DC: What is your name, major, and graduation year?
Xu: My name is Brin Xu. I am completing my Ph.D. in Sociology in 2023.
DC: Which Dingman Center programs have you been involved with?
Xu: Our company participated in the Terp Startup Fellows, Pitch Dingman Competition, Terp Startup Accelerator, and Dingman Fridays at the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship.
DC: In two to three sentences, how would you describe your startup?
Xu: For culturally curious food enthusiasts who wish to learn how to cook and bake, we offer interactive video classes with home chefs that teach authentic cooking skills and culinary history.
DC: Why did you decide to start a business in this industry?
Xu: During the pandemic, I used my free time to start a blog sharing my Sichuan cuisine with friends. I later published our first cookbook and started offering classes using Zoom. I taught a 10-dish series focused on Chinese Sichuan cuisine. The response was overwhelming, and I loved sharing my cooking and culture with the audience members. I realized there is a demand for interactive cooking classes, so I started marketing the classes beyond my friends. I am excited and committed to making Fancy & Spicy a household name for authentic ethnic cooking in our journey to come.
While still early, we have seen the joy our customers have when they learn to create a new dish. In fact, 60% of our customers take 3 or more classes. We find that young people love cooking at home and sharing their creations. However, existing online media (blogs, social media, videos) fail to provide an immersive learning environment, leaving people feeling entertained but not empowered to cook. That requires an environment that is social, dynamic, and fun, which is why I started Fancy & Spicy.
DC: What updates or significant accomplishments can you share with us about your company from the last six months?
Xu: 2022 is our first business year. This year, we have had 500+ loyal customers. Our monthly revenue has exceeded $10K starting in September, and has been growing with a rate of 10% each month.
Also, we are excited to announce the creation of our first hardcover cookbook, Fancy & Spicy: Digital Delicacies (available on our website, Amazon, and Lulu). This cookbook is a collection of all the live cooking classes we offer, with an introduction from each of our chefs from around the world. We decided to create a book to give back to audiences that support us. It is a physical product to promote our brand awareness and build our customer loyalty. We are currently hosting an Instagram giveaway. Please follow us on IG (@fancyandspicy) and win a free copy! We also plan to host a book launch seminar at the Startup Shell on February 6th. Would love to see you then! (Register here)
DC: What’s the most important thing you are working on right now and how are you making it happen?
Xu: Customer acquisition is the most important thing we are working on. If you or someone you know might be interested in cooking classes, please check out our website at https://www.fancyandspicy.com/. We are offering Christmas sale 25% off on all the classes next week!
There are several strategies we are pursuing. First, we will continue talking to our customers, discovering our ideal customers and where they turn to for cooking information. We will then tag ourselves to these places and build our community. Second, create amazing content to reach organic growth. While recruiting chefs, we focus on their ability to present, create content and attract followers. Third, continue target advertising while experimenting with diversified channels. Finally, we will motivate people to take more classes by launching new classes and programs. Through these efforts, we aim to acquire customers and to scale our business exponentially.
DC: As a student business owner, what motivates you?
Xu: Our chef team is fantastic. I can’t wait to go to work with them every day. We’re an international team and people share their thoughts about cooking, teaching, and bouncing ideas on social media content. For example, this week we just had a chef team meeting, where we brainstormed how to promote our classes in 2023. It’s really great to have a team that you’re excited to work with every day.
Not only that, but also the excitement that our customers have for our products and what we’re doing.
DC: If you could give advice to any aspiring entrepreneurs, what would it be?
Xu: Use every day as a learning opportunity. Every day is different, and you can use it to learn something new or ask a question. You don’t know what you don’t know, and more often than not, you’d be pleasantly surprised that someone is willing to sit down with you and explain something. Along the way, you might find a mentor or someone who is ready to take you under their wing and help you take those risks and navigate through the complex industry that we work in.
To learn more about Fancy & Spicy, please visit the website here.