Eat Me: The World on Small Plates

Everybody in the class of 2019 knew that entrepreneurship forms a core part of the MBA programme here at IMD, but our first lecture on the subject wasted no time in revealing the reality of what today has become almost a mythologised pursuit.

The subject of our first case was Eat Me, a very popular restaurant here in Lausanne and winner of the coveted Best Swiss Gastro Award for 2018. This was the only time a restaurant from the French-speaking part of Switzerland had won the award. As it happens, I was already very familiar with Eat Me, having visited the restaurant numerous times over previous travels to Lausanne. Eat Me offers a novel concept, best described as international tapas. Guests choose multiple dishes to share, each coming from a different region of the world and country within that region. I can vouch that this format makes for a unique evening of exploring and discussing new tastes, with the added bonus that the food is delicious!

Despite Lausanne’s restaurant scene offering a lot more in the way of variety in recent years vs 7-10 years ago (so I’m told), I found myself going back to Eat Me again and again. So imagine my curiosity at learning how this amazing place came about and indeed who better to hear from than the founders themselves, Serena Shamash and her husband Mark Brownell, who put in a surprise visit towards the end of our lecture. To describe in full the many insights Serena and Mark shared with us would fail to do them justice, not to mention make this post a little lengthy, but some key messages resonated with us.

Do not live the Deferred Life Plan

The deferred life plan (all creative rights to Mr Randy Komissar) is simple and, not surprisingly, signs up not-so-enthusiastic participants everywhere. It goes:

Step 1 – do what you have to do
Step 2 – do what you want to do

…..or so they tell you. But Serena Shamash had no such intention after completing her MBA at IMD in 2007 and knew her real passion lay in building things. Specifically Serena had a passion for creating and developing concepts. She also had a passion for travel and food. During a stint at BCG in Zurich, Serena realised that those two passions could be united to address what she assessed to be a significant problem in Switzerland  – a lack of restaurant variety and uninteresting customer experience at most restaurants of that time. She decided to do something about it.

I think this message resonated with all of us. It is easy to fall into the trap, often neatly camouflaged by societal norms, of believing that in order to pursue our passions, we must first pay dues in the form of a reliable job that we may not like. We are here at IMD precisely because we do not intend to fall into that trap.

Do what you love, even if it’s not quite where you expected

Serena admitted that opening a restaurant was not the exact entrepreneurial endeavour she had imagined when thinking where to apply her passion for concept development, but the landscape of the Swiss restaurant market offered a problem that needed solving. This was also a major lesson for us in understanding entrepreneurship: Opportunities may present themselves in forms and places that you never expect, but you nevertheless have the ability to recognise and take advantage of them. Serena believed that her love of travel and international upbringing placed her perfectly for designing small international plates that would allow her customers not simply to consume food, but to discover it. She had gathered evidence from her network in Switzerland that there was a real desire and need for a restaurant format like this and she decided to make it a reality. I, for one, am glad she did…

Starting a business is not hard work, it’s really hard work

After finalising her concept and developing a working financial model for Eat Me, it took Serena two years to find a location. Rather a long time. Over the period Serena learned to become a hardened negotiator and not to let emotion get the better of her logic in pressured situations. Any would-be entrepreneurs would be wise to heed that lesson, for it is in the most highly charged emotional situations that the biggest mistakes are made.

It took two years to find a location, because it took that long to find a price that made sense. Serena might easily have succumbed to a desire to get going and have paid whatever, but I suspect we wouldn’t have heard from her during our lecture if she had. The dedication required to keep going and stay committed to her vision, despite setback after setback, is awe inspiring.

Serena also shared that, after finding a location in Lausanne and successfully opening Eat Me, she worked 9am to 4am, 7 days a week for a year or so. Creating something is difficult, very difficult, and it requires courage and unparalleled work ethic. Anyone who might have believed in the popular portrayal of entrepreneurship as a teenager creating an app in his bedroom and selling it to Google for $30m a couple of months later would have been rudely awoken by the reality described by Serena that entrepreneurship is about being all-in all of the time and taking knocks on the chin as they come…and they will come.

