Life may not always be a picnic, but for Andrea Hernandez it basically is. A year ago Andrea decided she wanted to make enjoying a picnic a little easier by creating a packed picnic delivery service, and now it’s her full-time job. Find out what made this transition from part-time to full-time possible as well as the key components of her success and the best advice she received as a young entrepreneur. Warning: the pictures will have you ready to order.
Occupation: Founder, Merienda
University: Northeastern University
Secretly Obsessed With: Andy Cohen, Bravo and Limes
On My Nightstand: A photo of me and my father, Sandwood incense, and my iPad loaded with Startup Podcast’s Season 2
Last Thing You Read: The Manuscript Found in Accra by Paulo Coehlo
How did you get started?
The concept of Merienda was conceived last summer. It started with one question:have you ever noticed how inconvenient planning for a picnic can be, especially when it’s nice outside? Wouldn’t it be great if I could order a picnic like I order a pizza? Basket, wine, food and everything! I thought the process could be much easier, so I developed a survey to learn more about the demand for concierge services such as a picnic delivery. From the information gathered, I decided to test out the concept with a soft opening in October, which was a tremendous success!
I was working on Merienda part time, because during the winter I assumed demand would by be as high so I took a step back from picnics until March, when customers began inquiring if we were open for the Spring. At that moment I recognized how large the demand was growing, and so decided to finally take the leap and quit my full-time job. I have been pursuing my passion by working on Merienda full-time ever since.
What key elements played into your success?
Without a doubt key partnerships with industry experts have been essential. Most recently we partnered with a wonderful brand, St. James Cheese Company, who offered input on improving and perfecting our basket menu. We also formed a partnership with the wine experts at Brady’s Wine Warehouse, who have paired our baskets with the best wines and champagnes. On the logistical front, we partnered with Meusu, who is helping us scale our business and expand our delivery location options.
Another major element has been listening to our customers, from the feedback we’ve received we have tailored our baskets and menu to best serve our clients and keep them coming back, which is essential for a growing startup.
What’s the best piece of advice you received?
I have been very blessed to have many mentors support and encourage me to pursue the idea of Merienda. The best piece of advice came from J. Miguez who is an entrepreneur-in-residence at the Idea Village, he encouraged me to take the risk of devoting everything to Merienda and to take advantage of time.
“You’re young. You can always make up for money, but you can never get back the time you lost,” he said. Will Donaldson, co-founder of LaunchPad also was a big influence, he was the one who initially encouraged me to pursue the idea of Merienda “This has great potential, you have to keep pursuing it.” he said. Because if their expertise and support I’ve never looked back since.
What struggles did you face getting to this point?
It’s not easy taking a risk and leaving your comfort zone. My biggest struggles came from within. Even though I worked for startups in the past, I had never ventured on my own. It’s been hard to push past the fear and the discomfort. One other struggle has been to promote the actual company name, Merienda.
Although I have been advised to change it, since a lot people are unaware that Merienda is the translation of picnic in Spanish, I am reluctant to change the name; I want to stay true to my roots. It’s a struggle, because Merienda is not as catchy as other names like Tumblr or Google, but I know that with our service and offerings it will soon become a staple name.
Who was the biggest influence in your professional life?
My biggest influence has been my grandfather. My grandfather started from nothing and went on to build to a successful company back home in Honduras. He was a very smart man, even as a kid he would trade math homework for food. He always instilled in me the concepts of hard work, humility, and most importantly, that nothing is impossible and to never limit myself.
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
Being able to instill trust in my partners. I came to them with not only an idea but a proven concept. At 25, being able to say, I started my own business, have amazing partners and this great concept is an amazing accomplishment. However, I have to remind myself that I should celebrate my achievements, but also continue to push further.
It’s been a hard and long road and there’s still more ahead, but I am proud of myself for pushing past the obstacles, fear and doubt! Most recently, we won a live pitch off for TechCrunch, we competed against four other startups from around the nation and won by a unanimous vote, it was awesome.
When do you feel most successful?
When I am able to inspire others. For me, success is not about the money or the wealth; success comes from being able to take risks in ideas that challenge norms and inspire others to follow by example. One of my greatest joys as an entrepreneur is giving other people around my the opportunity to learn from my successes and failures.
What advice would you give to girls looking to enter your industry/space?
To all my girl bosses out there, trust your instincts and believe in yourself! I’ve come to learn how imperative confidence is, not being cocky but believing in yourself first and foremost. Others will follow if you lead with passion and conviction. Do not be afraid of failure, it’s a part of life. Learn the lessons and keep thriving. You can do whatever you set your mind and heart to.