*Originally published for Silicon Canal here: http://siliconcanal.co.uk/getting-to-know-rebecca-sorusch-and-yumzee/*
Hi my name is Rebecca Sorusch, I’m the founder of Yumzee, a new way of social dining. I’m half German and half Iranian and came to the UK seven years ago. In London I’ve worked in Investment Banking before heading into Management Consulting. Then came to my senses and started Yumzee in February 2016.
What is Yumzee?
“Yumzee is a platform that connects hosts and guests for a social dining experience. Anyone can sign up to Yumzee.co.uk, become a host and set up a meal. The hosts decide on the number of guests, they set the price, create the menu and set the date of the meal.
As a guest on the website you can search for meals within your area and base your decision on your preferred type of food or location. The website allows for the guests to look at the meals in more detail, read all the information and then sign up.
Payments are conducted online after which the guest is provided with a confirmation along with the address to attend the meal. This leads to having an amazing new social dining experience and also allows people to meet new, likeminded and open people. In addition, guests get to try out authentic new cuisines.
We sometimes call it the ‘AirBnB for meals’, people who are new to a city love it as it’s a very easy way of meeting new people. Even tourists enjoy it as it provides an authentic experience when eating with the locals. The benefit for the host is that they are able to make a bit of money for something they love doing.”
So how did the idea for Yumzee come to be?
“As part of my cultural heritage, food has always been really important. It’s a connector, something that my whole social life revolves around. My family spent insanely long hours around the table having breakfast, lunch or dinner. An opportunity for us to come together, catch up, fight, laugh and communicate all sorts of controversial issues 😀
So, food was always important and still is. I enjoy having dinners and Sunday brunches with my friends and feel it’s a really nice context in which to meet.
I remember sitting in a café observing people that met for the first time over a meal. I thought why don’t we do this more often? It such a nice wait of meeting people. Especially, as I think our lives are moving more and more into the digital world. We constantly fidget with our phones, everything seems to happen online. At Yumzee we want to be able to use that technology to re-enable the real life interaction.
I thought about this idea and also thought about other sharing economy companies. Interestingly enough there wasn’t really anything around people sharing a food experience. That’s really when the idea of Yumzee was born.
I tested the process, hosting many meals myself. It was amazing, a real meaningful and human experience and the people loved it, so we decided to start the concept.”
Why choose Birmingham?
“Well, we have tested in London too. Everyone assumes that when you’re starting a business, you have to go to London. However, my experience in Birmingham was great and has made me feel quite strongly about the city. It has so much potential and the outside world doesn’t seem to know about that. The city is beautiful with places like the canals, the parks and all these new bars that are popping up everywhere. The people here are really friendly, more approachable and down to earth in my opinion. The city is very foodie focused as well, it has wonderful independent restaurants, cafes and food bloggers. It sort of felt like the right move to start here.
I think it’s important to shout about these positive aspects and characteristics of the city and promote the overall potential it has. That’s also one of the reasons I joined Silicon Canal.”
How and why did you decide to go into the tech industry?
“I worked for Accenture, a large management and tech consulting firm, for 4 years. It was interesting to see how much technology is out there, what solutions we use in companies and as consumers. You see how it’s changing the way we behave and interact and how we live our everyday life.
We can do great things with technology but I think we are trying to automate too much sometimes. We shouldn’t forget the human aspect and how strong basic needs of real interaction is.
Technology can often create boundaries and create insecurities where it is meant to empower. It’s important that we create meaningful interactions with technology and that’s why I got started.”
How did you go about starting up and turning Yumzee into a business?
“I had the idea and played around with it for a couple of months. I liked my old job so it wasn’t something I initially planned. That being said, I always thought I would like to start my own business and do my own thing to understand what it is like.
Therefore, when I had this idea, I thought it was a genius idea – of course. I just wanted to try it. At least there would be no regrets and I could stop wondering what it would have been like to have done it.
And now I love it. I feel more in control of life, I created something new, from scratch. That’s brilliant and I’m really enjoy that.”
What is next for you? Is Yumzee your primary focus and are you looking beyond that?
“To be fair Yumzee has not long started, so at the moment it’s going to be my main focus. There are plans within Yumzee to roll it out more widely beyond testing it within Birmingham. We want to move across the UK with an aim to also look at big cities across Europe alongside fundraising plans.
I do think at the moment all my time and energy in going into the Yumzee project. I do however see services down the line that can be added to the concept. Alongside a geographic expansion that is likely to be the next step instead of going into a completely new area.
Having said that, being part of e-spark and seeing other start-ups you get inspired every day by other ideas. As a result you get more ideas more often and think to yourself, okay next time I’m going to do this and go in that direction. Most technology related though.
For now, we will have to wait and see..”
So watch this space?
“Yeah exactly. Watch this space!”
A massive thank you to Rebecca for taking the time to speak to us.
Sign up as a host or guest and join the food revolution that’s cooking up in the kitchen near you! www.yumzee.co.uk.