The Social Ventures Zone at Ryerson University is home to unique entrepreneurial initiatives that are designed to make a positive impact in a variety of communities, both in Toronto and beyond. See all of our profiles here.
Who’s involved in this project?
Maleeha Alvi and Shaheryar Ahmad are the co-founders.
What are your goals for this project?
MA: Eatonomy is a company dedicated to leveraging technology to help solve the $31 billion food waste problem in the food industry, while rewarding all parties involved in the process. Our mobile application allows customers to browse and buy food from local restaurants and grocery stores in their neighbourhood, at greatly discounted prices. Store partners enable deals on specific foods at specific times during the day, and customers purchase the foods directly through the app. They then pick up their orders in store during pick-up time windows set by the store partners.
Our goal is to reduce food waste by providing food vendors with tools that help them proactively manage their food inventory while also offering customers exclusive deals on their favourite foods. We are also working on an exciting new blockchain integration that will enable customers to earn as they eat.
What is the biggest challenge you’re facing?
MA: Restaurateurs and other store owners run on very varied and tight schedules, and are often difficult to get a hold of. Our team is small, so we definitely need more feet on the ground. Our greatest challenge right now is growing our food vendor partner base fast enough while also growing our team. We have been overwhelmed with the amount of messages of support we’ve received from people all across Ontario, and want to ensure that there is something for everyone who opens the app.
Can you explain the mentorship process available to you through the Ryerson Social Ventures Zone (SVZ)?
MA: The Ryerson Social Ventures Zone offers a variety of programs and workshops to truly benefit the ventures in the space, whether they need legal help, advertising assistance or even someone to just bounce ideas off of. We have received absolutely amazing mentorship and support from advisors who have immense experience and really provide us with a different perspective. That guidance has been crucial in our understanding of the food-society-tech space.
The Ryerson SVZ is all about leveraging innovation to make a social impact. How will your project affect the communities you’re targeting?
MA: We want everyone to be able to access affordable deals on a variety of different foods, and we want everyone to become mindful of the environmental and social implications of food waste. Our venture will assist retailers with managing their surplus supplies of food, educate communities around the misconceptions behind different dating labels and be an avenue for people to access delicious deals on their favourite foods. We also help non-profits like food banks and university food rooms to divert their good food from landfills by offering it for free to members in their communities.
Have you been able to obtain any feedback from people who stand to benefit from your project? If so, what have they told you?
MA: We have been testing/piloting in Toronto and have heard wonderful feedback from people who support our vision. Our non-profit initiative is being used in a college in Barrie, where Eatonomy’s mobile app is being used to distribute food products that are close to date to people in the community.
What kind of public or private partnerships are you hoping to make (if any) to help grow your project?
MA: Partnerships are absolutely crucial to spread the word about Eatonomy. We are hoping to partner with restaurants, grocery stores, farmers’ markets, community centres, universities – you name it! Wherever there is food, we hope to be there.
Imagine if you could scale up your project to its full potential. What would that look like?
MA: Our vision is for Eatonomy to be a provider of technologically advanced solutions to common problems within the food industry. At its full potential, Eatonomy would be a household name, with a suite of products to help businesses do good and earn while doing so, and to be a tool for communities around the globe to make an impact for everyone involved.
Timing is a crucial factor that contributes to the success of a social venture. Why is now the right time for your project?
MA: People are starting to get really mindful about where their food is coming from – and where it is going. Reducing food waste is a topic that has gained great momentum in Europe in the last few years. Last year, France banned supermarkets from throwing away and spoiling unsold food. Italy became the second European country to set in place legislation that will ban retailers from throwing out food, and instead pressuring them to re-route it to those in need. Denmark has opened multiple supermarkets that only sell food that is past its sell-by date.
It is only a matter of time before this movement gets even stronger and reaches North America. The best solutions are the ones where everyone benefits, and Eatonomy aims to benefit the retailer, the customer and the environment through different means.
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