People, Process, Product — probably the three most important areas in any organization. Working with great people with a clear process and high-quality products/service is a recipe for success. Initially when launching, it was difficult to decide what items to carry because there are hundreds of thousands of grocery products. We continuously work to curate a broad selection of quality goods based on consumer needs.
The COVID19 pandemic has disrupted all of our lives. But sometimes disruptions can be times of opportunity. Many people’s livelihoods have been hurt by the pandemic. But some saw this as an opportune time to take their lives in a new direction.
As a part of this series called “How I Was Able To Pivot To A New Exciting Opportunity Because Of The Pandemic”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Astrit Bauta.
Astrit Bauta is the founder of Foy — a nationwide online marketplace for groceries and household items, conveniently delivered to your door. He has worked for many premier global financial institutions but left all of that behind during the pandemic and has set out to reimagine the online grocery landscape.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
A first-generation immigrant of Albanian descent, I was born and raised in the melting pot that is New York City. As a kid, I always played team sports that not only engrained competitiveness in me but have also made me appreciate the beauty of working together towards achieving common goals. My parents also instilled in me the passion of persistent exploration and curiosity by encouraging us to travel from a very young age. These experiences have led me to acquire diverse opinions that I hold dear and constantly reflect upon.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I read this quote and did not realize its importance at the time — “it’s not about where you are, but who you are with that really matters”. This quote can apply in many regards but, sometimes I get caught up in reaching a particular goal or have a fear of missing out on a particular event rather than enjoying the journey it takes to get there. Many of my fondest memories and experiences have been with my closest friends and family doing the simplest of things. This quote is a reminder that when I am surrounded by my loved ones, no matter where we are, it will be a good time.
Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
“When Breath Becomes Air” by Paul Kalanithi. This memoir is about a first-generation immigrant that became a neurosurgeon and worked tirelessly to achieve so much until it all came crashing down by an unexpected life event. It’s a remarkable book that really resonated with me and constantly reminds me to truly value the moments I spend with love ones, be present in the moment and to not fret about things out of my control or that I will not remember, 5 years from today.
Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before the Pandemic began?
I graduated Summa Cum Laude from university with a finance and economics degree and was set on pursuing a traditional finance career path. For several years I worked in various banking and consulting roles with some of the premier global financial institutions. Looking back, consulting enabled me to analyze challenges through a perspective of pain points and applying creative problem solving to ease those issues. These experiences were specifically useful in understanding the headaches consumers go through during their regular grocery shopping and coming up with to addressing those concerns like by delivering goods directly to the consumer, offering affordable pay what you want initiatives and fully inclusive dietary restriction options like Kosher, gluten-free, etc.
What did you do to pivot as a result of the Pandemic?
The pandemic brought Foy to life and accelerated its launch. The past several months has been an unusual and unprecedented period that allowed me to have more time to sit back and think about my life and the impact I would like to have. Without the pandemic, I am not sure that I would be in the position to grasp the challenges grocers face in an industry that has not evolved in decades.
Can you tell us about the specific “Aha moment” that gave you the idea to start this new path?
When the pandemic hit — New York City was one of the hardest hit areas in the U.S. At the time, there was little information on the virus and the impact it will have. While staying indoors was the guidance, I knew we would all still have to eat and began wondering how we can grab groceries and why should a family member risk going outdoors — surely there must be a service that does this in 2020? Well, technically there are at a limited capacity in New York but even fewer nationwide. As I started the business, I learned about Michelle Obama’s “Move Campaign” and the effort to partner with major retailers to provide access to healthy food in “food deserts” across the US. I was shocked to learn that “an estimated 54.4 million people, or 17.7% of the U.S. population” live in low-income and low-access urban areas.
This is when Foy was born. I knew there had to be a better way and I figured if many folks have access to an internet connection, why not bring a healthy and affordable grocery store to the palm of their hands — digitally!
How are things going with this new initiative?
Exceptionally well! I am really excited about the latest initiative we launched which is the “pay what you want” feature. We are the first online grocer to launch this and it is intended to provide anyone with access to organic groceries and household goods, regardless of their financial means. This year has been tough for many and we want to do our part to help.
We’ve been able to deliver groceries all over the country to places like Colorado, Texas, Ohio, California as well as all across the east coast and hearing the customers feedback has been positive. Foy is built on the ability to scale with demand and reach any household nationwide.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Not one person, but two people and they are my parents. Both are immigrants that have sacrificed so much for me to be in the position I am. I’m truly thankful and grateful for all they have done.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?
I remember when I received my first order, I was so excited. It was past midnight on a Friday night and I was watching a movie when I received a notification that an order was placed. I jumped up in excitement, knocked over all the chips and ran to fulfill the order. I couldn’t work fast enough to complete and ship the product. Still to this day the excitement of a new order remains and I love hearing customers feedback from using Foy.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- Be patient — everyone wants to succeed and maybe our generation is used to instant gratification through social media which has among other things become a comparison tool but — as I’m often reminded — Rome was not built in one day.
- Things will never go as planned — I am a huge boxing fan and like Mike Tyson once said “everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth”. Similarly, in business there is a 99% chance that everything will not go as planned and unforeseen obstacles will come in the way that will require you to be adaptive and agile.
- Focus on the customer — At Foy we try to have several touch points with the customer throughout the ordering process as well as after it is delivered in an effort to continually improve and provide the highest experience possible. In the first few months of launching a company, you are trying to establish a footing in the market and therefore, a happy and returning customer I believe will pay long-term dividends.
- Data, Data, Data — I’m generally not a fan of following your gut for every decision. Data is so useful and analyzing it correctly can help tremendously in dedicating limited resources to where it will be most beneficial to the business and customer.
- People, Process, Product — probably the three most important areas in any organization. Working with great people with a clear process and high-quality products/service is a recipe for success. Initially when launching, it was difficult to decide what items to carry because there are hundreds of thousands of grocery products. We continuously work to curate a broad selection of quality goods based on consumer needs.
So many of us have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. Can you share the strategies that you have used to optimize your mental wellness during this stressful period?
I try to start all my mornings in the calmest manner because I believe it will determine the quality of the rest of the day — (1) I do not check my phone for at least 30 minutes after I wake up, (2) meditate for 10–15 minutes, and (3) complete at least three simple tasks (e.g., making my bed, exercising, reading or making breakfast) prior to beginning work.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
Give everyone access to a quality education. Education comes in many forms, not just school and I truly believe that having access to a quality education whether it is in the classroom or a mentor or online resources can open many doors for the youth to be successful.
Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!
If you had asked me this question earlier this year it would have without a doubt been Kobe Bryant. During quarantine earlier this year, I came across Chamath Palihapitiya, a successful tech entrepreneur and philanthropist. I think his experiences at Facebook and current pursuits with Social Capital align with our values and I admire his courage to take a position that he believes in even if it is an unpopular opinion. He seems like a cool dude.
How can our readers follow you online?
Check out the Foy store on https://orderfoy.com and @orderfoy on Instagram.
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!