When college students get hungry, they want fast access to food from their favorite local joints. A more favorable scenario, of course, is having that food delivered directly to them, wherever that may be on campus (a dorm, a lecture hall or a library). But that requires a level of campus access that food delivery drivers typically don’t have — unless they’re students at the same school.
That’s why EnvoyNow, an on-demand food delivery service with the tagline “The official sponsor of college munchies,” only employs college students as its drivers, or “Envoys.” The company was founded in 2014 by a group of University of Southern California freshman who were fed up with the challenges of late-night food delivery at their school.
“USC closes the campus gates at 9 p.m., so after hours we’d have to meet food delivery drivers at the gate,” says Gabriel Quintela, chief operating officer and a cofounder of Los Angeles-based EnvoyNow. “Picking up food from a driver is inconvenient and essentially defeats the purpose of delivery.”
Seeing a problem — and an opportunity — EnvoyNow’s co-founders launched an on-demand service, focusing on late-night deliveries of burritos and burgers to their fellow students. Students placed their orders via text using a number displayed on posters around campus. The number belonged to Anthony Zhang, the company’s CEO. The service quickly became popular, so the co-founders expanded the operation, hiring their friends to help deliver food from restaurants within a two-mile radius of USC’s campus.
A Learning Experience for Aspiring Business people
Today, EnvoyNow employs more than 1,000 drivers at 20 college campuses across the United States, and all orders are handled through the company’s mobile app. Drivers pay for customers’ orders at merchant locations using PEX Visa® Prepaid Cards. “PEX Cards have been effective for us because we can provide our drivers with the capital to pay for customers’ food,” says Quintela. “If we didn’t do that, I’m sure we wouldn’t be able to convince as many college students to work for us.”
Once they deliver an order, drivers receive a percentage of EnvoyNow’s $2.99 delivery fee and 100 percent of tips from customers. No cash changes hands between customers and drivers; all money is exchanged through the mobile app.
At each EnvoyNow school, campus managers (also students) run business operations for the company. “They handle everything from sales and marketing to setting up drivers and their schedules,” says Quintela. “That’s one thing we really like about our business model: It provides an opportunity for students to get hands-on experience running their own business. We’re just giving them the tools.”
Quelling Financial Inefficiencies
According to Quintela, one of the best back-office decisions EnvoyNow’s management team has made was creating an internal dashboard to manage the company’s complex operations across the 20 campuses. “The dashboard helps us to streamline the entire process of managing orders so that our campus managers can easily do things like push orders from one Envoy to another or fund PEX Cards.”
Using the dashboard to improve operational efficiencies at a “foundational level” is what will help EnvoyNow to grow in the future, says Quintela.
“Inefficiencies in finance and operations can quickly add up for a startup as the business scales,” he explains. “That’s why we want to be careful about scaling too quickly . We want to figure out the exact business model and financials of our business on every campus that we serve because each location has unique dynamics.”
He continues, “In the long term, this approach will help us financially because we will be able to complete more orders, and do so more effectively.”
Jane Irene Kelly, who has two decades of professional writing, editing and reporting experience, writes about business and technology. Jane is a graduate of Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and resides in Pennsylvania.