CEO and Founder, The Cook’s Nook
Venture Forth 29 Alumni
Joi Chevalier isn’t just creating a place for people to cook. She’s creating a community where food infrastructure challenges can be addressed and underserved communities can gain access to food ecosystems. She’s on a mission, and she’s chosen an important place to start, East Austin.
While many would try to locate their venture in an environment surrounded by resources, Joi intentionally chose a food desert. Food deserts are areas where residents don’t have easy and convenient access to large grocery stores and healthy food. This is just one problem that the Cook’s Nook is addressing.
Joi graduated from Tech Ranch’s Venture Forth program, but her journey to open the Cook’s Nook truly started before she even enrolled in Venture Forth. After a successful career in technology, Joi embarked on a major life change and joined an intensive culinary school program. Although 15-20 years older than most of her fellow classmates, she thrived within the 6 hour classes and intensive environment. The course taught students how to run a kitchen, but it didn’t teach them how to own a food business, and that’s when Joi realized she had identified a gap.
She saw the importance of knowing the, “business of food”, so she developed a plan to open a culinary incubator. Opening the incubator was a perfect combination of Joi’s passions: cooking, productizing, launching, and teaching others how to envision a product and get it to market. She pulled on the methods often used in technology product management.
While The Cook’s Nook may be innovative, getting others to act similarly remained far more complicated. Unanticipated challenges with construction and permitting pushed back the opening date, but Joi’s drive kept progress going.
Tech Ranch’s community has been a key part of The Cook’s Nook’s final vision, and yes, a core part of the social capital that pushed the company along. Not only do I have the best Venture Forth cohort (shout out to VF29!), who I still keep in touch with today; but I also return to Tech Ranch to talk to my SCORE mentor, ask questions of Tech Ranch staff, or just to sit in an environment (until our facility is complete soon) where I can focus on the core product and discuss with others who understand what I’m thinking.
Each time I visit Tech Ranch, I am reminded of how far I have come as an entrepreneur since walking in the first time.
Joi’s #1 piece of advice for entrepreneurs:
Be ready to change. Change is everything. Change is good. Change is how you get to the place you envision for yourself and your business.
The best piece of advice she’s received as an entrepreneur
Easy – ensure that you have the social capital to ensure your business is successful. That means creating the world of people, resources, and professionals who are aligned with you and push you forward in the ways that they can. By the way, I learned that at Tech Ranch.
If you’re interested in getting involved with the Cook’s Nook, they are looking for individuals with experience in food/ beverage and/or technology to engage as mentors. You can contact them here.
On May 24th, 2017 at 1pm, the Cook’s Nook will host a grand opening.
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