For some entrepreneurs, one venture can be the result of a lifetime of experiences. That is true of Edwin Ortiz and his company Luncher. The Mexico City native turned Northwest Arkansas resident is working to solve a problem that very few are as equipped to do.
Luncher is a platform that allows individuals to order food to their office, a park or other hot spots without costly delivery fees. “When you have to pay twice as much for something for it to be delivered, you exclude a lot of the market,” he said. “That was a problem I wanted to focus on.”
Ortiz’s experience in the field of logistics began a very young age, working for this family’s transit business. An accident thrust him into a leadership position when he was still just a kid, and he was forced to make critical business decisions to keep the family business alive.
“My parents had a pretty bad accident when I was 12 years old, and I took over their public transit business in Mexico City,” Ortiz said. “One of the problems we had was with fuel prices. We also had a lot of turnover from drivers because of long hours.
“In order to keep the business afloat, I had to figure out a way to make it more efficient,” he added. “Instead of doing 14 laps around Mexico City, we started doing four point-to-point trips. We decided to take advantage of peak hours – in the morning when people were going to work and school, in the afternoon when people were going back to the suburbs. Once we did that, we saw a lot of success and began to lower our costs significantly. We started making more money.”
That money helped Edwin relocated to the United States, where he would be introduced to the food industry. “I worked my way up from dishwasher to general manager,” he said.
He attended college, graduated and began a career in supply chain, working for Fortune 500 companies in eight different countries with the goal of lowering costs and increasing efficiency. His career trajectory brought him to Northwest Arkansas, where he would eventually connect with the local entrepreneurial community and begin developing his idea for Luncher.
“While working for Walmart, I was invited to pitch this idea as a part of 1 Million Cups,” Ortiz said. “That’s been almost two years ago. When I came to pitch, Jeff Amerine was there. He asked me a lot of questions about the idea, and he seemed very interested. Those conversations led us to Startup Junkie and to our eventual growth. Startup Junkie has opened a lot of doors for us.”
That relationship also led to his participation in the first-ever Fuel Accelerator, a 16-week, collaborative program that matched growth-stage startups with key enterprise partners in order to accelerate the development of tangible solutions to some of the industry’s biggest enterprise-level challenges. Ortiz, among the first class of graduates, was able to raise $50,000 during the program from local angel investor Terra Rose Holdings.
“The Fuel Accelerator was great,” Ortiz said. “It was an intense 16 weeks. I knew we were going to be getting the connections and training, but I didn’t realize how great it was going to be for me, personally, and the company.”
Since the program concluded in May, Ortiz has hit the ground running with Luncher. He recently secured $100,000 from the Arkansas Economic Development Commission and plans to use the funding for sales and marketing, development, operations and fees. The funding will help put him closer to his goal of spreading Luncher throughout Northwest Arkansas.
“We want to get a really good hold on Northwest Arkansas,” Ortiz said. “It’s a great place to test the market, as well as a great place to live. And, too, it’s very diverse. If you’re in Bentonville, you have a lot of office employees, high concertation of large companies. In Fayetteville, you have the college.
“Hot spots have changed based on what our customers need.”
Hot spots, he said, can be any place from a building complex to parks. By identifying highly concentrated areas where people may be hungry, Luncher can provide meals to a larger number of people at once, which allows the company to eliminate the burdensome delivery fee. Ortiz first put the concept to work in local breweries.
“When we first started testing it, we tested it in breweries,” he said. “A lot of our local breweries have great beer but aren’t offering food. So, there was an opportunity there to bring people food. We used breweries to test those hot spots.”
In addition to saving consumers money, Ortiz is aiming to save them time. He often cites the lunch hour as a lost hour for working professionals who are already pressed for time in their day to day life.
“I wanted to do it for offices, so that was the next step for hot spots and free lunch delivery for employees,” Ortiz said.
“What we wanted to be able to do was help them save time and make the convenience of delivery more accessible to more people.”
Luncher has already established several hot spots throughout Bentonville, Springdale and Fayetteville. For more information on Luncher, click here.
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