From Mary El Pearce. Follow her on Twitter@CupcakesDC and email her at maryelp[At]borderstan.com.
Those of us who live in Borderstan know D.C. is on the up-and-up when it comes being cool. We’ve got our own music, food and fashion scenes going on, and more importantly, we’ve got an influx of fresh, creative ideas and people who like to share them with each other.
Feastly, co-founded by Danny Harris and Noah Karesh, is a great example of what’s happening in this new D.C. Not too long ago, Karesh was traveling in Guatemala and wanted a home-cooked meal to experience the culture, but he couldn’t find one.
That’s when he decided to start a business in DC that would facilitate meals in people’s homes, to be attended by “feasters,” or people who are a part of the Feastly community. He told the idea to fellow entrepreneur Harris, and the two launched Feastly this past January. Karesh is also one of the owners of Blind Dog Cafe, which operates out of Darnell’s Bar during the day at 944 Florida Avenue NW. Harris became known for his site, People’s District, which told stories of D.C. residents in the first-person, and for his focus on the importance of oral storytelling.
“We’ve created an online marketplace so people can engage in all kinds of food experiences that take place in the homes,” said Harris. “Do you want to have a meal where you carbo-load before a big race happening in town? Have a fundraiser for the political candidate of your choice? The food is the center and it goes from there.”
Since Feastly launched, they’ve hosted more than 15 meals with various chefs, including Harris’s mother.
“We grow up eating around tables in homes, and we move away from that,” Harris explained. “We can bring back the home-cooked meal and empower cooks and chefs who may not be able to bring their goods to market.”
To participate in one of the meals, simply sign up on the website then peruse upcoming meals every Monday in the weekly e-newsletter. Meals vary in price, anywhere from $25 to $50.
“Someone might want to do an Italian meal on his back porch,” Harris said. “People show up at a certain time. You schmooze for a few minutes. The chef comes out and talks you through the meal. Meals have gone on for hours.”
“There’s an element of intimacy you find in a home you can’t find in any commercial space,” Karesh said. “I met a 60-year-old artist the other night, and it was fascinating to talk with her and share that bond.”
So the next time you’re looking for a new restaurant, you might want to consider checking out Feastly instead. What better way to get to know your neighbors than to eat their food in their home? And not knowing who will join you at the table, there’s a great chance you’ll meet someone to share your great ideas with.
Borderstan: Why did you decide to start your own business?
Karesh: I’ve been in the tech and start-up industry pretty much my whole career in the mobile and Internet side, as well as food-based ventures. It was a natural progression for me to merge the online and offline world.
Harris: I came to the city to do public policy work and ended up doing entrepreneurial work focused around storytelling and community development. My passion is around connecting people and figuring out the tools to do that. D.C. is an incredible city because so many are new to the city and trying to find their people. It’s also a great food town. We see that the table is the original social network. As everybody is trying to figure out how many friends you have on Facebook or how many followers you have on Twitter, the reality is that you’re having dinner by yourself at home. Our goal is to create a real community in real time around the table.
Borderstan: How have your lives changed since you started Feastly?
Karesh: It’s gotten a lot better. Hundreds of cooks approach us who want to do this. It’s amazing to me that there are all these people out there who cook professionally but want a more creative outlet.
Harris: What’s been most profound to me is we’ve been to almost every meal, and you see how people respond to the meals. They want this. They need it. People send handwrittten letters to the chefs afterward. They’re so thankful for the opportunity. They’re also thanking us. It’s unique to its users and founders.
Borderstan: What the biggest challenge of being a small business owner in D.C?
Harris: There was an assumption that the shareable economies hadn’t made their way into DC. But our growth shows us it’s the right city for us. People in D.C. may not be familiar with shareable economy and collaborative consumption, but they’re familiar with hosting dinner parties.
Borderstan: What advice do you have to anyone wanting to start a business?
Karesh: Do it. Don’t think about it anymore, just do it. You’ll learn more from executing than thinking about it. There are a million possibilities of what could happen. Don’t be afraid of failure.
Harris: It’s the most rewarding feeling to do something and show people what you’ve been thinking about doing.
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