friendly relationships that are developing between the NextFab team and members of the Delaware community.

Zach Phillips, creative director of the Short Order Production House, the video production business formerly known as The Kitchen, says he’s now scouting for space within the Creative District. In only two years, the business has already outgrown its digs in the Wilmington Train Station. “With NextFab, the Mill, and hopefully us in the Creative District soon, I think we’ve got the potential to spin out a lot of new businesses, not just one or two,” Phillips says.

About NextFab

NextFab Wilmington, at 501-509 Tatnall St., will be open from 2 to 10 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

Membership rates range from $49 to $299 per month, depending on usage, with a discount equal to two monthly payments for a full-year membership. A pilot membership, covering classes only, is available for $19 a month. Members can use NextFab’s two Philadelphia sites as well as the Wilmington facility.

Class schedules will be posted on the NextFab.com.