What if we told you about a creative recipe app that could help busy people eat well, experiment with different foods, and do so in a reasonable amount of time on a weeknight? That would be pretty great, right? These ideas are what helped Eva Hoefer and her business partner create KptnCook, the simple recipe app that provides easy recipes that you can create in under 30-minute, with wholesome ingredients that you can find right at your local grocery store.
We’ve been posting a recipe each week from the app, and we finally had a chance to catch up with KptnCook’s co-founder Eva Hoefer to get the full scoop on her deliciously resourceful company. Read on to learn about how she and her business partner started KptnCook, her professional background in design, and start-up culture in Berlin.
Tell us a bit about your current life in Berlin. What do you do on a typical day off?
I live in the eastern part of Berlin. Actually in a quiet area close to a huge park. There are some popular clubs and a good bar nearby, so there’s a nice mixture of big city life without getting too embedded in it.
Most of my time is spent between the two areas Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain. Our office is not too far away from where I live so it’s a really nice 30-min-walk in the morning and evening along the river Spree. Since my partner also happens to be the co-founder of KptnCook, we end up spending a lot time together discussing our business. At one point, we tried to set up a rule where we wouldn’t talk about the job on weekends, but…we both wound up breaking the rule all the time.
There’s not really a typical day off with a certain ritual. On weekends, I love trying out new restaurants or cafes. I still have a list with 10-20 places I want to go to. Berlin has so much to offer when it comes to concerts, theaters and museums. I only go every one or second month, but when I can, it makes me happy for the whole week. I also try to keep up with my exercise routine, meaning at least a one hour run through the park, which is challenging in the beginning but feels amazing afterwards.
Why did you start Kptn Cook?
In the very beginning KptnCook was a side project. As a designer, I loved to work on different projects because of the chance to learn so many new things with each client and project. At that time, I had my own clients and worked for advertising and branding agencies. Often times, I came home quite late and rushed into the closest supermarket to grab something for a quick home cooked meal. I never had a recipe by hand when I needed one, especially in those moments. So I ended up cooking the same two or three meals, which really frustrated me. My co-founder has a software engineering background and had the same problem. Therefore, we thought of a better solution where great 30-minute-recipes would be linked to the products of your local retailer, making the recipe selection process easier, shopping for ingredients fun and cooking absolutely foolproof. So we started to develop the mobile app. We had worked together on other apps before, so creating a user flow, screen design, and the coding was fun and challenging at the same time. At that point, I guess neither of us actually thought that this idea would one day turn into a business.
What was the biggest challenge you faced after a year/certain period of time?
Before we started KptnCook, I loved my job as a designer. I could sit all day long in front of my computer and create designs for logos, websites, and apps. For the first few months after we started the business, I kept doing more or less of the same thing. Of course there was more discussing and planning with the team, but I felt most comfortable creating and working on layouts and strategy. I saw my main role in the beginning with our small team, as designing the UI and UX of the app, and creating the branding and strategy of marketing.
After some time it became clear that I needed to get out of my comfort zone, if we wanted the company to be successful. From taking sales calls, to finding partners to help us grow, talking to investors, hiring people, and managing tasks… there were tons of situations where I felt like I didn’t have the knowledge to do what I was expected to do. But in the end with enough confidence, hard work, and learning day by day, things started to work out. One of the first things I learned as a designer was how to change perspectives very quickly, which has helped me get a better understanding of what motivates people, and why they act in a certain way. This helps a lot when building a business because you have to deal with so many different situations in order to get to the next level.
Was there a point where you felt you should return to being an employee at a company that isn’t your own, working for someone else? What stopped you from turning?
The good thing as an employee at a company, especially in a junior position, is that there’s usually someone around you to learn from. Sometimes it’s your boss, or even a more senior colleague. I find that mentoring or working together is always really inspiring and motivating because I always have a goal for how good I want to get at my job.
