Sam Lillie solo hiked over 2,600 miles all the way from Mexico to Canada on the Pacific Crest Trail. We talk about the trials and tribulations of that hike & how he started & currently runs his company Vinder, a marketplace where you can buy, sell and trade, local produce.
Welcome to the Establishing Your Empire show. A podcast that inspires entrepreneurs, creatives and future business owners to pursue their passions, grow their organizations and build their empire. My name is Daran Herrman and creatively I’m best known for my photography. But business wise my claim to fame is growing a company from $15K per month in online sales to breaking the one million dollar a month barrier. And I’m sitting down with interesting people to talk about their process, the lessons they learned and how they have Established their Empire’s.
Hi Sam, and welcome to my podcast. Thanks for having me. Yeah, I really appreciate you coming by. So why don’t you give us a little background information of who you are, what you do. I got started, that type of stuff. Sure. My name is Sam Lillie. I’m the co-founder and CEO of Vinder and Vinder is an online neighbor made farmer’s market with a vision to create the largest neighbor made grocery store that doesn’t hold any inventory, doesn’t own any delivery vehicles and is owned by the very people who use it. I’m 29. I went to school at San Jose state. I got a degree in business that didn’t help me much with entrepreneurship. I’m from San Diego, originally went to San Jose state once I graduated from San Jose state. I hiked from Mexico to Canada on the Pacific Crest Trail. Are you familiar with it?
Yeah, well I am familiar with it. Not as in I’ve hiked it. Yeah. I’ve read about it and I’ve seen, I’d have driven near it, but that’s about it.
It’s 2658.8 miles. Wow. And that 0.8 counts. And it took me about five months to hike it. I solo hiked it and it completely changed my outlook on life and of also of who I am. And then when I finished that, I went back to San Diego. It goes all the way to Canada. Right. And I had shaved my head and shaved my face and then didn’t touch it for five months. And so it was five months of pure, unadulterated growth and it was just wild. And then went back down to San Diego, got cleaned up and I was there about a month and freaked out. I was claustrophobic, you know, I’d been alone in the back country the better half of five months.
And I got used to talking to myself, talking to trees and the wind and thinking for a long period of time. And when, when I, when I went back to San Diego, yeah, like I, I got claustrophobic. There was too many people. I was out hiking daily and not just five miles on the, on the PCT, I was averaging 25 miles a day through mountains with 45 pounds on 40 to 45 pounds in my pack. So when I get to San Diego and hike, it’s not nearly as mountainous. There’s some mountains, but it’s more hilly than what I was used to. And I was doing 17 miles a day by noon, you know, I’d get there at like nine and or six in the morning, probably closer to six in the morning, get done at noon and I’d done 17 miles. Okay. Get my day started. 17 miles is quite a bit.
So I was a boy scout growing up and we did a film out New Mexico, which is this big hiking kind of famous boy scout Trek. And we did, I did 79 miles and 10 days. Of course I was a teenager and unfortunately my two older brothers went. So my pack was like the lightest come again cause they’re like, Oh, you don’t need this, you don’t do this, you don’t do this. So then since I have the lightest pack coming in, I had the heaviest pack probably after they gave me all the pots and pans and stuff. But yeah, 10, 11 miles is a lot. And you were averaging more than that 25. Yeah. Yeah. So actually don’t want to get off this yet because this is something I did not know about you at all. So I guess what got you to just decide, Hey, I’m going to do this whole huge Trek, or did you just kind of slightly start and then keep going?
Oh no, I planned it for three years. Oh wow. Yeah. I did a three day, 10 mile hike, 10 miles in three days. It was some of the mountain San Gorgonio and Southern California. It’s, I don’t know, six, 8,000 feet, nothing crazy. The highest in the United States, you’re looking between 14, 15,000 feet. Mmm. And I had just done this with my dad and stepbrother and it just finished. And I saw this pamphlet at the ranger station with my stepbrother of the Pacific crest trail. Yeah. Mexico to Canada walking the entire West coast of the country, you know, the entire length of the country. And we thought, well man, we just had a great time doing this, you know, being in the back country, setting up camp, but having a fire w you know, why wouldn’t we want to do this for however long it might take.
So we thought, well, we’re both going to graduate in about three years. Why don’t we do it around then? And then every year we would start doing a longer and longer hike to make sure that we liked being outside for that amount of time. We did one week and then we did a two week 70 miles through the high Sierra trail and a John Muir trail, which is 220 miles. I wish, which goes from Yosemite too. Mount Whitney South. And I, I think just cause I’ve done some, nothing can vary you, but seven, eight days is a lot different than, than, than just a three, four days. Yeah. So, and obviously four months is way different than that too. But that’s when the thing starts sitting in like food. Like you start missing some food that you really don’t actually miss because by the time you have it again, it doesn’t taste like you thought and it’s way too sweet or spicy or whatever.
Just like you start not needing a lot of that stuff, but your brain changes and evolves, you know, about a week of, of not seeing people massively. Yeah. It’s really, it’s really incredible. So we did this for the two week and then about six months before the start of the hike, I got a phone call from him and he was like, Hey, I’m out. Not going to do it. And I was like, Oh fuck. Like I’ve never done solo backpacking before. So I thought about it. I spent a couple of weeks thinking about it. I’ve been training and prepping myself mentally and physically for a few years. And I said fuck it. You know, I’m going to go. That’s kind of like almost you’re doing this championship bout and the guy you’re going to fight against gets injured. It’s like, well I still want to, I’m, I’m in shape, I’m ready to go.
Yeah. Like let’s slice it up. Yeah. So maybe just cause I think this is super interesting. Like talk about cost. Like walk me through like how much was preparation and may be your average week, month, day, whatever, however you can sum up that. Make it easy for us to consume. Sure. I it costs me a little over $4,000. It’s about $2 a mile. Wow. Now you have that down to a science a lot of time to think about that. I’m sure. Yeah. Tons of time. I already had a lot of the equipment cause I had bought it over a three year period and so I had, I’m wanting to make sure I had quality equipment right. That would last. And then I plotted out my resupply points and prepping for, I try knowing that my stepbrother kind of backed out on it. Then I prepped for six months of, I bought a 40 pound weight vest and I wore it from when I woke up at six in the morning until I went sleep and I was in college and so I was going to class in it, you know, and I was going to work in it.
I was grocery shop, everything because my, I knew my pack was going to weigh 40 pounds and so I needed to get my thighs, my legs and my back prepped and [inaudible] worked. I mean we hit, I hit my first month, my first day at 20 miles. And when you, for those who don’t know, when you first start, your first 700 miles is through the desert and it kind of goes through the Mojave a little bit. You’re talking 20 miles between water sources. I carried six liters of water on my back and still had a ration. Right. There’s 105 most people every day 105, no cover. Yeah. You’re just walking through the desert. Yeah. And yeah, most people start April 22nd earth day. And it’s also a timing thing because you want to just miss the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada mountain range so you can get through and, but before summer, but before summer so you can get through the desert without it being [inaudible] arching hot.
Well, I had to finish college. Right. And so I took my last final, I didn’t walk across the stage. I had my own walk to do, you know? And so I took my last final and that same day drove down to San Diego from San Jose. So San Francisco ish. And three days after that final, I had walked to the, went to the Mexican American border. I looked at the fence, look left, looked right. There was a hole in it. And so I looked through it and then slapped it as hard as I could and turn around and went North and started the truck from there. That’s, that’s, that’s amazing. And you’re talking 105 every day there. I had 15 rattlesnake encounters. I was, there’s one area where we were going through a couple of miles of about two miles of what’s called poodle dog Bush. The, it looks like it came up with dr Seuss book.
It’s green and purple and extremely poisonous to the skin, right. Worse than poison Ivy or you know, I’m waiting to know and it’ll cause itchiness and a little swelling and redness and stuff. And I remember at one point I was walking down this thing and it mainly grows and burnout areas. And so Southern California is prone, the just tons of fires. And at this point I remember walking and then all of a sudden I saw what looked like a corn maze, but of this poisonous stuff, you know, and it’s all around and it’s 105 and on. I bring my sleeves down, I put pants on, I’ve got, you know, I call her, turned up, got trekking poles and them, I get up to this wall of just, yeah.
And I remember it was all overgrown. There’s a trail that’s well-marked, but the, the plants had overgrown the trail. So I took my poles and I was pushing this stuff and trying to get around it. And then continuously walking in. I remember picking up a bunch of this stuff with the trekking poles. And as I had it over my head, I hear this [inaudible] and there’s this rattlesnake, biggest one I’ve ever seen in my life. And it’s in a full coil sitting two and a half, three feet from me, staring directly into my eyes with it’s cold, dark, solid black eyeballs of death. And w looking the air at me, right? Ready, right. And I’m sitting there, hundred and five, I’m sweating, I’m in the desert by myself with this, just everything that wants to kill me around me. And I’m thinking, how the fuck did I want to do this?
