The Eateria Effect
Ola Ayenis marketing startup, eateria, seeks to keep entrepreneurial restaurant owners running well beyond the critical first year.
ALIVE: What were you doing before starting eateria?
Ola Ayeni: I was running a successful restaurant marketing agency, Dining Dialog, in a Chicago suburb with customers in many parts of the Midwest.
What inspired you to start the company?
I noticed that one out of four restaurants close in the first year of operation after putting their hearts and savings into their business. I wanted to do something about it, so I decided to start a company that helps restaurant acquire new customers and also build a local loyal customer base.
How did you get from initial idea to startup?
While running my restaurant agency (Dining Dialog), I decided to start interviewing restaurant owners (I spoke to over 400 owners) to learn more about their actual needs and what an aggregated tool or one-stop-shop could do to help them. Once that was done, I decided to take a class on UI/UX. From there, I focused on business plan competitions like MillerCoors business plan competitions, where I won $50,000, got free software valued at $60,000 from Microsoft, received $50,000 worth of free credit card transactions from Braintree and finally won $50,000 from Arch Grants in 2013. The rest of the money to launch the company came from my personal savings and my restaurant marketing agency. We have been profitable from day one. We closed out 2014 with almost $350,000 and are looking to do $1.5 million in 2015.
What’s your business model like?
It’s a mix of software-as-a-service and marketing-as-a-service. We essentially help restaurant and bar owners manage their marketing with our success specialist that does everything for them: email marketing, social media, reputation management, website design, data entry services and rewards programs, all from one place and managed for the restaurant.
What's next for eateria?
We are currently scaling the organization, hiring and doing a regional expansion. At the same time, we’re expanding our infrastructure to accommodate growth.
Where do you see it in five years?
I see eateria becoming the No. 1 marketing company for restaurants in the US.
Photo credit: Attilio D’Agostino