David Torr of UCOOK Talks the Recipe for Success at Limmud

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By Jaime Uranovsky

David Torr, founder of UCOOK (the dinner kit delivery service that has taken the South African online culinary sphere by storm since 2014) formed part of a panel discussion at Limmud in Cape Town, titled ‘What Does the Future of Work Look Like?’ After sharing his thoughts on how the next generation will experience the career space, which all on the panel agreed is more fluid and dynamic than ever before, David spoke to the Chronicleabout UCOOK, his experience of the Jewish community and what it takes to launch a successful business.

On creating UCOOK, David says, 

“I thought that South Africa was an interesting landscape because you have these two factors in that Woolworths was doing well in a period of recession which spoke to the fact that consumers were willing to spend a considerable amount of money on high-end food goods even they can’t really afford to do stuff. And then … you had Yuppiechef doing really well in an e-commerce space which is a strange business to do well in and that spoke largely to people who were buying into aspirational food products… These two factors made for an interesting idea.”

Initially, UCOOK was run out of a garage with the company producing 25 boxes per week. In the first year, however, the business grew by 2000%, increasing its revenue per month from R40 000 to R1 million. David attributes this success to the amount of time spent planning, strategising and focusing on traction: 

“It’s grown exceptionally aggressively. It’s now 130 000 meals a month distributed across all of the major metropoles…. Now we’re in the process of venturing into some new avenues which I’m quite excited about.”

Besides for UCOOK, David has just launched a dark kitchen (where different restaurants or food providers share resources) – the first brand of which is a burger joint called Buddies, available via Uber Eats. He will also be opening a new, 55-unit student accommodation space and is working on a women’s wellness app and website, which will focus on meals, mindfulness and movement.

This year was David’s first experience of Limmud. He recounts, 

“It was amazing… I’m in an interesting position because most of my friends are Jewish and some of the investors in UCOOK are also Jewish, so I’ve always felt this closeness with the Jewish community. I really like that space of community: that close-knit environment where there’s a lot of sharing and transparency and honesty, so I love those kinds of events…. It was also really nice from an age perspective because a lot of these events you often find it’s quite particular and profiled in terms of the type of people you’ll find at those events but … you had this array of different people, kids that are 16 all the way to people who are 80.” 

On being asked what advice he has for entrepreneurs, David says,

“There’s no special recipe. The most important piece of advice…is to develop and foster a belief in your own ability…. A lot of people really struggle to make things happen because they struggle believing that they have a propensity to make those things happen…. It’s something that sounds so cheesy… but the fundamental reality is that belief breeds belief… If you want the people around you to believe in your idea, then believe in your idea first and really have conviction.… It comes down to making people believe in you and you can’t do that if you don’t believe in yourself. 

And how do you foster and instil that in yourself? One needs to really champion passion over rationality. A lot of the time we’re stuck in the quagmires of rational thinking and a particular avenue of purpose doesn’t seem commercially viable or like you have the right academic skillset to pursue it…Those becomes the stumbling blocks that prohibit us from executing something that we could really get behind…. If you’re passion-driven rather than driven by things …that are sensical, then I think it’s that much easier to generate real belief and with that comes a lot of open doors.”

To read the editor’s column for December/January click here

To read or download the December/January issue of the Chronicle in PDF click  here

To read the most read article of the November issue, click here

Portal to the Jewish Community: to see a list of all the Jewish organisations in Cape Town with links to their websites, click here

Featured organisation of the month: The Jewish Community Services’ (JCS) activities are centered on relief for the poor and distressed in the Jewish community. They provide a full range of preventative, educative and supportive counselling, statutory services as well as material relief. Visit http://www.jcs.org.za  for more.

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