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Chasing the Dream: Alum Startup Makes Cooking at Home Easier

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Ryan Hansan
Ryan Hansan, BSBA '08, in the prep kitchen of his startup, scratchDC.
-Photo by Jeff Watts

As a young professional in D.C. who liked to have friends over for meals but didn't plan in advance, Ryan Hansan, BSBA '08, constantly experienced the bane of most cooks: the forgotten ingredient requiring another trip to the store, the recipe calling for just a teaspoon of fresh parsley from an enormous bunch.

"I thought, how great if someone delivered it all," he says. "There was a need, and a chance to solve a problem in daily life."

He began testing recipes—many taken from his mother—deconstructing the results into two-dinner bundles with every ingredient measured, marinated, chopped, or otherwise ready to be assembled "from scratch" by customers at the other end.

"I love to cook now," Hansan says. "I used to think it was such a chore, but now I do a test meal every single night of the week."

He launched scratchDC in August 2012, with $20,000 in personal funding to cover equipment, food, marketing, and delivery. Word spread quickly through blogs, appearances at events like Adams Morgan Day, Washington Post and City Paper articles, and reviews on Yelp.

Demand now is great enough for Hansan to open a space near McPherson Square, envisioned as a hub for prep and delivery.

Hansan dismisses his only competition as "two companies based in New York that make you buy ahead. You don’t get things prepared—just a clove of garlic that you have to chop—and meals are mailed so they sit around on the doorstep."

In contrast, scratchDC offers same-day ordering and scheduled delivery, fresh organic ingredients grown locally, and foolproof recipes that not only take 35 minutes or less to cook but use only the usual kitchen pots and pans. This makes Hansan's concept extremely portable.

"We can see this being big in other cities," he adds.

As for the best business advice he's gotten to date: "However hard you expect it to be, you are going to work twice as hard."

This story was originally published in the August 2013 issue of American Magazine.