Like a lot of people in 2020, Stacy Kazos started getting her groceries, takeout, and other necessities delivered to her home to limit her exposure to COVID-19. The convenience was undeniable, but Kazos quickly discovered that many of the app-based delivery services she used were from out of town and not always offering the best value for struggling local businesses. She wanted another option that would benefit everyone in the Siouxland region of South Dakota where she’s lived for decades.
Today, that option is her business called The Market Delivers. Launched in June 2021, the delivery service forges intentional relationships with drivers and restaurants to provide a local-first experience that addresses many of the pain points of the national alternatives. Dozens of partners have signed up for the fledgling service, and Kazos is excited to build a business that boosts her community and helps customers, as she puts it, “eat like a local.”
Hello Alice caught up with Kazos on her way back from an industry conference to talk about taking on national competitors as a small business, the value of being local, and sharing your success with the community you serve. The conversation has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
What was the delivery market like in your area before your business started?
Well, you have GrubHub and DoorDash and the other national delivery services. A lot of them were around, but they weren’t on my radar before the pandemic. Obviously, COVID expanded that presence. What I’ve realized is that I do things very differently than what the national delivery services do.
Right, so what are the main pain points you’re trying to solve with The Market Delivers?
The main thing that I wanted to solve was the last-mile representation for the businesses that need delivery services. I wanted to fully represent their business and not come in as my own brand. That started that with my logo, which is a generic barcode. Basically, I’m the white label option. I didn’t want my logo or color or anything that would interfere with the business I’m serving. Also, as a delivery business, I wanted to upgrade that experience by having delivery drivers in uniforms and marked vehicles. I wanted to be sure we were identified, just like a UPS driver or any other professional business coming into a community. Those were two very big changes that weren’t being addressed by the national delivery services.
[Hello Alice Guide: Create a Brand Identity]
I also really wanted to celebrate the local businesses and the mom-and-pop restaurants. My goal was to make eating like a local convenient! Now that I have the infrastructure for delivery and a network of drivers, I do plan to expand to delivering products that aren’t just food items.
The national players have a huge head start. How did you recruit both drivers and restaurants? What was your sales pitch?
To be perfectly honest, it’s been pretty easy with the restaurants. By the time I went in to talk to them, they recognized that delivery is simply a demand from customers now. So I came in, and they met with me — which was big, because the other companies don’t have a local presence like I do. Then I told them that I only took a small percentage, which is something that they could upcharge on their menu items and be able to offer “free” delivery. So I’m giving them a delivery service that’s more boutique style, but also one that’s not stealing their profits. Just by sharing that, I was able to sign up 20 restaurants in the first week or two. I have 10 more to add when I get home from this trip. Two restaurants actually called me while I was on the trip that I need to add. And that last handful of restaurants I didn’t approach at all — they found me on Facebook and said they want my services.
Really, I just had to go in and show them there was a better way. When I would go to the businesses, the owners would be there. They knew that I was local and if a driver doesn’t show up, they can call me since I live right here in town. I’m going to take care of things. I care about my community, I care about the growth, I care about people coming back after this pandemic. I realize that if our local restaurants and businesses fail during all that’s going on right now, our towns are going to turn into pretty boring places full of chain restaurants and things that no longer make our community unique. They recognize that, too.
As for drivers, that’s also been pretty easy. I have probably 40 applications right now that I need to go through, and I have 10 drivers. Some of my drivers have lost their jobs from COVID issues, or they drive for another app and now they like the idea of having another service that’s more respectable in the community.
[Hello Alice Guide: Understand Your Market]
How did you develop the back end of the service, particularly the app and the payment system you’re using?
There are two main delivery software options that are used all over the country designed for this. I use DeliverLogic, so I didn’t have to figure that stuff out myself. In seven weeks, we’ve done over $25,000 worth of food sales, and we’ve done almost 700 deliveries. That’s from launching my business on June 14.
A lot of it is that I went to restaurants that were desperately wanting this, and I’m offering something that so many people are wanting. It’s something that already existed, but I think I’ve improved it in such a big way that’s really making an impact for all of them. My drivers are getting paid more, customers are getting their food on time, and we have a good reputation. It’s just a very good partnership all the way around. The drivers are 1099 contractors, so my business is an organization of a bunch of partnerships with businesses and drivers.
Part of your success is probably due to the fact that people trust you because you’re from the community!
Yes, they do. They know that someone genuinely cares. You have to understand that a lot of restaurant people are not technical; they’re into food, and that’s their passion. So when you go in and you understand their struggles, I feel like we start at a really good place. The consumers on those apps are wondering why someone can’t just bring them hot food. They don’t understand the logistics and all the things that happen once they place that order. When I come in, I know all the pain points and what it takes. It’s refreshing to owners to see that someone really gets it, and that makes me pretty easy to work with.
[Hello Alice Guide: Embed Purpose Into Your Business]
What else are you trying to do with the business and in your community?
Beyond food, I did go to local mechanics and tire shops to ask if they would offer my drivers a discount. So my drivers get discounts on their car washes, tires, maintenance, and oil changes. They can also go to partner restaurants and get 10% off when they want to go dine in with their families. So it’s so much more than just food and delivery. This is really about community and about working together to get through what we’ve been through. It feels really good making money, but my drive and my goal is about helping these businesses.