What a difference a five days can make. A couple of weeks back, NYC-based office meal delivery service Ox Verte had a nice business going. The certified B corp counted a couple thousand offices as customers and had a substantial run rate. Then COVID-19 came on strong in New York and people were told to work from home. In a matter of days, Ox Verte’s revenue disappeared to $0.00.
But Ox Verte Founder and CEO Jessie Gould didn’t panic or quit, she mobilized and pivoted the company completely. Instead of delivering food to offices, they would deliver it to home offices.
This week, in just three days, Ox Verte launched a new website (oxverte.nyc) and a whole new line of business. The startup now offers delivery of a box set of fruits and veggies ($95) , snacks ($4), as well as Ox Verte-made bowls ($16.50 each). Since it is now delivering to homes, the company also offers a menu of meals for families ($65 or $145, depending on size). Because it is a B Corp., all of Ox Verte’s food is plant-forward (though not strictly vegetarian) and locally sourced.
I spoke with Gould by phone this week and asked if its supply chain had been disrupted and she was quick to say no. “There is just a mismatch right now because there’s a run on grocery stores,” Gould said, “But fields haven’t stopped growing food. Our supply chain is intact and they [food producers] would like us to take more.”
I also asked if there were new sanitation or cleaning procedures that are being mandated by NYC since the outbreak. “DOH [Department of Health] procedures in NY pretty strict to begin with,” Gould said, though they have instituted contactless delivery as well as new cleaning protocols for the containers carrying food.
The pivot hasn’t come without its own challenges, however. Ox Verte had to lay off three full-time employees, and stop work with a number of contractors. Gould hopes these layoffs are temporary and that those affected can be re-hired as the business grows.
To grow that business, Gould is targeting the employees of Ox Verte’s previous corporate customers to see if there is a way those companies can subsidize meals for its people working from home. Ox Verte isn’t abandoning the corporate market altogether. The company plans to just build up two lines of business after this pandemic subsides.
In the meantime, Ox Verte’s story can hopefully provide a ray of hope for other businesses impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak. It might be mercenary, but it’s also true that crisis brings opportunity. For Ox Verte, it forced them into a new line of business. Now we’ll see if there’s an actual business there.
UPDATE: This story originally incorrectly reported Ox Verte laid off 9 people. It was only three. We regret the error.