Dumpling: Turning Food Delivery Workers into "Solopreneurs"

The company wants to help contractors start their own grocery delivery franchises and earn more money in the process.

12.08.2019 | by Reve Fisher
Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash
Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

The gig economy has redefined what it means to earn money on the side. For those who choose to work in food delivery, their options offer a range of benefits and various downsides to juggle.

“Delivering restaurant food has always been a hard, thankless job,” wrote Andy Newman in the New York Times article My Frantic Life as a Cab-Dodging, Tip-Chasing Food App Deliveryman. “With the apps, it is becoming more flexible and better paying — but in some ways less stable.”

In the exposé, Andy explained that some businesses don’t guarantee their workers a minimum wage. Certain food delivery enterprises also have their own peculiarities, such as only giving their drivers a few seconds to decide to claim an order or not telling their workers where an order is going until they accept it.

“All day long, while dodging taxi doors or battling buses for a sliver of asphalt, a delivery person thinks about time and money,” he said.

“How long will this order take? What will it pay? Whenever something goes wrong, it’s usually the rider’s problem.”

Joel Shapiro, co-founder and CEO of Dumpling, aims to support these workers and give them more freedom and income-earning potential.

“We learned how crazy it was to be an on-demand grocery shopper and how that ultimately affected customers,” he told GeekWire.

On a surface level, Dumpling offers grocery delivery in a similar model to US-based Instacart. However, the startup takes it a step further and empowers workers to run their own business and not simply be cogs in a machine.

“Shoppers for gig companies often hear, ‘When you [specifically] come, it makes my day,’ so our philosophy was to build a platform that supports the person,” co-founder and co-CEO Joel Shapiro told TechCrunch. “When you run a business and build a clientele that you get to know, you’re incentivised for that [client] to have a good experience.

“So we wondered, how do we provide tools for someone who has done personal shopping and who not only needs funds to shop but also help with marketing and a website and training so they can promote their services?”

Dumpling offers its workers several tools to succeed, such as the MyGig app with a MyGig coach to help them manage their growing business, the Dumpling app for their clients to place orders, a website to promote the business, a debit card and funding to shop their orders, and direct deposit after every order.

Shoppers earn an average of $32 per order and are given all of their tips. Over 500 people in 37 states are working with Dumpling—many of whom are ex-Instacart workers.

“Dumpling is the first service that supports a new breed of solo entrepreneurs — ones who today seek to differentiate the service they provide by adding their personal touch to local services to meet consumers’ increasing expectations,” said Ann Miura-Ko, partner at Floodgate, one of Dumpling latest investors. Dumpling recently earned $3 million—which will be used to improve the technology—in a funding round with Floodgate and Fuel Capital.

Through Dumpling, customers can personally select their shoppers. When it comes to expensive or perishable grocery items, such as meat, fish or produce, customers don’t want to trust their purchases to just anyone. By being allowed to choose their worker, customers can rest assured that their shopping needs will be taken care of, eventually leading them to spend more money per purchase.

By having repeat customers, Dumpling workers can learn more about their preferences, furthering improving the customer experience.

“People love their mailman, dog walkers, and babysitters,” said Wolfgang Eastman, a shopper with Dumpling. “I want to foster that kind of relationship with my customers, especially for people who really value the importance of the connection of food and community.”

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