Kela Ivonye is the co-founder and CEO of Arrow Food Couriers, a hyper-local multi-restaurant food delivery service in Louisville, Kentucky. He is also involved with a startup called MailHaven, a service that provides safer, more convenient local package delivery. Ivonye has his own blog, which features insightful information about his experience in the startup world. But we decided to dig deeper into his story to discover the inspiration behind Arrow Food Couriers, the challenges he faces as an entrepreneur and his plans for the future.
Q: Where are you originally from? What inspired your decision to move to Louisville?
A: I was born in Lagos, Nigeria and I moved to America 11 years ago, specifically Little Rock, Arkansas, before I relocated to Louisville. My late father—who was also a technology entrepreneur—got both his degrees in America, and I always knew I wanted to come over to the United States to go to school.
Q: What sparked the idea for Arrow Food Couriers?
A: While in graduate school, I was a graduate intern at several labs, and I also waited tables at a small restaurant. I noticed the restaurant was not making enough money from sit-ins and takeout; however, they had customers who wanted to have food delivered, and there was no means to do it. There was a multi-restaurant delivery company already in the city, but they charged exorbitant prices, took over an hour to deliver on average, and had a 1.5 star rating on Yelp. I saw an opportunity in the market and decided to go for it, adding our own spin of environmental awareness, which has gotten us recognized by the United Nations Climate Change Secretariat as a Climate Neutral Now Champion Company.
Q: How is Arrow Food Couriers currently growing and changing?
A: Arrow Food Couriers had a lofty goal of expanding across the United States; however, we reassessed our position in the market and the availability of—and our access to—capital, and we decided to focus on a relatively virgin market where our lead investor resides. We will keep supporting our Louisville operations, but focus on increasing our development team and software assets in anticipation of a launch in a foreign country at the end of the year.
Q: Where do you hope to be in five years?
A: I see myself being at the forefront of hyper-local logistics technology, and developing physical infrastructure for the future of commerce, setting the precedent for what I refer to as “fluid commerce.”
Q: What has been your biggest mistake—or lesson learned—in the process of starting your own company?
A: Being headstrong, allowing my passion for environmental technology to cloud my judgment, thereby overshadowing the primary tenet of a business: achieving profitability for the value we create.
Q: Have any tips for entrepreneurs like yourself?
A: You are your worst enemy, no one else is. Conquer your demons, make the best use of your time. Don’t accept failure, accept learning lessons. When your success is temporarily impeded by your own mistakes, place yourself in the best position to learn and succeed.