You know? And I started looking at the steak, the snake. And I started talking to it. Hey Anne, no problem with you. You know, just trying to be cool here. You can be on your way. I’ll be on my way. And after a few minutes I ended up just it off. Yeah. It’s almost like, tell me what you want me to do to this snake. I grew up in the country, so I don’t think it says weird to talk to animals. I think we always kind of did that in some form or fashion, whether it was out loud or not. But it’s almost like you could kind of somewhat communicate with them. At least you think you can. But it sounds like it worked out. Yeah. so this huge Trek, what was something that you wish you would’ve learned or known before you started that you knew during it or after about what, anything this, that, you know, so you have this whole Trek, you had to have some kind of, you know, whether it’s equipment or some type of you know, planning or thought process or say anything.
So you know, maybe some value there as somebody that wants to do this track, like what would you recommend for them? If you’re going to do it, if you’re going to prep for it, you can prep out any kind of supply points you want. All that shit goes out the window cause you never know what’s going to happen. I had it all planned out, none of it worked. And that’s a lot like business, right? Sure. Completely. Yeah, there’s actually a lot of similarities. I didn’t do an inventory check right. And ran out of food about halfway through one of my one weeks, Mmm. Sprints. And so I was booked it for a little over a day. I did well almost 40 miles in a day and got out into the town. I ended up walking like John Wayne, you know, my, my knees and everything was given out.
And so I would say inventory check. Yeah. Don’t forget to do that. Think back, take a minute, breathe sorted out, look through your stuff, plan ahead. You know, it doesn’t take much time. Really does it? If I just took the time to look in the bag of food I had and spent the time looking at it, how many days it’s going to take, I would’ve known, I would’ve been short. Yeah. As opposed to assuming, but it’s like, Oh, I, you know, and how many times have you checked inventory? So many times. So it’s easy to forget. I was like two months into the thing, you know, and I was like, ah, I know what I’m doing wrong. Very wrong. [inaudible] California itself, it goes through California, Oregon, and Washington. Oh. Straight up in California itself took me three months to get through. It’s a long, long state.
You get halfway and you’re not even through California, halfway through the PCT. You’re not through California. Mmm. I also learned a lot about myself, what I’m capable of when we capable accomplishing as well as enduring from blizzards. I had full whiteout blizzards. I’d go 20 miles through one of them, a wide it out the trail. Oh, that one. I remember I was in Oregon around three sisters, mountains near bend. And it was raining all day. This one wasn’t that bad. It was a four day sprint, right. So you’d get into a town, you see where the next one is and you see, okay, how many miles is that? I’m doing about 20 a day. 80 miles Balfour days. So much food, that kind of thing. Right.
and about two days into this, this, this is day three and it rained all night. Great. You know, and wake up in the morning, still writing.
Oh fine. Pack, eat, pack up, get outside. You were getting rained on all your stuff’s wet. Not new. Right. I wasn’t like, Oh, this sucks. I’m just looking on, this isn’t just another day. Right, right. And you get comfortable being uncomfortable, which again relates to business a lot. And and we pack, I pack up and I start heading out and I’ve got a down my down jacket on and then a rain jacket on top of that. So it doesn’t get wet for those who don’t know, down when it gets wet, doesn’t insulate. And so I remember taking off and a couple of hours and it starts snowing and I’m like, ah, all right. Now, the first time I’ve been through snow, when I went through this year in Nevada’s where we averaged 10,000 feet of elevation, it snowed on and off hailstorms, things like that. Tons of lightning.
Mmm. So it wasn’t that big of a deal. And so I continued to walk and then it got heavier and heavier and heavier. And then I was in a full blown blizzard where it just wider the trail out. And I remember being a little hungry cause I was burning about six to 8,000 calories a day taking in maybe 2000. Right. Maybe. And I ended losing 20, 30 pounds and are at this point I remember being hungry, suck shelter underneath a tree and reshooting my pocket. Pull out a like a snack bar. Right. I couldn’t open the package. My hands were shaking. It’s cold lingo. Fuck. You know, like I should be warm. I’ve got this down jacket on hiking. Right. And I’m thinking, what are the possibilities here? Oh man, I wonder if I’ve been sweating through this. Oh yeah, I forgot about that.
Yeah. Ions. If the the rain jacket, I unzip the down a little bit and I had a button up shirt similar to this one and I put my hand against my chest, pull down. It’s just soaked and I touched my down and it just sticks. So it’s soaked through and there’s no insulation. So here I am alone in the back country wilderness and three sisters, mountains of Oregon with no insulation of a down jacket in the middle of this blizzard. [inaudible] Fuck, you know, do I turn around and go back [inaudible] two and a half days of hiking, right to get to the town. Do I set up my tent here and seek shelter and get in my bag? Well then I’ve lost time. I’ve consumed food that I only have a limited amount for or do I move forward? My decision was to move forward, right.
Whether or not other people agree that I should have it was to them, but I decided to do that. So I put on Malcolm Gladwell’s blink, I put her on headphones. I thought I can’t, I’m going and just did it. And I had ’em. You can see their little white diamonds like that on the trees that let you know that you’re on trail. Oh, good. Yeah. So and so I started using those and kept following the trail that way. Zach, you want to pull out your compass at this stage either, you know, your hands are frozen and yeah, exactly. Exactly. I had a map encompass on me. Mmm. But at this point it was more of like, I just, I need to get moving. Don’t stop. I need to move to maintain heat and get the rhythm going. Right. You know, pulling out rechecking, that’s going to get a pause going and the positives get you thinking.
Yeah. Perhaps not in the right way. Just, you know. Yeah. I mean, I had to think of whether or not I wanted to move forward or you know, there’s the potential of hypothermia and pneumonia, all of that. It was snowing. I was in running shoes and you’re talking, you know, snow like this and you don’t know what’s underneath. I remember falling a couple times thinking I could have just snapped an ankle. Right. You know, and then, then what? Now I’m in a blizzard with a broken ankle [inaudible] and that’s just, that’s just all bad. And so by the end of the day, I ended up getting my 20 miles through that thing to my campsite. Turns out I went over the mountains. I had no clue, cause you can’t see, right. I couldn’t see more than 30 yards. There’s just, you just did elevation without knowing. Yeah. I mean I knew that there was a, you know, and Klein Klein, but that’s not nothing new.
Right. So I’d be hiking on this incline and I’d looked down, I couldn’t see the bottom, it was just white. You know, I look up and you can’t see anything. It’s just why. And I’m like, well I’m on the trail. I might as well just keep going forward. And eventually got there. I remember sitting on my, my tent, I actually got there, turned out to be a car camping campsite and they had those like cement outhouses. And I sought shelter in one of those and open it up and sat in there for like an hour and it reeked. And I thought this is amazing.
And then this is great. Yeah. I set up my tent, climbed in my sleeping bag, shoved a couple of handfuls of trail mix in my mouth cause I knew I needed calories and then I was going to be burning a ton cause it’s cold. So in order to keep your body warm, you shiver, right? It was just burning extra calories to create heat. And so I was super deficient and didn’t really sleep. It was super cold that night. And so I just shivered most of the night. And when day broke I got up and it turned out to be a blue sky day or the next day and I was so upset and packed up all my stuff, let it dry out. I packed up my stuff and then realize my feet were swollen. So they already swelled a size because of the amount of time I was on him and the pressure, right.
And over time of hiking on different terrain, your feet swell. But with this they were also in snow soaking up all that water. So they swelled about another half size, which created a lot of tension and pressure on my foot within my shoe, let alone these shoes that I had by that point had taken me about 500 miles. And what shoes, what brand? Ultras. A. L. T. R. a. N. a. N. a specific model that you recommend? Depends on the train. Okay. I think they’ve got one called lone peak and they’re a little bit more of an aggressive soul. Oh. A lot more for, for grip. And that works great when you’re talking with rocks or loose the soil types of things like that. In the desert I used a different kind of less aggressive, but I didn’t need as much traction. Same brand, same brand. Okay.
