Koki: Building a Business with In-home Chefs

Koki Experiences

"I know there are companies that offer personal chef services, but they don't operate with a standard approach that makes it affordable and convenient.” - Tiara Miles, Founder of Koki

Do you ever feel like you’re too busy with everything you have going on that you sacrifice the one thing that actually fuels you to keep going? Whether you have a full time job, have your hands full with a newborn, or simply lack the ability to cook, your diet does not need to suffer. We sat down with Tiara Miles, the founder of Koki, who is giving you gourmet food in the comfort of your own home, without having to step foot in the kitchen.

Q. What is Koki?
Koki is an in-home dining service that delivers a personal chef to your home to prepare meals like brunch, dinner, light bites for parties or meal preps. You select the meals ahead of time and the chef arrives the next day with all the cookware and meal ingredients to prepare the food. Our platform is really easy to use and affordable!

Q. What inspired you to start the company? What was the a-ha moment?
I knew I wanted to start something but didn’t know what. I was always writing down my thoughts in my “book of ideas” but still unsure of my life’s calling, I took the GREs so I could apply to business school. One day while I was studying, I was really hungry but needed to get through all my work. My boyfriend and I ordered Instacart to have our groceries delivered. Once the food arrived, we realized our goal of enjoying a meal was not satisfied. He can’t cook and I was so busy studying that I couldn’t either. So we resorted to UberEats. After spending $100 on groceries and another $50 on UberEats, the food came and it was horrible. All I could think was, why is my only option to buy groceries and cook myself, or order take out that I don’t really like? I started surveying alternatives. What I wanted was a personal chef to cook us a fresh meal. I researched how to book a chef and, after realizing how easy it could be, got to work on the idea.

Q. When did it all begin?
I had the initial idea of Koki in January 2017 and set a goal to pursue it the following May. I started testing the process of booking a chef by hiring different people to come cook for me. I explored everything about it by searching Instagram and talking to friends of friends who had experiences with personal chefs. Using that data, I could envision the product and corresponding experience and started working with a developer to create a booking platform. After a long back and forth process, Koki officially launched in February 2018.

Q. One of the things we teach at Babson is called Entrepreneurial Thought and Action. You have your big, audacious goal, but you start with the means at hand and take small steps to move forward. What was the first small step for Koki?
The first step was partnering with a chef to create a standardized menu. I reached out to one of the chefs I had worked with and pitched him on Koki. We spent a week and a half in the kitchen cooking lots of food, while I spent a fortune on groceries and labor. Unfortunately this turned into a big lesson for me. After all of that work and money, the Chef wouldn’t let me have the recipes. But I didn’t let that stop me. I simply hired another chef I knew and we quickly started working on the menu once again.

Q. What’s one piece of advice you would give to an entrepreneur who is just starting out?
I hear people talk about entrepreneurship as this cycle of waking up really happy and then feeling sad or defeated when they go to bed. So much of the time, the media only shows us the successes of entrepreneurs. It’s important to understand that they also have dark moments and painful days. So keep moving forward and do something every day to build your business. As long as you do that, it will eventually add up to what you had envisioned it to be.

Q. What has been the biggest lesson learned for you thus far?
Act on an idea or leave it be. I have made a personal rule that if I have a new idea or something I want to change, I have 24 hours to think about it. If it’s something I decide I should do, I implement it immediately. This ends up saving me the time and energy that comes with being in a constant state of indecision and uncertainty.