We’re excited to introduce you to the always interesting and insightful Blake Duplass. We hope you’ll enjoy our conversation with Blake below.
Blake, thanks for joining us, excited to have you contributing your stories and insights. What do you think matters most in terms of achieving success?
As corny as it may sound, all you need is love. Or at the very least, figuring out what you love is, in my opinion, the 1st step to success. Because if you truly, obsessively love something, you will put every ounce of waking energy you have into it. Whether its action or just you alone with your thoughts, your focus will always come back to this thing that you love so much… and in time you will inevitably become good at this obsession due to your relentless devotion to your passion. That’s when people start to take notice of your hard work and become customers. Once your number of customers grows and you surpasses your financial statement’s break even point, you have reached profitability, the 2nd step to success. A business is akin to a child in that, at its inception, it needs undivided attention for it cannot support itself. If either is not loved or nurtured enough in the beginning, it may not make it. In order for a child or a business to be successful, they must grow. When raising a child, that means carefully finding the right team of people to help you: a loyal partner, an experienced nanny, or an inspiring teacher. When raising a business, that also means employing & motivating a team of people to help you handle the business’s growth. Once you have a group of dedicated employees, you are not only helping to support your local community of people, you now have a business than can walk and talk all by itself without your unwavering attention. This is called scaling, which essentially meaning growing, the 3rd step to success. But growing a business is an arduous task, so you truly have to love what it is that you do day in and day out, which is the 1st and most pivotal step. For me, I was lucky enough to discover at an early age, that I was obsessed with food.
As always, we appreciate you sharing your insights and we’ve got a few more questions for you, but before we get to all of that can you take a minute to introduce yourself and give our readers some of your back background and context?
When I was 15 years old, I qualified for the State Championship Tournament as a member of the High School Wrestling team, but in order to compete, I had to lose 12 pounds. For the first time, I learned what a nutritious diet actually meant and how to maximize my energy with the smallest amount of caloric intake. By the end of the week, I was completely obsessed with what I could not have, food. It was also the first time I had ever deprived myself of anything, which flipped a trigger of some sort in my brain. I started developing recipes, and soon after a full Menu of items that I would prepare for myself to eat after I weighed in for the tournament. The irony of it all was my poor stomach was so tiny after weighing in that as soon as I ate 3 bites, I was full. So I ended up giving away the rest of my 6 course lunch and was absolutely enthralled watching all my friends enjoy it. I decided I had to address my obsession so I went to Virginia Tech’s Pamplin School of Business with a focus in Culinary Arts. After graduation, I wanted to open a business that showed people that food can be nutritious AND delicious.” A few years later, the Simply Fresh Gourmet Food Truck was born! We now serve our array of California inspired Delicatessen in almost every neighborhood of San Diego. From our hearty and Award Winning Cubano Panini to our light and wonderful Three Course Vegan Menu, we serve a spread of sandwiches, wraps, soups & salads aimed to satiate even the fiercest foodie! We offer catering with our mobile kitchen as well and have served over 60 weddings. Having our culinary team craft your meal right in front of your very eyes is truly an undeniable experience. Our motto is in our name: Keep it Simple, Keep it Fresh!
How about pivoting – can you share the story of a time you’ve had to pivot?
This pandemic threw a wrench in everyone’s life. Ours especially. On March 14th of 2020, we effectively lost all our business accounts. Our rotation of office parks where we served lunch suddenly sent all their employees home. Our arsenal of breweries where we served dinner suddenly had to close their tasting rooms. By the end of the day, half of our upcoming catering events called and canceled their party. The next day I woke up and realized I had to adapt or risk going out of business. We started early the next day serving breakfast at local grocery stores back when lines were long and toilet paper hoarding was a thing. Then for dinner, instead of breweries, we went to the only other place where we knew there would be people, home. I literally parked our food truck in my front yard and started feeding all my neighbors. Soon the word caught on and we started going to other people’s neighborhoods having community members post our presence on social media platforms as well as the Next Door App. Soon our neighborhood “block parties” became a nightly occurrence and gave people a much needed break from cooking due to restaurant closures. I realized how lucky I was. Our food truck has no dining room, everything we serve was already made to go, we are always outside where viruses are less transmittible, and if one location slows down, you can just pack up and drive to the next location. Where a restaurant severely lacks in its ability to adapt quickly, we could change our whole business plan in a matter of hours. In a matter of weeks, we were back on our feet. Once we felt confident in navigating those troubling times, we wanted to give back to the real heroes, San Diego’s first responders. We started donating meals to local hospitals and asked our customers and friends to support us knowing Simply Fresh would match every donation, dollar for dollar. I was blown away by the outpouring of support. People I didn’t even know existed were donated to the cause because they also wanted to say thank you to the people in the pandemic’s trenches. It felt incredibly empowering in a time of such despair. We ended up feeding over 2,000 Doctors, Nurses & EMTs by the end of 2020. It convinced me that humanity is brighter than any darkness that may come our way, it gave us hope.
Can you talk to us about manufacturing? How’d you figure it all out? We’d love to hear the story.
Our cuisine is very labor intensive so making the time to prepare every one of our sauces, soups or dressing is imperative. Going to Culinary School helped, but it didn’t teach me efficiency or practicality, I had to learn those on my own. Luckily I got to experiment with what worked best on myself and my friends before I began Simply Fresh. I would recommend that to anyone considering starting a business. First go work for somebody in whatever field you feel truly passionate about. That way in time, you will learn on their dime. Once you have your own business, you have to remember the ole adage, “You only get one chance to make a first impression.” So have your experimentations completed beforehand lol. They say business is like life, its all about how you make someone feel. Its that easy, but also that complicated.
- Website: www.SimplyFreshSD.com
- Instagram: SimplyFreshSD
- Facebook: Simply Fresh
- Twitter: SimplyFreshSD
- Yelp: Simply Fresh
Blake Duplass Lauren Halbrich