Being a founder is very different. There’s no one around you to ask for advice because you know most people have already faced the exact same challenge. Of course there are events, meetups, other founders you can talk to — but on a day to day basis, it’s not the same. There are a lot of upsides though, and that’s what’s stopped me from going back to working for someone else. From making my own decisions, to creating something unique that inspires people, and building an amazing team with so many talented people I look forward to seeing everyday in the office. Watching how they develop their skills over time, how they grow with our business and our journey is a major motivation booster. I wouldn’t trade that for anything since it’s still so exciting. I have a strong feeling that there’s so much more to come.
What do you like about being an entrepreneur?
It’s just great to see how an idea can transform into reality. 5 years ago I would have never seen myself running a business — maybe a little design studio but not a food-tech-startup. There’s so much going on with food startups right now and it’s exciting to be part of this industry that’s moving and innovating so quickly.
So far, our experience is that we have created something that has such a positive impact on other people’s lives. A couple of months ago, we conducted a number of user interviews to learn how people use the app, what they like about it, and what they want us to improve. Besides learning so much as a team about our product and its impact, it’s so valuable to get user feedback. Especially when you hear that our app helps people cook more often with fresh ingredients. Some of them got really excited and told us how proud they were about their cooking skills, the dishes they loved, their healthier eating habits, and that cooking was part of their daily routine, helping them surprise their partners with a homemade dinner.
What makes Berlin unique for launching a tech start-up?
Although I am not originally from Berlin but from a small wine village in the southern part of Germany, I visited Berlin a lot because my family has strong roots in this city. My parents lived here In the 1960s, my sister studied in Berlin in the 1980s, and my brother has lived here since 1990.
Looking back Berlin has this culture of improvisation, creativity and cultural freedom, which I experienced first-hand especially during the 90s. It felt like a huge testing ground where the next funky thing was just waiting for you around the corner. Discovering abandoned places, turning them into something completely new which then brings people together. I think this spirit of continuous reinvention is what most people, from all over the world, associate with the excitement of Berlin. This energy has turned Berlin into a great pool of very creative, talented people who came here to make a change. Now, there’s a big ecosystem of networking events, co-working spaces, and big companies building their headquarters here to be part of that innovative tech culture.
Do you see a lot women in startups? Do you feel that it’s difficult for women to start their own companies?
Actually, the more I hear the question, the more women I meet. I tend to meet women who are either in great positions at already bigger companies, just starting their own businesses, or being an employee but dreaming to build their own company soon. I have the feeling that the cliche of 3 young men wearing light blue shirts, coming from one of the top German universities and raising the next round of investment money could be outdated soon, although you still see it a lot.
Therefore, it’s also important to emphasize how different the backstories of becoming an entrepreneur can be. You don’t need to study economics and you don’t need to be male and under 30. To me, it’s so much more important to be passionate about what you do, believe in your product, and get some talented people to work with you. I can’t really tell if it’s more difficult for women, it certainly shouldn’t be.
What is your favorite recipe?
One of the great things about this job is that I get better at cooking day by day, and that there are new recipes to try in our test kitchen, every week. Some of them just stick more than others and sometimes you think immediately: Wow I have to try that by myself! One of those dishes for me, is a Shepard’s Pie. It’s made with sweet potato mash, ground beef, dried plums and some spices like cumin and cayenne pepper. It’s gorgeous! I made it about a year ago at my parents home for my family and they were just blown away. That’s the best part about food — you can make people really happy, and create an impactful memory.
What was your most successful recipe so far and why?
The recipe our users saved the most to their personal favorite list is “Pasta with Chicken in Mozzarella Sauce.” I mean who doesn’t love pasta? Today, we see all these trendy foods and low-carb diets, but at the end of the day, nobody can resist a hot plate of pasta.
Please share three tips for young entrepreneurs starting their own companies.
What are you waiting for? Discover 3 yummy and easy to cook recipes through the KptnCook App every day. Available for download from Google Play or the App Store today!
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