So if that brand is listening, let me know, reach out. And so they were super tight in the bottoms of the soles of the shoes were worn really thin. What I didn’t know is that the next day, day four, when I was getting to my resupply point at a silly 16 miles, I was averaging 25. 16 is great. It’s a half day, right. Turn out the 16 was through loose jaggy lava rock on every step and it would poke through the sole of the shoe into my swollen feet. And it took me 1415 hours to go. 16 miles. Painful. Yeah. Average human walks three miles an hour. And it took me, yeah, you’re doing a mile an hour. Yeah. Ouch. Yeah. So what about what, what was your favorite memory of the, of the track? I’ve got too many. Ah, right. So, so, so you gave me a, give me maybe one store didn’t have to your Bay best story of something maybe more positive or, so that’s different.
It’s very easy to have the, you know, the, this was very difficult overcome. But what about something that was like, I don’t know, maybe just euphoric or enjoyable of the trip. Yeah. And to touch on on the other part is, but yeah, the, the physical part is hard. It’s the mental part really. Cause you’re alone, or at least I was. And so anything that went South went South fast. And why South, I mean went wrong, went wrong fast. And I had to figure out solutions to it or contain my own emotions to think positively. Otherwise you go through just a negative downward spiral of defeat and I gets, you can’t have that back there. And just like you were saying, the what ifs earlier, you got to manage that too, just like you can with, it’s just like in business, do the what ifs can kill you because you really don’t know.
Just like there’s what if some driving down the street, I mean there’s a ton of that too, but you don’t want you to just [inaudible] it’s easier when you’re comfortable to let those things either creep up on you or, or it’s easy to block them out. There’s when you have something to talk to, somebody to talk to or a lifeline, like you know, a phone. Yeah. And I had a phone with me, but just no service. Right, right. So it’s kinda used much. But for the positive things, there’s far more positive than there are negative. No matter how negative it got, any positive I had, whether that be something, a peak coming over a Ridge, [inaudible] all of that melted way. I didn’t think about it. Seeing a mountain in all its glory. It’s just something beautiful. Right? And awe inspiring. And you earned it. You earned it too.
It wasn’t just like you took a train up there or something. No, I walked there. You know, if I saw out Jefferson, it took me 2000 miles to hike there, you know? And, but I’ll also say that some of the best ones times I had theirs, theirs, there’s two of that I want to touch on. One is all the times where I’d sit on a mountain Ridge and just look, I would listen, breathe in the air and I would just reflect, right. When you’re up at bat, those altitudes, you’re seeing these grandiose views of massive glacial cutouts of granted thousands and thousands of years. And it’s magnificent in a real, it makes you realize how small you are. And especially at that elevation, no trees. Right? So it’s just raw rock soil or no, just yes. Sapphire blue. You know, Mmm. Water of these lakes that are so clean, you can just dip your face in it and drink.
It’s amazing. The other part would be the people I met, there are these, there’s people that know about the hike the trail and help out the hikers. They’re called trail angels and they’ll drop sometimes coolers full of Gatorade or cookies or rice Krispies and you don’t know, they’re there. Turn a corner and boom, there’s this, this pot of gold pot of gold, you know, and you open it up and it’s like, Oh my God. I remember one time I turned a corner and there are these two women on horses and they were setting up a couple chairs and they had a cooler and they looked at me and said, a PCT hiker. Let me see. Yeah, you look like one, you want a burrito and a beer. Well, hell yeah, I do. She goes, cool, have a seat. You know. And I sat down and talked to them.
They gave me a burrito beer. Other people gave me lifts into a town I had to hitchhike into towns, others, you know, but dinner for me, you know, and just, it really restored my faith in humanity. It goes a little too cynical, you know? And it’s amazing what people do. The generosity of people. Mmm. And that shaped an outlook. There’s also another thing when you do something at that, that distance that’s very primal. [inaudible] You can think of it as a migration, right? Are ancestors years, years, years ago would do something like that, right? Whether they’re tracking Buffalo or like elk or just finding some other place to live. Yeah. Yeah. And so there was this very powerful, innate, primal, a response my body gave me and my brain gave me that. It’s very hard to explain. And even now that was, I did this in 2015 I mean, even now, I get a longing for it every day.
Yeah. I was wondering how you manage the, you know, these huge ups and downs of the intensity of the hike. How do you manage that? Just coming back into society? It’s hard. It’s hard. Mmm. Yeah. I don’t, it’s, it was hard to communicate with people because I wasn’t used to talking to people, especially women. I was just thrown off, you know you and everyone else, right? Yeah, exactly. Well then I looked homeless. I had this huge beard. I smelled horrible and hadn’t had a job. Five months. Yeah. They’d be like, yo, so what are you doing? I’m like, Oh God, I lived in the woods. And okay. Yeah, I’ll leave it at that for now. Yeah. I love it. So what about one thing I was wondering with your water, did you do a lot of like iodine or I mean, is that it, was that kind of your go to choice or boiling or wa what’d you like to do with water?
Neither. I didn’t use iodine or boil. You can taste the best. Doesn’t taste good. Right. And so I got a little piece of equipment called Sawyer, a, S a, w, Y, E R and it’s the Sawyer original. It’s about this big, it’s a cylinder. So like five, six inches in case somebody is just listening to the podcast. Yeah, maybe eight inches wide, maybe an inch. Okay. Yeah. I’m an inch, inch and a half, something like that. And you can put a hundred thousand gallons through it. Oh wow. Yeah, it’s incredible. And extremely lightweight. And what I would do is take a smart water bottle and dip it into a Lake or a river or a Creek or anything that actually had water and then just had a filtration, like a, an five cons type of filtration. Yeah. And then I think it was ceramic or charcoal or something like that.
And then you screw it in and then you just squeeze the Sawyer bottle through the water, through the filter and it pops out the other side. Clean and fresh. Yeah. But I had to do either digging in the desert for water or, you know, whatever. I vomited water in the desert after drinking a bunch of it and with each row. Oh, it just got bad. My brother Rein, he’s my oldest brother. His son is now going to Philmont, which was the one I was talking about next summer. So, which you have to, it’s kind of like a two year wait list type of thing and it’s always full. And I’m like, he asked me to come and I was like, well I don’t know. Not sure with business, you know, taking off cause it is told and this is just 10 11 days, two weeks, something like that.
But you know, there’s no contact. It’s not like, Oh I’ll call you at 9:00 PM it’s there, I’ll call you in two weeks. Yup. Ah, and not, I mean email is everything. So that’s always kind of interesting to be able to just hit pause and everything for a minute. Yeah. And you had talked about the change of mental state, right? For sure. About two weeks into the hike, the chatter in my head went away. Right. And through the desert I didn’t listen to music. I did for the first two days and then had a really bad rousing encounter. It wasn’t bad, but it was, it got real close and I was like, all right, fuck that. I’m not going to music. I need to be more aware. Yeah. I knew my surroundings use that one in that sense. Right. You don’t want to just take that away. Yeah. And all the, all your senses, at least for me, gut hypersensitive. I could hear cracks sticks really far away. I could smell different odors. I could see a little bit better. It was very interesting. Mmm.
Yeah, I lost where. Oh. but everything calmed down and so mentally and so you could fixate on an idea for hours. It’s incorrect. I don’t have that anymore. Yeah. I think it’s tough to get to. When I we, my wife and I like to travel quite often. We don’t do like a [inaudible]. These shoes travels, we do more like let’s go to Ecuador or Columbia or we do w we do kind of in the middle. We actually have a travel blog called high class, low brow. We do about half is pretty nice, half isn’t, you know, type of thing. We’ll still do like, it’s a nice restaurants every once in a while, whatever. But we still like a lot of adventure and then, and scuba dive and whatever it is. And then maybe a two nights in a nice place. Right? Mmm. But what happens is I think you kind of have to, if you just get in the weeds of work all the time, it’s very difficult to come up with the strategies, your next thing, your next steps with life.
And I’m a big fan of planning life, whether it’s the next couple months, cut a couple of days or [inaudible] literally plan out what it’s five year, 10 year plan. And this is usually more career as well as am I on the path creatively that like, cause I, I have some problems there. If I don’t get enough creativeness in me, I kind of start, I wouldn’t say burning out, but I need it almost. It’s almost like something that it’s my battery that has to be recharged. Sure. So typically what happens three, four days in [inaudible] there’s nothing, there is still like too much thoughts of tasks that need to be done. I wonder if this got followed up, all that you can control. You do your best, but you can’t. And then what finally happens, it’s kind of the fuck it moment of, okay, it’s fine, it’s working. You left, you’re gone.
