(EDITOR’S NOTE: The Knoxville Entrepreneur Center is hosting its second annual “MediaWorks Demo Day” on August 11 at the Square Room on Market Square. To register, click here. Ahead of that event, we are profiling the nine companies in the start-up accelerator. This is one of those profiles.)
MenuMagic is one of nine companies participating in this year’s “MediaWorks” start-up accelerator program. We posed a set of questions to each of the entrepreneurs. Here are Isaac Johnson’s responses.
- When did you first conceive the idea for your new start-up? MenuMagic goes way back. The first seeds of our idea began when I was an undergrad at Emory. I think the year was 2007. We made a go of it for a while and because of a lot of reasons, chiefly because we were simply too broke to keep it alive, we had to put it on hold. We’re back now, and we’re better than ever. This is our time.
- Describe the product or service you are offering? We at MenuMagic believe that there should be a plate at the table for everyone. People with allergies to food have the greatest difficulty getting and enjoying meals at establishments around the country. We want to help people with food allergies trust that the food they eat is safe for them by getting them the information they need, when they need it, and in a way that is super easy to use. You can say our goal is to help our users find the right meal every time!
- Why do you think the market is ready for this opportunity you are offering? I think that our future users are already looking for the solution that we are offering. Our customers know the problem well. Our users experience the pain of not having a good enough solution regularly. Additionally, there are already some very talented people doing some excellent work trying to solve this problem. However, with all due respect to the good people out there, we are confident that what we are offering is single best solution in the marketplace. Every day we are working to make it even better.
- What do you think are the two or three biggest challenges you face that “MediaWorks” will be able to help you overcome? At its core, we are in the business of communication. We need to respect that and encourage communication between and among our customers and suppliers. One of the ways we do that is through building a platform that encourages every one of our users and suppliers to feel like they are an important part in building something meaningful. In the end we want to build a platform that our users own. We want them to feel like it is theirs to share, build-up and perfect. We are only as good as the users are. We just want to give them the right tools to shine. Our challenge is to get this important part right. I believe that we can and will. I would say that our second greatest challenge is managing scale. To build-up something really meaningful, it is important for us to work well for our customers from coast to coast and everywhere in between. We are a very lean operation so scale has been a challenge we have been working on. In a way, it’s an opportunity for us to think creatively and be smarter about how to grow rapidly while maintaining our quality standards. We believe we have a great solution, but we are always exploring ways to be better so we can meet and exceed the expectations of our customers. We want them to be wowed every time.
- Finally, tell us a little about yourself such as hometown and education. I am originally from Colorado. My family moved here in 2002. Since that time, Knoxville has become my home. I graduated from Emory University where I studied Biology and Business, and I am currently a Student at Howard University’s College of Medicine. I completed two years when I decided to take some time away from school to take care of my mom who was quite sick. In that time, I completed my MBA from Lincoln Memorial University. I am planning on returning back to Medical school, but my heart is and shall remain here in Knoxville, where I plan to practice medicine one day. I have to mention my parents here. I owe everything to them. The values that they taught me I plan to build into every part of our business. Both of my parents are immigrants from Nigeria. They showed us how to appreciate hard work. They encouraged us to never be afraid to ask why. They taught us to pour everything we have into what we are doing. We were also raised knowing that a lot of people don’t have the same kind of opportunities that we received. If and when we take something that could go to someone else, there is always a responsibility. We have a responsibility to pass on to others what we have received; but more than that we have a responsibility to create more and better opportunities for others. We have a responsibility to make the world better in small ways but also in big ways. MenuMagic is here to make the world better, too. We take it very seriously and intend to do our very best for anyone who touches our business.