The Mentor Network Founder Feature – POP Chef

We’re off and rolling with 6th Cohort of The Mentor Network and are thrilled to dig in deeper with each of the founders.  Within this Founder Feature Series, we chat with the founders of the 6th Cohort of The Mentor Network to learn more about them as individuals, as well as their entrepreneurial journeys.  They have some great wisdom and experience to share with the rest of the community, and they could use your help too!

This week, we’re chatting with Zack Kern, Founder of POP Chef.  POP Chef was born out of the most recent Kansas City Startup Weekend and the team he led took first place in the competition!  While this was his most recent win, he’s no stranger to Startup Weekend — he’s participated 4 times and took 2nd place with another team.  Additionally, Zack was accepted into the inaugural BetaBlox Incubator Program.  Clearly, Zack continuously pursues a fascination with all things entrepreneurial!

POP Chef provides on-demand chef services for personal and party events.  POP Chef has three key elements: To introduce individuals who want delicious and healthy meals (but too little time to cook!) with a personal, on-demand chef, to provide those wanting more education about food, cooking, and healthy meals options, and to bring you an entertaining event surrounded by community and cuisine.

What did you do before you were the Founder of your startup?

Real Estate Developer, Builder, Investment. Real Estate is a tough and risky venture that crosses into many different areas of business (Sales, Marketing, Finance, Deal Structure, Construction, Legal, High Risk) that constantly challenges your mind to think outside the box to give yourself an edge over stiff competition from those with better resources. You meet many different people from all walks of life that have diverse business and professional backgrounds that inevitably broaden your business background that can be used in other non-related real estate industries such as POP Chef or other startup pursuits.

Why this startup?  A.k.a. what is your ‘why’?

I have always tried to live a healthy lifestyle but as I get older it seems I just don’t have the time or desire to prepare healthy meals for myself. I am used to delegating things to a specialist to free up time for myself or for things I do not like to do (i.e. Cook). I have tried multiple Meal Delivery Solution services but there was always something missing. CUSTOMIZATION to fit my particular needs instead of always having to conform to other meal plans and their restrictive menus. Hence, why not create a Chef On Demand Service for today’s busy lifestyles that caters to your particular taste and schedule?

What was your first milestone/win that let you know you were on the right track to building this business?

First, it was the exhilarating feeling of winning KC Startup Weekend. Then selling out our successful first event called POP Sushi interactive learning/class.

Why did The Mentor Network stand out to you as a positive program to be involved with?

The name “Sprint” certainly catches your attention so I simply assumed it would be a top-notch program to help facilitate further clarity and direction of POP Chef along with other contacts that would be beneficial down the road.

What have your big wins been so far within The Mentor Network?

I think it is too early to tell because we are trying to get out of a perpetual brainstorming mode. The primary concern is there is a crowded field of meal kits and delivery solutions being offered to consumers. We are currently trying to zero in on a singular focus. We’re definitely re-calibrating things at the moment.

How do you maintain sanity in this crazy, insane startup world?

Through exercise and an undeniable faith that there is a solution just around the corner (I just have not picked the right street yet hahaha).

KC has so many resources and people to help entrepreneurs.  What are we still missing?  What gaps do you think we need to fill?

Strategic Thinkers. Meaning having other mentors from other disciplines put a fresh set of eyes on something from another angle. For example Business Development specialists that are not industry-specific but have a methodology of building businesses. Also, perhaps a research analyst.

Regarding the KC startup ecosystem, what has been your favorite service/resource that you would like to share with other founders to take advantage of?

1 Million Cups was always worthwhile for networking. Global Entrepreneurship Week KCKCSourceLink at 4747 Troost, SBD Centers and SCORE on occasion if you get the right mentor (they have a national database to choose from now, not just local so you are bound to find someone that fits your particular situation).

If you could go back to the day you started this journey and give yourself one piece of advice what would it be?

Pick a lane, instead of being too creative.


Follow POP Chef via Facebook!

Also published on Medium.

About the author: Ari DeGrote