Desk Nibbles - Cassy & Emil
Photography: Marianne Rothbauer, Rothbauer Studio
Tell us a bit about yourself and how you got started.
We (Cassy and Emil) are brothers. We probably started 10-15 small businesses growing up together. Many failed and we had some small successes; we just really enjoy solving problems for people and learning about random things. Cassy graduated from uOttawa and worked for about 4 years while Emil graduated from Carleton while working full-time throughout university. We came up with Desk Nibbles after Emil was working for Shopify and saw how challenging it was to order snacks and beverages to the office. If you are ordering snacks and beverages for more than 20 employees with different dietary restrictions, it is very difficult to make everyone happy while meeting your budget. That’s when the aha moment came and we though of solving this problem by creating better process and software to order for large groups of people.
What was the inspiration for Desk Nibbles?
We enjoy solving problems. This one just happens to be a pretty big one for most companies. Not only for snacks, but for ordering any high volume consumable. There is so much inefficiency. Companies are overspending millions of dollars and there is a lot of waste as a result.
What were you doing prior to starting Desk Nibbles? Is this your first foray into entrepreneurship?
Cassy was working in sales for a research and consulting company in Munich, Germany and Emil was working for Shopify as a Developer. We have done many things on a smaller scale teaching us lessons to succeed with Desk Nibbles. We ran an early Amazon affiliate site, a hedge trimming business with 100s of customers in Ottawa's west end, a successful kickstarter for a piece of software, and about 10 other things since we were around 10 years old.
What is it like owning and managing a business with your brother?
It helps when you have known someone your entire life; communication is easy with 20+ years of knowing each other, understanding how to work effectively, and trust. I also think we balance each other out in our strengths and weaknesses. Emil is extremely logical, and incredible at breaking down challenges, meanwhile Cassy is a great communicator and is more of a creative. The biggest thing we have in common is that I think we work really hard and we're competitive.
You have a pretty big team – did you think Desk Nibbles would grow to this size?
No, it's kind of crazy to think about... We thought it would be a side project to make some pocket change. We didn't realize how big the market was and how much fun we would be having. There's a reason why the market is so crowded... We aren't playing to be #1 in Canada, and we aren't playing to be #2 or #3 in the US. We are playing to be #1 in the world.
What are your plans for Desk Nibbles over the next five years?
To help make purchasing easier and employee's happier in offices around North America
What’s something you’ve learned about yourself since starting Desk Nibbles?
Cassy - "Making sure you hire and retain great people is probably the most important thing you can do as a CEO"
Emil - "It's not how to build something, but what to build that is most important. Figuring that out is important"
We have to ask the obvious question – what is your favourite snack?
Cassy - "It's too hard to choose just one"
Emil - "Crickstart protein cricket bars are probably my favourite right now"
When you’re not working – or snacking – what keeps you busy in Ottawa?
Both - "Reading... If we aren't working we're reading. We've both always been book worms from a young age"
What’s your favourite spot to go get a meal in the city?
Cassy - "I actually don't eat out that much... I don't think Emil really does either, our parents are both great cooks and taught us how to cook... but if I had to choose it would be The Cheshire Cat; locally produced ingredients, cozy, and just delicious foods!"
Emil - "What Cassy said... I don't eat out too much but if I had to choose it would be Pure Kitchen right now"