Mike Cote's Business Editor's Notebook: Door-to-Door Delivery founder sets sights on Start Up Challenge
He has four drivers delivering to homes and businesses in Manchester, Hooksett, Pinardville, Goffstown and Bedford from more than a dozen eateries and a cigar shop. Patrons pay $4.99 within Manchester, $7.99 for the other communities, and are also encouraged to tip their drivers 15 percent.
Correa just signed up a neighborhood grocery, but his dreams for Door-to-Door span beyond a few neighborhoods. He wants to go national. And he needs help to get there.
Correa was among the 50 people who gathered Wednesday at the abi Innovation Hub on Elm Street to learn more about the 2013 MYPN NH Start Up Challenge, the sixth edition of a competition that has doled out more than $155,000 in cash and in-kind services over the past five years.
Last year's winner took home $20,000 in cash and $25,000 worth of legal and accounting services, advertising and other assistance from local sponsors.
Correa plans to submit his plans for expansion and enter the contest by the April 22 deadline. If he wins, he'll tackle the Granite State first.
"Manchester is a stepping stone," said Correa, 31. "I want the entire state, and I already have contracts in Nashua, Concord and Portsmouth to do business. My plan after I conquer New Hampshire is to franchise nationwide."
Visit d2ddelivery.com and you can get a sense of the branding Correa is developing for Door-to-Door, including a page devoted to the "D2D Girls," who accompany him to promotional events, and one that lists causes the company supports, including the ALS Association, in honor of his mother, Lucy Correa, who died in 2011 after battling amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease.
Correa quit his job a few years ago to take care of his mother, an immigrant from Colombia who worked as a paraprofessional at Bakersville School for 28 years. After she died, he had to reinvent his career and decided to start the business, modeling it after a similar service in Boston.
"I came up with the concept - the name, the logo, everything - and starting pitching restaurants. I was selling them a dream," he said. "I talked to all kinds of loan officers, and the banks were shutting the door in my face."
Eventually, a restaurant owner, whose name Correa would not divulge, offered to invest in the company to get him started. He's been running the business seven days a week in the eight months since launching it.
"I'm the owner and the operator, so I have no life and no money right now. I haven't had a salary since I started."
While winning the Start Up Challenge probably wouldn't change much of that, it would provide Correa the seed money and professional mentoring to take his company to the next level.
"This would be a stepping stone. It's all about marketing," said Correa, a graduate of Bentley College in Waltham, Mass. "Right now we have a six-month radio campaign at three different radio stations."
That's the kind of initiative judges will want to hear when contestants pitch their plans for the Manchester Young Professional Network competition, which culminates in June after a series of events that winnows the contestants to semifinalists and finalists.
"It's almost like we're looking for the fatal flaws in the ideas," said MYPN Chairman Preston Hunter, who was on the judging panel for last year's competition. "At the end of the day, the judges are really looking at who is going to benefit the most from this award."
Last year's winner, Mike Veilleux, said he's within weeks of launching his business, Gear Freedom, an online rental service for kayaks, bikes and skis that works with local vendors. He used his cash prize to pay the two interns he hired to help with website development and also set some aside for marketing and advertising associated with the launch.
Veilleux spends most of his workday running an email platform for Dyn, the Manchester tech company that is among the Start Up Challenge's major sponsors. He said the company is encouraging him in his new venture and has given him the flexibility to spend time on it.
"I strive to put more than 40 hours a week into Dyn so it's a balance mode," Veilleux said after talking to the crowd Wednesday about what he learned from the competition.
We didn't ask Veilleux how many hours a week he's putting into Gear Freedom. Chances are, it's the rest of them.
For more information about the NH Start Up Challenge, visit mypn.org.
Mike Cote is business editor at the Union Leader. Contact him at 668-4321, ext. 324 or email@example.com.