Like you’re in a different time zone or whatever. You’re a different country. Give it a minute, you know, and it’s fine. And then, and then you start actually coming up with some real ideas and thoughts. It’s really hard to get to. And I wish I could just do it like just tomorrow or something or just say, I’m not going to work today. I’m going to think it doesn’t quite work that way for me. I have to kind of be gone. And it’s usually sometimes in interesting places getting new experiences. I think it does kind of jumpstart some of this stuff in your, in your brain. Absolutely. Are you go out on hikes around here in Austin? You know, if I feel bad kind of need go do a half day, you know, or drive out an hour to I would [inaudible] balls
pronounced the bird.
Yeah. and high through there and that for me, that helps clear out, you know, some of ’em chatter, acidic noise. Yeah. Is that, is it your favorite hike that’s close to Austin or do you have, are a couple of them that you like? There’s a variety of them. I’ve gone to a few of them. It’s really, that one’s nice because it’s only an hour and you can get out there and it’s pretty empty. One of the things I’ve always loved about Austin, so I live here kind of the Tarrytown area. We have the trailer of close. I used to live on rainy street before it was runny street. I lived there for about four years. There was like two bars when I started there. But you’re, the front side was Austin downtown. Yes. You know, we’ve used it more a couple of blocks, but the backside was town Lake.
So I kinda got, I grew up in the country, so I got, it’s a great merge of, of, no, it’s not back country stuff, but you have the trail and these trees and people and you know, you just go walk and I’m not have a destination or art and I, and I’m not a fan of walking on cement. So like to me like on just dirt fill so much more comfortable in your body. And I just love that about how Austin has kept a lot of that even with this growth. So let’s walk through like, okay, big Trek. Boom. All right, so now you’re founder and CEO of a company. Walk me through like that middle process and how you got started and how that became real. Sure. So finish the hike. Went back down to San Diego, freaked out, right? I was, their mind freaked out.
My mom had retired to a small town outside of Washington or outside of Seattle in Washington state. It’s a small town called port Townsend. It’s on the Olympic peninsula. For those viewing, if this is the state of Washington, here’s Seattle and it’s a 40 minute ferry ride and then an hour and 20 minute drive to the very tip of the peninsula. Oh, it is out there. 10,000 people, average age, 57 a deer walk the street right there in your backyard. You can get as close as for me to you and there’s no problem, not what you would call. Boom. And tech town, or really a booming industry town of any sort. Right. Except maybe wooden boats. They do a lot of like handcrafted goods. But some Etsy stores perhaps. Yes. You got a lot. Yeah.
Sorry. [inaudible] Like, so there’s people that will go out and harvest wild berries and make their own [inaudible] you know syrups sell at the farmer’s market. It’s amazing. Yeah. But I, my mom invited me up there and said, Hey, look, it’s beautiful up here. There’s not very many people. Deer walk the street and they have great coffee. Great. You know, and it’s in the middle of the woods pretty much. Why don’t you come up here, live with me for a few months down. She had a like a basement apartment. Mmm. And kinda readjust to society and then get a job and use your degree somewhere in Seattle or like that. No, I thought, okay. You know, that sounds pretty good. So I moved up there and I needed to get a job. I got a job at a gym working part time behind the desk. Bolton towels, filling water bottles.
Right. But what it does allow me to if forced me to socialize with a lot of different people and so it allowed me to start communicating again and talking to them and kind of learning about the town cause I’d never been there before and I had this idea for plant identification app while I was on the PCT cause I didn’t know what a lot of the plants were around me. I thought how cool it be to be able to take a photo and have it identify the plant for you but then link you with a local nursery so you could buy the plant and have it sent to your house so you can have it in your backyard. Kinda like the, there’s like the wine apps we have, but yeah let’s forget about mother earth, but we just need to know what wines we have.
There’s not a plant one. Yeah, bird one would be cold too, but that might be, no, there’s so many species of that stuff. Probably do that with bird calls and there’s a couple of them that do point identification. They’re not that great. It also costs a lot because of the, the image recognition technology. Right. And I created wire frames. I hadn’t done any of this stuff. I didn’t know anything about tech. I didn’t know anything about wire frames or, or [inaudible] acts like nothing. Yeah. You know, nothing. You just knew that it would be cool. I just thought it’d be cool. Yeah. And so I just designed this stuff and I went down to the Silicon Valley business plan competition and God dead last. Yeah. And I’ve [inaudible] I studied, I did this pitch, I created a pitch deck. That first one I had done, I’ve spent probably over 40 hours per week practicing my 10 minute pitch.
I’d be at the front desk of this gym. People would walk by and I say, Hey, you got 30 seconds to hear this pitch. And I’d go into a 10 minute pitch. Right. And it kind of forced them to watch and give me feedback. But then I got dead last Ryan, I was crushed and ended up going, coming back and thinking about it. And there’s this business resource center at the, in the town. And it was literally called the business resource center. And so I walked in and said, Hey, what kind of business resources do you have? Cause I need some help here. And they said, Hey, we’re having a town hall meeting. Why don’t you come in? All right, it’s Friday or Saturday, whatever day it was. We’re going to talk about positives and negatives of the town. Right. Okay. Yeah. I’ll show and I show up.
I’m new to this town. I don’t want to really participate. So I kind of take a step back and we broke off into groups and when we came back we discussed what we talked about, pauses and positives and negatives of the town. The biggest negative that came up was access to local food. I was blown away cause it’s a, there’s a lot of agriculture on the peninsula of Washington and you’re out in a small town like that. You feel like that would make it just be exact same co-op. They’ve got farmer’s markets and they had a Safeway, right? One the co op, only 11% of the items in the co op were local. That’s crazy. 89% are not local, and I bet more than 89% were probably what probably a higher percentage was sold. Right. They might had 11% of the inventory, but that was probably just like little, little things, not, you know your meat. Yeah. Something you could buy daily. Right, exactly. And then you also think about what is local, what do you consider local and what does the government consider local, whether it be city, state, or federal, right. In Washington locals, the state of Washington, the big relatively state, right? With Texas it’s 150 to 200 miles. That’s considered a local.
Yeah. Yeah. I thought about it like, well, we have all these people, I all this food around us, these local farms, why isn’t it happening? But I started asking questions, you know, and they said, well, that we’ve got farmer’s markets, but it’s Wednesdays at noon, we can go to a farmer’s market mid week, mid day. And how much are you actually going to sell a Wednesday at nude? Only like Eric, I’m going to base my whole business around that. Like, yeah, it’s tough. Yeah. And then Saturdays from eight to one. Yeah. And so most people would go to the farmer’s market on Saturdays, but if you’ve got a couple of kids, I don’t have any kids, but my co founder does. Right. And he wasn’t my cofounder at the time, his name is Mark. He’s my CTO, co founder and CTO. He’s my first customer actually. Yeah.
And so they said, well if you’ve got a couple of kids, you’re not there at eight o’clock in the morning. It takes wild. It gets some kids out the door from what I hear. Right. So then you get there and maybe 10 11 but by that time all the good stuff’s gone. And so [inaudible] it’s great to be able to meet your local producers, but if you can’t get the items, what’s the point? So they kept going to Safeway because it’s cheap. Right. It’s open 24 seven highly convenient, low cost. Just not local, but they’re like, all right, good enough. Good enough. Right. I’m thinking that’s interesting. And I walk home from this meeting, I’ll go of course, cause I was just and walking and I didn’t have a car at the time. And it was about a two mile walk and I walk home, it was June of 2016.
And I look over at one of my neighbors and they’ve got an Apple tree loaded with apples. I’m thinking, why can’t we just buy from our neighbors? Like that guy seems to have a shit ton of apples. So there’s knocked on his door. Well, I said, Hey, he answer, I say, Hey, my name is Sam having to walk by thought you on Apple. You ever thought about selling your apples? Like what the fuck you did in my yard? That was like, Oh shit. I said, Hey, I got this idea. I worked behind the desk at a gym. If I can get some to buy your apples, we sell them, right? Yeah. Kid, you know? Sure. It’s weird. Sweet. And then next day sitting at the desk at this gym, everyone that walked by, Oh, you want some apples? Yeah, I got them very black market produce, right?
I go and sold two pounds for six bucks. I was like, cool, I’ll be here tomorrow. Six bucks cash. And they’re like, cool, but knocked on the guy’s door. I said, Hey, I got someone to buy your apples. Here’s five bucks. Can I get two pounds? He’s like, yeah, sure, there’s a ladder. Go up and get them. They got all right. So I collect them. I have a scale and weigh them all out. Next day brought it. They paid me six bucks, let me a dollar. Right? There’s also 20% 20% used to say, this guy’s about the dollar. That’s 20% and that’s what I based the whole model off. I was like, fuck it. You know, you know, and and it started from there. And so I just started knocking on my neighbor’s doors. I was at my mom’s house. I just walked across the street, knocked on the door, went next, next, next.
