Before joining Chicago-based startup Relish Works, Nick Florek spent six years working in strategy and innovation consulting. During his time there, he collaborated with colleagues on tough problems, challenging the status quo, and creating new things. He absolutely loved it.
When Relish Works was conceptualized, the professional relationships that he built during consulting provided him the opportunity to build something from scratch and to create a space where others could also build something.
At Relish Works and The Food Foundry, Nick works with early-stage companies in the food tech industry that have an MRR of $5 — $10K. He is always on the hunt for disruptive tech in both the restaurant and food industries – and is excited to become more involved in the Boston food tech scene!
Steph: What drew you to working with the food startup scene?
Nick: First, I love food. And it is an interesting time for the food industry because people are becoming more aware of what they eat. People who perhaps didn’t have access to this information before are now able to dive in to learn about where their food came from, what’s in it, and the impact on their health more than ever before. They also know more about the technology and products that go into making the food that is on their table.
In addition to the space itself being really interesting, I also love working with the entrepreneurs who are trying to solve some of the food industry’s major problems. It’s energizing to work alongside people who are passionate about their projects and willing to find ways to surpass a lot of obstacles in this space.
S: What can make or break a company in this space?
N: Passion and determination are two things you absolutely need to be a successful entrepreneur.
Beyond that, having an attitude of giving more than you take can make or break your company. We’re living in an era during which information is becoming more and more accessible, and if you approach the startup world with a mindset of being open to collaborating with your peers, then you have more of a chance for success in the startup world.
S: What’s the biggest hurdle that startups need to jump over in your space?
N: The biggest challenge, particularly in the restaurant industry, is that every single restaurant has its own unique set of dynamics. With this in mind, a lot of technology just doesn’t stick. It’s not from a lack of trying. The problem is recognized, but not everyone in the space will buy into the solution.
While there are a lot of business-minded people in the restaurant industry, there are also a lot of people in the space who are doing it because they are passionate about food and the culture around it. As a result, they don’t want to take what they created and turn it into a “techie” environment.
S: What is your favorite thing about Boston’s startup scene?
N: We’re excited to be more involved in the Boston startup scene because of its incredible reputation. There is so much talent here and great resources available to the startup community.
S: What do you consider one of your proudest accomplishments so far?
N: Definitely these past two years, building an organization that didn’t exist before.
I walked in Day One and started working in a coffee shop with a half-constructed office space. Now, I’m on the leadership team of an organization that has approximately 30 people who are super engaged in the food startup ecosystem. We built a world-class accelerator program and put 5 companies through it, 2 of which raised over $4 million capital.
S: What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career to date, and what did you learn from it?
N: Finding my true passion has been a constant journey. I’ve spent my career trying things, learning, and through these processes developing new skills and perspectives. Having these different experiences really helped me figure out where my passion was and the best way to apply my skills. I love creating and I love teaching.
S: What is one thing that you wish you knew at the beginning of your career that you now know?
N: The world won’t end if something doesn’t happen exactly how you want or you miss an opportunity. Despite your effort, a door may close, but another will always open. Sometimes things just aren’t meant to be, or the timing doesn’t work out. Life will go on. The only thing that is certain is that you are going to screw up and do something wrong at some point. You need to be comfortable with that and use those experiences as learning opportunities.
S: What is one piece of advice that you have for startups?
N: Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
There are so many people out there with different experiences, and one of their experiences may help you with a problem you’re having. I’ve found that a lot of people in the startup scene are more than willing to help, so build relationships with people you trust and don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Now, for some rapid fire questions! What is your favorite thing to do in Boston?
While it’s not in Boston, I absolutely love visiting Provincetown. But if we’re sticking to the city, then definitely eating in the North End.
What is one startup myth you wish you could dispel?
That a founder one day wakes up and is like, “Oh, I have an idea!” And they implement it and it’s helpful right away. This never happens. Most will see a problem around them, realize that there could be a better solution for it, will try it out, and often fail. But then they learn from that initial try and do it better the second time around.
If you could have one superpower, what would you choose?
Mind reading. I’d really love to know where people are coming from so I can figure out the best way to support their journey or help them solve a problem they’re experiencing.
Choose a movie title for the story of your life.
The Wandering Journey