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UIX: When it comes to representing community, Gimmi delivers

Mario Rodriguez-Garcia, Joseph Gregory, Tasha Kramarenko

The team at Gimmi started with delivering coffee, but the company hopes to expand its reach to local businesses of any type of product line.
Gimmi plans to bring you everything you need. First, they'd like to know what you want for lunch.

Over a year old now, Gimmi has been delivering the full menus of almost a dozen different local restaurants to people in the Grand Rapids area. That list is ever evolving, and will eventually include more than food establishments, but they will all share what the Gimmi team sees as a sense of community and local investment.

The company is based on the principle that delivery shouldn't be a special luxury. Mario Rodriguez-Garcia, Gimmi COO, describes it as "crowdsourced food delivery." The clients Gimmi works with, the products offered in the Gimmi Store, and many other features are ultimately decided by feedback from users.

"Being a business new to Grand Rapids, we want to acclimate to the community, and we want the local businesses to know that we can help them just like they can help us," Rodriguez-Garcia says .

Gimmi supports the community by relying on the work of local people and companies, and circulating the money they spend in the same community. With companies like Uber, Postmates, or Doordash, Rodriguez-Garcia says, the talent may be locally sourced, but a lot of the money goes to a corporate headquarters, far removed from the community.

"We want to keep the local economy circulating," Rodriguez-Garcia says "We want to make sure that the money you spend stays within the community, through local drivers, local restaurants, and so on.

Gimmi is run by CEO Joseph Gregory, CAO Tasha Kramarenko, and Rodriguez-Garcia. The trio began their company with each handling every job they could, a method that Gregory says helped them better define and understand their goal early on.

"As we built momentum, our way of thinking and acting had to be redefined," he says. "As our demands grew, we had a bigger need to further refine our focus into specific areas. The website, marketing, business plan, etc. now have individuals responsible over them while overall large decisions remain to be directed by the team as a whole."

The company is going through a transition, Gregory says. Along with adapting its list of partnering restaurants and shops, Gregory, Rodriguez-Garcia, and Kramarenko are learning more about how to better run their own operation

"Changes, and passion, naturally come with friction," he says. "Learning to constructively deal with them has been one of the hardest and most rewarding aspects of our evolution as a team. Our roles and responsibilities as a team have changed dramatically over time; albeit the same passion remains from day one.”

It hasn't just been the job descriptions that have changed, Gimmi has shifted its market, too. The company was originally formed as a coffee delivery business, but the team discovered more to offer in Grand Rapids' business community. Now with several local restaurants to order food from, Gregory and his partners are considering local retail shops to add to Gimmi's list of vendors. Online, the Gimmi Store offers customers convenience store items. Small business owners who may not even have a storefront can also work with Gimmi.

"What if I want to start a store or restaurant, but I don't have the investment capital or access to a storefront?" Gregory asks. "I can just tap into this infrastructure. You can roll a product out and quickly realize who your customers are through Gimmi."

Gregory says his role at Gimmi is to "worry about the direction of the company and how our current efforts are aligned to our long term goal." He developed the business and cost model, and seeks out advisors and funding. Rodriguez-Garcia manages the employees and makes sure operations run smoothly in Grand Rapids. He's found his responsibilities in the marketing realm expand as well. Kramarenko is the web designer. She oversees the back end side of the delivery system, and heads HR administration.

"The local culture in Grand Rapids makes it a very special place to experience one of a kind products," Kramarenko says. "I worked at the Lantern Coffee Bar And Lounge for a year, and fell in love with the appreciation the people had for local products of Grand Rapids. I wanted to be a part of the vision to make local good accessible all over the city. People should be able to enjoy the food they love from anywhere, and local restaurants should be able to have the option to sell their product beyond their street corner."

Like any startup, the Gimmi team wants feedback. Rodriguez-Garcia talks to restaurants and customers alike to see how the Gimmi system works, and if it can be adapted further. A big part Gimmi's business requires trust, so honesty is at the forefront of the operation when breaking the ice with local vendors.

"A lot of businesses are very hesitant to partner up with services," Rodriguez-Garcia says. "They may ask, 'Who are you?' We want to make sure that we bring in the trust of who we are, and continue to be transparent. There was hardly any information out there on competing businesses. We realized we were getting messages from our local restaurants that they wanted that honesty."

The Gimmi team hopes to deliver on that honesty by keeping money circulating in the community and promoting local business.

"We want to help this economy grow," Kramarenko says. "In Grand Rapids, people love organic, fresh, local products, and we want to provide access to the local businesses that provide that stuff. We want to connect with people in a bigger way."

For more information on Gimmi, visit http://www.gimmi.xyz/

Urban Innovation Exchange highlights the people and projects transforming West Michigan through sustainable efforts. Matthew Russell is the editor for UIX Grand Rapids. Contact him at matthew@uixgrandrapids.com.

Photograph courtesy of Gimmi
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