That started taking up a lot of time, right? And I also knocked on a lot of doors where people didn’t garden. This originally just started backyard garden. So I started using Google maps to get a bird’s eye view. Right. And look into people’s backyard is a little creepy, but I looked into people’s backyards. Right. And I could see a geometric patterns that was show gardens. You’re doing market research. Exactly. Yeah. Like and, and I would click on it and give me their address and so I just knock on the door and say, Hey, do you garden? Right. And you already knew that they had yeah.
Hopefully the last year they did when the Google map photo. Very true. Cause I went to a few where they didn’t anymore. Sure. And over time, over a three month period, I delivered 300 pounds of produce on my bicycle.
All of this was manual, right? Cash transactions, money envelope, deposit envelope, right. I’ll break in bills. I was biking 50 miles a week. People would, I created a Wix website. I’ve got a Wix website and then a domain name, veggie Vinder.com because Vinder, they wanted like seven grand at the time. And I was working part time, a haunted death, you know, making $12 an hour and I had $27 in my bank. And so I got a Wix website and a domain name for $18 and 58 cents. And that’s how it started. And then I created this thing, they would agree a little form and submit it and I would get it and I would call all my neighbors or email, Hey, do you have two pounds of onions? Hey do you have blah blah blah blah blah. And I would source it and then ride my bike over, pay for it, ride my bike to the next one, pay for a comeback every at my house and then deliver in my house, my mom’s basement apartment and deliver it to the end user belovedness.
They’re like, this is awesome. Kids screened in happiness and joy when I showed up and it was weird. It’s weird cause they’d be like, yay vegetables. Yeah, because of the taste. Yeah. Like I said, I grew up in the country, so we had a garden, we had about an acre. But our garden was an acre. But like my thing was radishes. I don’t think people know at radish just tastes like, yeah, they’ve dumped them down so bad. I’m like, I like the spicy super intensive. Discusses what we had. Yup. I like the rat. You buy it at the store and you’re like this not a radish. Yup. This is not even close. That’s also old. Oh, that’s the thing. Like it was supply chain in the U S food system is pretty, it’s phenomenal at large scale. Yeah. Can you need, you need that part.
You have to to a degree. Yeah. Right. Mmm. Apples can be six months to a year. Old lettuce is about two weeks old off the shelf. And that’s why it goes bad so quick. And your refrigerator, you get lettuce. If you harvest lettuce from like your garden, it’ll stay for two, three weeks, you know, and, and the nutrients start fading from the product as soon as it’s cut. And so what was interesting is that my neighbors, they’d cut it the day of. And so you, we were getting about a, from when it was cut to when it was delivered, like an hour or less. You, you can’t, you can’t fine fresher produce unless you grow it yourself. Yeah. And I, when I meet these people, I knock on their door and they say, yeah, I’ve got a garden. Sure. I’m willing to sell a few things.
I say, cool. Can you give me a tour? I didn’t know anything about gardening. I didn’t know anything about agriculture. I had a notebook and I would take notes, Brian [inaudible] and I’d get my hand in the soil and just learn about and learn different types of growing methods, hydroponic aeroponic, aquaponic, you know, all these in-ground raised bed w B and I started taking notes and I’d come home and I’d create a Google doc, right. Like a word doc of their profile. And I would take a photo and I place it on this picture and I’d have who they were, you know, I’m like, their location obviously is the town is within a five mile radius. All the different products that they, they grew. And I would put it all in a Manila folder and handed over like a top secret, you know, document dossier with their goods and what they really liked.
That is what I noticed. And they would see all their food and then they’d be able to open up this dossier and see exactly who grew what. Right. And since they were all people at the gym, pretty much they all knew each other too. Yeah. It’s cool man. They start to meet each other and I thought, okay, there’s potential here. That is fun people, this community here, people liking it and go, the product’s interesting. How do I get scale? How do I get it sounds pretty low tech at the moment. Post it notes everywhere, you know, how do we make it real? Bingo. How do I make it real? Mmm. So Mark my co founder now and CTO, he’s 47, he’s got a wife and four kids, right. And he’s got, he had a web development company for 20 years. So he knows about it and I’m sorry, I said, Hey, I know you do web stuff.
At the time, I didn’t know anything about it. Would you be willing to be an advisor for me? Formal advisor and I, before that I didn’t know. I looked at some stuff on YCS website and out a contract. No, I didn’t have a lawyer and handed it to him. He reviewed it and said yeah. And so with his help, I hired a guy to build out a website. I designed the website. I didn’t know anything about web design, you know, I just took aspects from other ones that I liked, put it all together using a Photoshop and then send it over to the guy and I, in order to get it built, I saved about 80% of my paychecks and I live off a little under 200 bucks a month. Right. Yeah. It was like people talking about ramen, right? Yeah. Being Ronald profitable. Yeah.
Fuck dude. That can add up. Right? Like one of those ramen packs is 25 cents. Right. I’ll eat like two or three of them. I was also had the gym and to make extra money, I was teaching fitness classes. I’m burning galleries and I’m, I’ve only got a couple hundred bucks for the month to replace myself. Right. Ramen, 75 cents a meal, couple bucks a day. Right. If I’m just eating ramen, well, I can spend five bucks on some rice, right. On five to 10 pounds of rice and I should have asked me three weeks. Right. So I’d have to work it somehow. But saving that money, I put it all towards this developer and develop this website, veggie Vinder.com as a marketplace. What made you believe in it that much? To basically sit there and say, okay, I’m willing to take a really hard cut. I’m all my life.
Food as well as just comforts. Hmm. Or just in general to sit there and say, let’s go forward. Let’s do this. Like was there a apex moment that happened or a certain client said something or did you just kind of say it just kind of happened organically? Yeah. Pun intended against. And there’s a lot of that growth, organic, all of that rolls into agriculture and it all did. It all happened organically is he at the time I was working part time at this gym. Well, a lot of time on my hands. I didn’t have a lot of money, but I had a lot of time and I could, I could see the community connection. I met my neighbors, I had built this community. I never felt more connected. Right. Our taglines, neighbors feeding neighbors is because that’s exactly what it is. It was home gardeners at the time, just given their access to their neighbors.
Right. And that it was just so powerful. I thought why not pursue that? So I had the website built, we launched and people started signing up. Right. These home gardeners started signing up. This previous clientele I had and the profile dossiers then went digital and they started, yeah, but a profile photo [inaudible] what goes into your soil? What kind of amendments go into it, right? So you had like a mini like community. Oh yeah. I mean, you could see whether they do home compost, mushroom compost whatever additives put in, they would, they would Mark it all what they’re growing tech, excuse me, what their growing techniques were and the re list of the other products. And so you could click on there, your local seller [inaudible] boom. So you’re an exact profile. You can also see pins on a map of where they were. It was super rad and we launched this, people started signing up, well, what happened?
They would meet each other because before that it was me doing it. [inaudible] Right? So when I took that step back to think about how do I get this to scale, a lot of it came down to logistics where I was biking 50 miles a week and I was like, no, I can’t do that. Right, right. I actually put in [inaudible], put in an application for this business competition and they declined us because they said it’s not a scalable business. Right. And I was like, Whoa. Yeah, that makes sense. That’s scalable at its current form, current form. You have to have vision. So when you went to the business competition and they rejected you, like, so did that, was that kind of motivational for you or was it frustrating or was it both? Yeah. Yeah. And did people make you want to give up or, or no, no, I just thought it.
Okay, cool. I got to fix that. Right? Yeah. You actually gave me some information then. Yeah. Sweet. Yeah, that’s a great way of looking at it. Awesome. You know, I didn’t know shit. And these are business people being like, yo, it doesn’t scale. You gotta figure that out. Come back, come back. Right. That’s cool. And so I thought, okay, and we put made this website, you know, and people started signing up, creating profiles and I moved the distribution aspect onto the customers. So we created a user based distribution system. And real quick, I’m going to jump in and sorry, but I think there’s something important there. A little little token is instead of taking that as just some negative feedback, you actually, or being like a perfect well thought out, perfect plan to present to these people, you just presented what you had. You might’ve thought it was perfect, but you wouldn’t just did it without like, you know, instead of thinking like three years later, I’m going to do this when everything’s already worked out and it looks perfect, you’re like, let’s just go present it and then take their feedback and then enhance your, your, your product.
