Running a business requires one to both pay attention to the tiniest details and see the big picture — an ability I started cultivating back in the military. During this COVID-19 pandemic, we were able to quickly see the shifting trends across industries and capitalize on them. That includes updating our value proposition to address partners’ new demands for contactless services, and opening up new markets where mobile ordering was once not deemed as an essential amenity.
Army Veteran Carson is the CEO and co-founder of FanFood. A first-time entrepreneur, Carson has been named “25 under 25” by Chicago Inno, is an alum of Bunker Labs, Future Founders and 1871 and has been featured on Google For Startups. Prior to FanFood, Carson studied Business Administration and Finance at the University of Iowa, and briefly worked as an analyst at a wealth management firm. With the current COVID-19 pandemic, his contactless delivery has now become more important than ever.
What was your experience in the military?
I was enlisted in the Iowa Army National Guard as an infantryman, then did ROTC in Iowa and was commissioned as Army Finance Officer. To me, military life was simple and very structured. Besides the physical training aspect of military level, I learned some of the most valuable lessons that serve me well as an entrepreneur. The friendships and connections I was able to make both in the military and as a veteran have also led to great mentorship and more opportunities.
Tell us about your transition from military to civilian life?
After finishing the military, I moved into my dad’s basement to work on building FanFood. It was a lot of hard work trying to build our minimal viable product with overseas developers, while persuading venues to try our app so we can validate the product (we debuted at Austin360 Amphitheater in Texas ). As we started to prove the concept and have venue partners on board, I eventually went full-time with FanFood although I was still in army reserves at that time.
What is your business and what do you do?
I’m the co-founder and CEO of FanFood. FanFood is the quickest and easiest way for businesses to offer contactless services including instant ordering, order-ahead, express pickup and delivery. FanFood’s online and mobile ordering platform allows customers to order on their phones at stadiums, entertainment venues, restaurants and more. Food service staff can track and fulfill orders with just three taps on the Manager Portal tablet , and access robust sales data at the end of the day. FanFood currently has 130+ partners nationwide , ranging from high school and collegiate venues all the way to arenas, raceways and shopping malls.
What are 3 things you learned in the military that you have applied to your business?
1. Leadership skills. Being an officer and leading a team was an excellent experience for me to learn the meaning of responsibility and teamwork. I was held accountable for the men I was leading in the army, just like how I’m now accountable for the entire FanFood team. That includes empowering them to reach their full potential, delegating the right tasks to the right people and uniting the entire team towards a common goal.
2. Structure and process. Army life is very structured and everyone knows exactly what their place is and what procedures to follow. That mentality helps me to build the organizational structure for the company. As we scale, we have people dedicated to each function of the business, and the workflow enables us to be efficient and nimble. As a result, even with a relatively lean team we are able to achieve outcomes that seemingly only a larger team can do.
3. Strategic thinking. Running a business requires one to both pay attention to the tiniest details and see the big picture — an ability I started cultivating back in the military. During this COVID-19 pandemic, we were able to quickly see the shifting trends across industries and capitalize on them. That includes updating our value proposition to address partners’ new demands for contactless services, and opening up new markets where mobile ordering was once not deemed as an essential amenity.
How have you used your success to send the ladder back down? (pay it forward)
I would definitely love to have more time dedicated to helping other early stage entrepreneurs, although FanFood has occupied all of my time and I’ve been mostly doing the best I can “paying it forward.” I maintain relationships and hold mentor sessions with some budding entrepreneurs in Iowa and also veteran entrepreneurs through Bunker Labs and Google for Startups. I was recently selected with Bunker Labs and a handful of other veteran founders from across the U.S to participate in a 3-week Google for Startups Sales Academy. We’re learning hands-on skills to craft our story and handle customer objections.
I’ve been very intentional about cultivating and mentoring people within FanFood — empowering them leadership positions and ownership over major projects; giving them the freedom to experiment, fail and learn; leveling the playing field regardless of their age, experience or background. It’s inspiring seeing our team feeling empowered and growing in unity.
Where can readers find you on social media?