Two Ottawa brothers have taken snacking at work to the next level in their latest 'project' that's turned into a successful business, with eyes of growing their product on a global scale.
'Hoppier' was started by Cassy and Emil Aite nearly three years ago and offers up customized orders of coffee and snacks for offices and business over 20 people, dealing with different dietary restrictions and preferences in the group.
Emil, a software developer who graduated from Carleton University, got the idea when he spent time working at Shopify, a company known for offering employees different perks that included food.
Cassy, a University of Ottawa grad, said the two took that idea, which Shopify hope leads to an increase in productivity and happiness, ran with it and made it their own.
“We thought there was a better way to make it more efficient,” Cassy said in an interview with OttawaMatters.com, adding managing preferences for ‘hundreds of people,’ can produce waste if you’re not mindful of tracking preferences and budgets.
“So understand these things really well and then building technology around them is something we had as a vision,” he said.
The technology part aside, Cassy and Emil believe offering food and other perks to employees is like coffee in the office 30 years ago, something that wasn’t a normal part of the work experience.
“It’s a relatively inexpensive perk that has huge upside that’s not necessarily easy to measure, but…people will tell you they feel more productive if they’ve eaten well that day,” he said.
“That’s something we’ve always aspired to do, making people happier and making companies more productive.”
The pair started by logging orders manually, to get an idea of how exactly the process would work, before developing the technology around it, which now allows for an improved user experience.
The business and platform have continued to grow, employing over 20 people with the possibility of adding more by the end of the year at their current location, the ‘innovation hub’ at Bayview Yards.
Earlier this year, though, the pair discovered their system could be used for other purposes in an office, like supplies and other equipment.
“We want to be the Amazon for offices to purchase anything…so we’re taking small steps towards that but that’s what the vision is and we want to take that to a global scale,” he said.
The platform is hoping to grow even more by the end of the year, possibly up to 40 employees, with a business announcement expected in the coming weeks.
Entrepreneurship is deeply engrained in the two’s personality, starting their own bike repair service for kids in their neighbourhood when they were about 10 years old.
The two like to refer to their past businesses as ‘projects’ which have then turned into either successes or failures, but Cassy said there’s always a lesson to be learned from any of those ideas.
“We never got this far, though. We started to add people to the team, acquire capital in different ways, we got to a significant revenue number…they were great experiences that led us to this point,” he said.
The small-business community in Ottawa has been nothing but helpful to the two since they’ve started, according to Cassy, who said they’ve benefitted in several areas from other businesses.
For those looking to start their own business, Cassy said to keep it simple.
“Get started,” he said, adding he knows it’s a bit of a cliché.
“To get started is really difficult, but I think break it down into the steps of ‘what is the critical path to success,” he said, adding the first goal should be 'I want to prove that people are going to pay for the product or service.”'
He adds for those looking to develop a business or technology behind a business, to start doing activities manually and then add technology later, as they reached $1 million in revenue before turning to technology.
“People rush to just raise money but we really thought let’s not go out and spend a ton of time developing something we don’t even know if our customers get value out of,” he said.
Those interested in services provided by Hoppier can find more information on their website.