Yeah. I mean it also helped that they were offering $20,000 so I was like, yeah, but that’s exactly it. Like why not? Yeah, I know. Just put, put your, put your name in the hat. Right? Sure. So then you, so then now you made a, a, you push it back to your customers to kind of make a legit some kind of a dish or model distribution system. Yeah. So the reason I thought about that was like these are random people that I’d knock on their door and they would let me come back and like pick stuff up from, right. They didn’t really know me, so I thought, well why wouldn’t they just let the person who’s paying them? Alright, pick it up. What’s the difference? What’s the difference? You know, sometimes they didn’t want that. Sometimes the seller didn’t want me to to come by privacy.
I was like, I get that. So they would drop it off and I thought, well, why don’t you just drop it off with the person who’s buying it? Right. Set your own delivery fee. So they did. And what was so cool is that started working. Right now this is also a rural community, so it’s not much like a major Metro like Austin, right. Rural community. You’re talking five miles diameter. Mmm. But a lot slower pace. Less people in five miles. Yeah, because you would need a higher percentage of the people in that five miles. Whereas in a city you might get a lower percentage, but more people yet. But it’s also their, their frame of mind. They don’t mind walking down the street to pick up their stuff. They don’t mind driving a few minutes. Right. The closest town from port towns and then had poor towns and doesn’t have a Walmart or any big box stores.
Closest Walmart is 45 minutes away. W you want me to go do a 45 minute track? You know, I’m from the middle of Kansas. So yeah, I mean, I, I get it so small, like nowhere. Yeah. You want to go do you have a town and then there’s another town, an hour and a half away. Yeah. Good luck. Yeah. But, but people in a major Metro area, there’s no way man driving 15 minutes. So that’s a, that’s a massive inconvenience, right? You got a car, cross the freeway. Good luck. So that transition was interesting, but at the time from Fort towns into Austin, Texas but at the time it was working, people would go to their neighbor and pick up the onions and carrots or apples or figs. All these different things is just backyard home gardeners. At the time they started meeting neighbors, they never knew.
And they started creating a community. Right. I learned that this woman Kelsey purchase from this guy Chris, right. And he ended up living about half a mile from her. And so she was making dinner one. I was like, well, let me go on Vinder and see what’s available versus half-mile wastes on carrots and onions, Walla Walla, onions, just this big, right. I’ve never seen him that big sense. And he was like, man, I just get water. I’m just see what happens. So he places an order, he accepts it. Kelsey walks down in Chris’s place, right? Half a mile, 10 minutes to go pick him up. But Chris didn’t have time to harvest. He goes, Hey Kelsey, while would you like to see where they’re being grown? And then for the first time in Kelsey’s life, she saw where her food was being grown. [inaudible] He said, look, here are your carrots. Reach in and grab the ones you want.
Yeah. And it, she reached in the soil, pulled out the carrot she was going to eat that night and it changed her perspective of our food system from then on. And she had a whole story now, like now you have these carrot. Yeah, super fun story of the carrot. She knows a new neighbor. She knows where her food came from. She knows how fresh it is. She’s the one that pulled it out, you know, like it was incredible. And these stories kept popping up over and over and over again. Wow. Okay. So I resubmitted to the Silicon Valley business competition. The one I had just gotten last in the year before. Right. We go down there pitch, make the semifinals, make the finals, take first place. Oh wow. Yeah. We went from first or from last the first, right. And we’ve got a $10,000 grant. All right. Phenomenal Silicon Valley business guy. I call up the local newspaper of port Townsend. Say, Hey, this is Sam Lily a Vinder. We just swept the Silicon Valley business competition. Who are you? [inaudible]
So I started explaining, she goes, Oh, that’s really cool. And so we got onto the news and at the time I was listening to a ton of podcasts about Uber, Airbnb, you know, masters of scale, that type of thing. That lean startup I was reading and just as much as I can consume. And what the Airbnb guys did was the same thing. They took local news and then took that and brought it to the regional news. And took that and brought like just grew and grew from there. Oh fuck it. I’ll just do that. You know, they could the blueprint that that is literally the how you do PR. That’s one of the best ways of doing it. And I had no clue. Right. All right. So I did that Wednesday to the next one. We got into the regional newspaper, made front page and then took that and brought it out to Seattle.
The Seattle times picked us up. Right. Boom. We got into the Seattle times from there to new stations, took their crews and vans and drove two hours to meet us. Right. And our neighbors of, of home gardeners, right. They were creating this food system. We’re neighbors speed neighbors and they just loved it. And we’d add segments. I’ve never been on TV before. I have them blowing my mind. I’m still working behind the desk at the gym making 12 bucks an hour. Yeah, exactly. And it didn’t start growing once it released within four months of launching the website, we’d organically grown into about 90 cities in 19 States. Yeah. I was tripping out right. Again, it’s still behind the desk at this gym and it was very, very, I mean, I would go and I’d meet people out in Seattle. I would drive to as many of them as I could so I can meet them.
I do it still here in Austin. Right. I know every seller on our app from here to Dallas to Houston. I’ve met them, I’ve worked their farms. You know, I’m not a farmer, but I’ll go out and I’ll do low tunnels and build greenhouses and plant or weed or you know, whatever I need to do to help them. I want to be involved because that’s what it’s about. It’s about the community involvement that, and so this thing started growing and getting crazy and we started applying to more competitions and it’s not like we won or even got accepted into a lot of them. Right after the Silicon Valley business competition, I applied to probably 20 until I got the next one where we got the ability to compete. Right. Which was South by Southwest food and city. Yeah. We placed top 15 in the world for agricultural supply chain innovation, beating out 600 companies from about 19 countries.
Wow, that’s fantastic. I was over the moon, you know. Ah, and that was the first time that brought me to Austin. I kinda got a little feel for it. I was at South by crazy capital factory [inaudible] three meals a day and it’s, you know, South by it’s March. It’s gorgeous here. That’s how I moved here. I’d been came from March and South by and, and then I, but back home and five weeks later I moved. Yeah. I owned two business. I sold it at a house, sold it, rolled out. I was like, that’s where I want to live. Exactly. Yeah, exactly. I think a lot of other people do that too. Well, yeah. We have what, 125 people a day. Yeah, know, right. So that was super interesting. And then we got into this thing and mass challenge the business accelerator here. They reached out and said, Hey, we saw you’re a top 15, we’d like to recommend you apply for this accelerator.
Now again, I’ve been listening to all these podcasts, right? Oh, about YC and accelerators and a Techstars. I thought, okay, right now at the time for me to learn anything about tech tech businesses, how they grow, all of that stuff. Remember, I’m in a rural town. I had it. I would wake up at three in the morning. I would take two buses, a ferry to get into Seattle, and then a ferry to get into Seattle. Then once I got into Seattle, I’d take two more buses, do I, so I can go do a Mmm angel network, one hour class on out of value. Your company or I how to raise angel money and the JV didn’t have a car yet at this time. Two buses, a ferry and two buses. That sounded like three in the morning. I’d get back at eight o’clock at night for a one hour class.
Yeah, and by the way, this is just a couple of years ago, right? We’re not talking like this was 1999 this is 17 exactly. That’s what I thought. I just wanted to make sure that everyone’s going to be watching the video and knowing that you’re your age, that this, we’re not talking like this was in the eighties yesterday, basically 2016 I was on bicycle 2017 we had won the Silicon Valley business competition. Mmm. 2018 we got into the mass challenge accelerator. Gotcha. All right. Their thing, entrepreneur magazine, radio. I’m top 15 in the world for accelerator programs and I thought, Holy shit, this is it. You know, again, I’m living in my mom’s basement right on a making this thing work on a bicycle. And I was like, well, we got in, I got to move.
Well, I guess I got better raise money. Yeah. Austin’s a little more expensive than that. Yeah, exactly. Exactly. But we also noticed certain things we needed in the program and the system and the software, right. Like farmers, they’re out in the field. They’re on on a computer. Right. I mean, something on their PO in their pocket. [inaudible] It was all right. How do we develop apps, right. And where I get funds to develop apps, what’s all that? Look like. So I started taking classes or reading books and you know, figuring it out and then started looking for our investors in the first investors that I got. First investment I got was a $15,000 check by, his name is Lee. And he was a member of the gym. Oh wow. Really? Yeah. So my co founder member at the gym he walked by, said, Hey, mankind, you know, would you want some apples?
He bought them. And so he got tied in. My cofounder did at that time people ask me about how do you find co-founders? I talked to people now talk to him get them to use your product if you have one. And so it tied him and he knew about it. He got this, this connection to community. The people at the gym that saw me build this thing from when I was on bicycle to a website. I mean, I’d be on the computer at the gym, I would always close, right. And there’d be no one else there and just mean no managers. And they said, Hey, if you can get, you know, make sure the members are fine and everything’s taken care of, and then you can work on Vinder. And so I’d sit there and make sure everything’s good and I’d work and work and work and work.
