With crisis comes opportunity and Angela Shen, a founder of Savor Seattle, transformed a challenging moment into a great business idea. Meet Angela and discover what Seattle has to offer for foodies everywhere.
My name is Angela Shen and I’m a founder of Savor Seattle! For more than 13 years, we’ve been operating food and cultural tours in the greater Seattle area.
Then, COVID hit. Seattle was the epicenter of the US outbreak. Everything changed overnight for me and my team. Previously, we had 18 employees and were just ready to hire another 18 in preparation for the tourist season. Ultimately, we had to let 12 people go (although we’ve since been able to rehire six).
Our roots are in Pike Place Market, which is the heart and soul of Seattle’s food scene. When COVID hit, almost 95% of the market was forced to close and over 500 different artisans shut their doors. We immediately transitioned our business model to doing aggregated, curated food delivery, direct to people’s doorsteps. If we couldn’t bring people to restaurants, we would bring the food to people instead!
It was an experiment. We didn’t know if it would work. We started with a beta test: a one-page flyer on social media. We also started a GoFundMe campaign to fund this business pivot. We went from 48 orders in our first week to 1,200+ orders by Mother’s Day weekend.
Before we knew it, we were shipping nationwide, too. It’s been an incredible journey.
Seattle is famous for FLOSS, which stands for Fresh, Local, Organic, Seasonal, and Sustainable. People think of Seattle as being a cold, rainy place, however, the vast majority of the state of Washington is very dry and hot. We’re the second-largest wine producer in the entire country, after California. Washington is a strong agricultural state and Seattle is “foodie town!”
We even hosted Top Chef season 10 here in Seattle, and Anthony Bourdain has come through us several times in the past.
COVID-19 was devastating for our food economy, specifically for Pike Place Market. One of the things we found most heartbreaking was that COVID hit right at the beginning of spring when the fields were filled with flowers to be harvested.
Pike Place Market is famous for being the primary distribution channel for flower growers in our area. Suddenly, these flower vendors didn’t have a place to sell anymore and they couldn’t keep their crops.
We thought about how we might be able to help these flower vendors and figured that every delivery could include a bouquet of fresh market flowers, a large CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) style box of produce featuring what was fresh and in season each week, along with six to eight eats and treats from other different vendors.
We also curate a weekly theme, such as the Day of the Dead, Italian Feast, etc. Having diverse themes lets us showcase different market vendors every single week. We’ve since expanded outside of Pike Place and work with more than 125 Seattle-area food makers.
We had quite a few things: empanadas, molé tacos, and more Americanized sweet treats like apple cider, caramel sauce, and custom holiday cupcakes from a local baker. We also included recipes for several dishes to celebrate the holidays.
Great question. The boxes with perishable items are just for local delivery within the greater Seattle area. We ship a different assortment of non-perishable boxes nationwide.
For this upcoming holiday season, we have several box options that people can order and have shipped everywhere!
Our audience is pretty diverse. I’d say the pandemic has brought in a much wider audience than we might have otherwise seen. Our biggest audience is aged 35 to 44, spilling over on both sides of that age range. Households with two or more people are our primary subscribers because our boxes tend to be quite plentiful and contain several meals worth of products.
When COVID first hit, our premise was this: instead of ordering one meal on Uber Eats or DoorDash, wouldn’t you rather order once but have several different meals from a range of merchants sent to you?
For every box we sell, we donate a minimum of $5 to a local non-profit organization. This year, in seven months of operation, we’ve donated more than $60,000 and worked with over 125 different restaurants, merchants, and artisans across the Seattle area.
It’s our way of expanding our reach. Before, we worked with 40 different restaurants and artisans with our food tours. But they all had to be very close together since we had to walk to those locations. Now, our impact is much greater, and we get to work with so many other small businesses. I feel really proud and lucky to be able to do that.