And they saw that. And then, then we had our two first investments came from the gym, blew my mind, and moved down to Austin with a 70 little less than $75,000 and started building. Right. Building the apps and then started raising more money and yeah. Doing that thing going through the accelerator and the, yeah. Rollercoaster of emotions that is building a startup from the ground up. Right. Building mobile apps, not knowing anything about it. Luckily my cofounder does. Right. But then you’re also limited with cash. So then, yeah. You know, how good a quality of a person can you get, you know, there’s all those dynamics, do it. Mmm. And when you were building these apps, obviously your cofounder had a lot more knowledge there. W was there any kind of aha moments or items that you, no. Now that you wish you would’ve known when you started that process?
Yeah, I didn’t know anything about agile development. Oh, agile. Agile is a great framework. Yeah. And so we started using that. Right. And I wish we would have started that from the beginning. Mmm. We use that now and it’s phenomenal. Not anyone that’s trying to build up app, especially for the first time learn agile development gonna save you thousands and thousands of dollars in lots of time. And Arctic. And then just, there’s a lot of times from just overthinking about where you are because you’ll know where you are. And do you have a process like [inaudible] agile common? Do you like, do you meet in the mornings and kind of go through an exercise? Is it, is it weekly? Like what you know, walk, walk me through that kind of process a little bit, a little bit more of a actual like day to day. Sure. We’ve got a scrum board and Kanban and we do sprint backlog backlog, sprint backlog, sprint.
Mmm. What we do is we sit down and we do four about to start a sprint. We do sprint planning and that can last from one to four hours where I’m sitting with development team, I’m Pam for their time and I’ve already listed out all the items of priority that I wanted. Then they go through each one of them and label who’s going to do each one of the, well first they go through and they put an estimate about how much time each one of those tasks is going to take. Once they have that, then they put who would do that task, right? And then we would move that from the, I would take the tasks from the backlog, put it in the sprint backlog and item a priority. They then go through the sprint backlog. While they’re doing that, they’re asking questions, they’re flushing out all those individual tasks.
This is exactly what I want, cause I don’t want them to have those questions during development. Right. So we spend the four hours doing that, flushing it out, and then they know that they’ve got two weeks. That’s the set timeframe sprint. It’s a two week sprint. And then they would just take the tasks that they knew that they could get done in that time period and move it into the sprint, including time for, Mmm. Do I, and fixing of any Dropbox. Yeah. There’s always bugs. I think that’s a great spin as a process programmers, like a lot of people, they love ownership. They love to go through that process. You’re making almost like they’re a part of the business. They’re not just a worker. They are chatting through this with you, with the, you know, one of the owners of the company. And whereas your competition of where they could go work, yeah.
Maybe the pay is different or better, but they only get a small piece of the whole, like they’re going to have a lot of ownership of this app at this process or whatever they’re building. Mmm. And that’s powerful. Yeah. It’s very powerful. Yeah. Yeah. In positives and negatives. Sure. Yeah. When we originally started, we had two guys internally. Right. And that worked great for a little bit and then there were, yeah. You know disputes, just internal disputes thinking that the development of it is like the app itself is the business. It’s not, it’s a, it’s an extension of it. Yeah. It’s just like how a telephone is for your business. You know, it, it’s, it’s a, it’s a means of communication. Well that’s it. Yeah. It’s not just the confidence. Yeah, that’s it. So, and that was all sh and I had never run a company before.
I’ve never hired anyone doing all that. And so learning all of that on the fly fucking sucks. Right. But you just do it and you learn about, you read books on communication, right? Mmm. And so we started building from there after the sprint ends, right. We were talking about agile development. After the sprint ends, we do a retrospective and I could take two hours and we go through it all. What went well, what didn’t, what can we improve on? What could we take out? You know? And so we reflect on it both from the workers, but also from a manager’s perspective. Right. How can we as managers communicate better? Right. Well that’s a lot of it comes down to communication and then right after we do the retrospective, we hop right into another sprint planning. Please shut that down, go into the sprint planning plan out the next two weeks, and then I only have a 15 minute meeting every morning.
That’s it. I know what’s getting done. I know who’s doing what. I don’t need more than that. They say, here’s what I’m doing, here’s what I’ve done here, my block. Right. And then, then you’re able to do other things in the business. Yeah. And I’m not worried about it. Yeah. My CTO is taking care of it, but you know, it’s like, okay, it doesn’t feel like the wheels are spinning and you’re not going anywhere. Right. Where before when I did an implement the system, I didn’t know what was getting done. I’d ask every day. I didn’t understand the amount of time, certain tasks or features or things like bugs take to get fixed or implemented. It’s broken out in a very clear cut, formulated way and that way, you know, and you can move on like in your head, even in just in your brain. Even if we say we forget about all the questions back and forth and all that, how that is ineffective or inefficient I should say. It’s also just great to say, okay, that’s gone. I don’t need to think about that now. Like it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s out there. We know where we’re at. So I think you gave me a great, like a story of how things got started in inner transition. So what, what part of the story are we at now? Like where, where are we at and what’s, what does the future hold?
Yeah, this is exciting. So where we are now is it’s much different. Not too much, but what we’ve done is expanded categories, product categories. It’s not just backyard gardeners anymore. Right? We moved to Austin, Texas, rural community, right. And so that was in the Pacific Northwest down here where it’s warm, where you go. I went from a three month growing season to almost a 12 month growing season. It’s way different soil, different soil. Everything’s different. Laws are different around this, right? Yeah. Distribution is different. Rural town to a major Metro, right. Willing to drive 10 minutes, not willing to drive four minutes. Right. Or across a freeway. Yeah. Right. Yeah. Logistics is just nuts. Yeah. I’m sure. But also produce, you don’t get a lot of money from produce. The average co average S the citizens spends about $16 a week on produce. Yeah. It’s not much, you know, so it was like, how do you expand your AOV, your average order value.
Right. How do you put in more products? How you bring in higher quantity of products? We were just home gardeners. Home gardeners don’t produce a lot. Right. It’s mainly for them. So we started expanding into farmers farms, small farms, urban farms. [inaudible] It’s, yeah, there’s a lot here in Austin. There’s a, there’s a plethora of fantastic bombs that you could also like spend a Saturday morning, like going in there and it’s a cool experience. It’s a lot of fun. Exactly. Exactly. And we didn’t know. I didn’t know any of that when I moved here. We moved here because of the program. That was it. Yeah. So it was a, it was a great extra. Oh yeah. Yeah. and then from there we started expanding not only into farms but we brought in meat proteins, whether it be Longhorn beef, you know, to Wagyu black Angus, whatever that might be, but also into cottage industry goods.
Oh yeah. What are you familiar with? Cottage industry? Well, I’m lactose intolerance, so not really, but [inaudible] so cottage industries [inaudible] [inaudible] all 50 States and it’s, it goes back, it’s innate in us as humans, but also Americans. I mean, this thing, it allows you in the cottage industry to make goods at home and sell direct to consumer. Oh yeah. I actually do have a little bit of knowledge. So you could do up to so much pounds or dollars or whatever it is. There’s, there’s some rules around this, right? Yup. Each state is different. So where I grew up, it’s so funny how much I’m talking about this, but, so we had we’d have like cream delivered to our door, right. We that old school like milk and cream, like, you know, like the milkman, although it wasn’t about me, it was the farmer or whatever. He was just friends with my mom and like run it over.
Right. How good was it? Well, I don’t, I was really young at the time, but I’m sure out in amazing like, you know, yup. It’s just, you know, you don’t know. Yup. So that’s exactly what it is. So in Texas, under Texas cottage food law, you can sell up to $50,000 direct to consumer out of your home kitchen without a business license. Wow. That’s a, that’s a huge chunk. It’s a lot. And a lot of it, you can’t, it’s not hot meals can’t be refrigerated either. Right. So there’s a specific list of products that you’re allowed to sell. Right. It’s limited [inaudible] to say that limited is a small number, right? You’re talking cakes, breads, Jan’s honey a, yeah, for sure. There’s a massive amount of products on that cottage industry, list, pickles, Kim cheese, you can all do all in your home kitchen up to $50,000 direct to consumer.
You’re making bread. That’s a lot of dough. Yeah. You know, whether it, yeah. Pun intended, again intended. Yeah. I mean, think about it. It doesn’t take that long to make a big, to bake some bread. The longest time is when it’s in the oven. Right? Right. So what’s, what do you think would be better driving Uber and sitting in Austin traffic, right? Or having a beer and making some bread at home or whatever. You’re into it. Right. You know, like, you know, you’re make some amazing Gavi. Right. Which I would pay good, really good money for, go to God. Right. Cause I, I prefer that over syrup or whatever. Yep. And that can last a long time. So if I spent $25 on a bottle of Gavi, I don’t care. It doesn’t matter to me. And you know that the money’s going to someone local here in Austin, the average distance between buyer and seller, 10 miles.
That’s hyper hyperlocal. All right. I got a guy who delivers bread and I get it at my house and it’s warm and he makes it in his kitchen and he just enjoys baking. It’s a hobby for him, but he gets to make some extra money. Yeah. And I think that there’s a, I go back to that, I think there’s kind of a cool story here. I think we do this with you know, wines. I think it’s a great [inaudible] and beer now too, that you know the story of how it’s made and this and that is almost, people buy that almost more than the actual tastes of the wire. Cause a lot. It’s very hard to, you know, some people are going to really know the taste, but if you could attach a story to something, I think it’s becomes more valuable in your head somehow.
Can I just story a touch face? Yeah, that’s, yeah. Even way stronger there. Yeah. That’s very cool. Meet your neighbor. You get to see them. No. Oh God drops the bread off the time. It looks like it came out of game of Thrones, you know, and like I’ll eat half a loaf right there cause it’s just so delicious, you know? And that’s, it goes back again to the creating a neighbor made food system, the neighbors be neighbors, whatever it might be. So what about if I didn’t want to drive, cause I not a big fan say I love the big the bread, but I’m not a fan of delivering it. Yeah. [inaudible] what if I’d only even once maybe, you know, I don’t want a bunch of random people pick it up. So is there a kind of a thought process and for to feed that that need?
Yeah, they could put pickup locations. They can set their own pickup locations, right? Like I’ve picked up some spices right from this guy and AGB parking lot. Right, right. And I’ve picked up a pecan pie in a Torchy’s parking lot. Does it seem weird? A little bit, but you know, what is the best food I’ve ever had. Right. And I trust it more then I do that at a grocery store. And I think there could be some synergies, some down way down the line, save you, you know, partner with like a Walgreen’s or S or seven 11 some kind of store and they’d have a locker or whatever. It’d be perhaps down the line, but it makes complete sense right now of option a, B or C. But the, to me it sounds like the point is, is just trying to get the two people together any way, shape or form.
You know, I bake bread, I want bread, let’s cut out middle person, get you guys together. Yeah. Yeah. And it’s full transparency. Everything that’s going forward. Right. In the foods realm, people want transparency and you don’t get that at the grocery store. You have built in trust out of repetition. Right. You just are used to going to the grocery store to pick up your stuff. I challenge anyone listening this to go to their grocery store and go their produce manager and ask them where some of the produce came from. Right. And say, Hey, do you know what farm that came from? They probably won’t be able to tell you the farm or the farmer or what went into the soil, which then it goes into the food, which then goes into you. They might be able to tell you the country. I, that’s, that’s a sensor saying that, you know, you don’t think about that as much and I think that’s I definitely see where you’re headed with that.
What about the like blue aprons of the world? Do you see that as competition or just completely separate? I think it’s different. They’re prepackaged meal kits. They also source from all over the country where we are within 10 miles. Right. You know, it’s all homemade [inaudible] right? From your neighbors. These aren’t, you know, thousand acre farms. These are people in their backyards. I mean, some of them, even here in Austin, they’re urban farms where you can make on a quarter acre of land, $100,000 well bombing in your bag. I know multiple people here in Austin that do that. Get a peach tree, right? Doesn’t just make peaches, makes leaves. Then you can dehydrate and crush and put them into tea bags and sell for PhD. That’s interesting. And they sell for $12 and people buy them and you’ve just raked up, not only leaves but money.
Right. Olive oil would be a big one. And we’d go all day pickles, take a cucumber, it sells for a dollar at the farmer’s market. Cut in half. Take that half cutting fours. But at water vinegar, salt and some garlic. Now you’ve got pickles and they sell for $8. Yeah, I think there’s a lot of there’s a lot of interesting places you could go to get back on the business. I just a couple last questions cause we’re, we’re probably get up to your time here. So what’s your approach? No, I’m good on time. I’ll, I’ll do so what’s your approach to marketing? So how do you get this in more people’s minds? How do they become more aware of it? Yeah, a lot of it’s through, we do marketing through Instagram influencers partnering with various organizations to affiliate marketing.
And how do you find those influencers? Is that so something just mainly done it or using a service manually done. That’s why I do it. Yeah. You have to use a service, you know, just take, it doesn’t take long. Just don’t be lazy. Yeah, I think so too. I think it’s like, why? Why would I, I would want to, I want to know if that’s a person’s going to rep my brand. I want to know who they are. I wanna. I wanna know what they’re posting. I want to follow them for a minute too. I just bought their groceries. Oh wait, there you go. Hey, you buy your groceries a week, right? Yeah. It’s fun. I love it. That’s so such a different world because you actually have a, you have a physical product, but the physical product is it some like skewed item and that’s, I think that’s what you’re against, right?
Is this skewed Apple is that Apple is an Apple. You’re like, well, it’s, let’s actually talk a lot about, you know. Exactly. Yeah, exactly. Where it comes from. Distribution cost. You’re buying from multiple people, right. How do you then aggregate an individual order from three to four different sellers and have it delivered to the consumer in a timely manner, at a monetary cost that doesn’t hurt their wallet. Right. And when you’re buying for three or four people, and I mean that gets tricky. Yeah, it gets real tricky. So, but we’ve got a solution. You ask what’s coming up in just a few months. I can’t dive into too many details on this, but in a few months you’ll be able to order, have it delivered to your house in an hour, all aggregated for five bucks. That’s I that, that’ll be, I think that’d be a game changer when you talk about the scalability for you because convenience of a grocery stores tough and I don’t think you have to beat that.
But if you can make, and I love just being at my house in order and stuff. So I mean, yeah, I don’t care about the hour. You can give me four hours. It’s fine with me. But if I can just order at my house, that’s, that’d be, but most people like whole foods offers two hour delivery. Sure. Those SUV. Right. So how do you become more convenient then your local grocery store? So what does, what is your company name mean? Vinder actually means someone who experiences the world around them through their senses. Now I didn’t know that when I chose it really. Cause that would mean to me like with your hike, that would sound like I originally called it binder. Okay. For vegetable finder. Oh, gotcha. Right, right. And I’ve got it printed and everyone’s at Vinder and I was like, no, it’s binder [inaudible] Vinder.
And I thought, wow, all right. Easier for me to change how I say it and to change them. Then I looked it up, got that definition. I thought that’s phenomenal. It’s exactly kind of what we are. If you’re a Vinder, you’re experiencing your world, your community. Yeah. Through your senses. Touch the feel of [inaudible] homegrown. Produce the warmth of a freshly baked loaf of bread. You know, the smell of it, the, the taste of it when it just melts in your mouth, where you get the crunch from a crisp, you know, crust or something like that in your, your pupils dilate and it’s a full sensory experience. Well, I also like is people say, well, it’s like Tinder for veggies. So it makes it easy to remember and I think, you know, yeah, we’ll hook you up with your local farmer. It works that way too. All right. So I’ll ask question how would you like to be remembered? Oh, know, I don’t know if I’d want to be remembered as like a giant visionary or anything like that and maybe a, just a connector for me. [inaudible] The Vinder’s never been about me at all. Vinder’s always been about the community, the connection, how, how you, I mean, I built this thing to solve a problem for my community. It was the only reason and since then it’s grown and I’ve seen it grow in over a hundred cities across the nation. [inaudible] [inaudible]
How I like Vinder to be remembered is accompany that brought an old way of living that we used to have for hundreds of hundreds of years and allowed that to reemerge and bring that style back into our community using 21st century technology. [inaudible] It’s something that can happen in every society, and it’s something that brings in a world that’s so divided right now. It allows us to bring people together through food. What’s so what’s more human than that? You know? [inaudible] And that’s where I see it. It’s, I want it to be a neighbor made grocery store that’s owned by the people we ran know, we ran an equity crowdfunding campaign, raised over a hundred and almost like $160,000 through it. It turns into a high tech food co op. We really are a food system owned by the people on the grand scale. I don’t, I don’t see anything better than that if people taking back their food system. I love it. I think that’s a great way to end the podcast. Sam was a big pleasure to have you on. Very interesting. I love it. Cheers, man. Thank you very much.