You need support

Everyone needs the support of those close to them, especially entrepreneurs! Eat Me was the creation of both Serena and Mark. Indeed Mark has now joined Eat Me full-time, having supported Serena and helped build the business hitherto while working a demanding job as an executive. This part of the story of Eat Me resonated strongly, for arguably without Mark’s support over the years, Serena would not have been able to become the entrepreneur she has and we wouldn’t have Eat Me. I think the wider point is that people around entrepreneurs and the support networks entrepreneurs have are often overlooked in popular accounts. We all need support to have courage. Mark and Serena now run Eat Me together, which is in itself an admirable feat for a married couple (I’m not sure I could work with my wife…!).

We are deeply grateful to Serena and Mark for sharing their story with us and imparting just some of the passion and dedication required to create a business. This was a fascinating introduction to entrepreneurship and, looking ahead, our start-up projects will be kicking off imminently. The 90 of us are looking forward to getting stuck in.

Mark, Serena and Professor Benoit Leleux

For anyone in Lausanne or Geneva, my advice would be try out this place called Eat Me.

Richard Pickering, British, MBA Candidate 2019

Innovation comes to pharma!

ICP’s are up and running and all my classmates have been traveling around the world or into the dungeons to deliver their projects. My teammates and I have been tasked with helping a pharma company bring business model innovation to the market.

WhatsApp Image 2018-10-23 at 21.17.37(1)
My lovely teammates and our faculty coach, from left to right Oriane, Jaime, Goutam, me, Irina and Roy

During the last 5 weeks we have been located at our clients headquarters, discovering pharmaceutical industry from the inside and learning about the peculiarities of our clients business and company culture.

Like most consulting projects ours started with tons of research and interviews, and developed through the delineation  of the deliverables.  Through this project we’ve had the opportunity of not only addressing a real business issue but also applying and seeing why all the concepts we learned this year such as scoping and stakeholder management matter so much. We’ve had a lot of fun together, supported each other through difficult times (try delivering a project while searching for a job) and kept developing our team working and leadership skills.

All in all this is a great learning opportunity and experience, that can only be rivaled by the happiness we have when we get to work from IMD every once in while and see again our classmates (and have wonderful IMD food).

Joyce

The Final day- Idea | Prototype | Pitch

Featured image: Team Misfits (Georg, Oriane, Muhammad Atif, Joyce, Rafa, Mohamed Jerad and I)

Innovation week was one of the unique elements that had attracted me to IMD last year. Building a prototype and bringing small innovations to healthcare is a very exciting idea on paper. What actually transpired was something so much more impactful. I will count this as one of the most memorable experiences I’ve had in the program so far. Of course, the way the week was structured, the gravity of the challenge and the competitiveness in the MBA group were all essential elements for meaningful impact. But what actually made this week so special was the team that I was working with. Theoretically, diverse teams lie on either extremes of the bell curve in terms of outcome. Luckily for us, we were on the right side of the curve and by the end of week had converted a viable solution into one of the best prototypes in the challenge.

We started the week on a high note by winning the Innovation video challenge. Our prize was to be filmed by dedicated camera crew for the entire week. This easy win brought the team together well and we also welcomed two new team mates- Georg from ecal and Mohamed Jerad from EPFL. We spent the early part of the week gathering information from the field and tapping into as many sources of ideas as possible. And then we began a rather efficient process of elimination and aggregation ending up with one narrow problem in the healthcare universe to concentrate upon.

Design_innovation

Stage 2 was all about prototypes. We again did some efficient brainstorming on various mechanisms to build a device that can help the elderly stand up. Some of the ideas were out of the ordinary and some were straight up DIY level. Considering the time constraints involved in building such a product, we chose the simplest mechanism of all, a combination of a spring mechanism and inflation by air to build a cushion that could support the elderly to sit and standup.

Stage 3 was the pitch. We went for an emotional pitch to state the problem that we had intended to solve. Not surprisingly, almost all of the teams went for the same structure in their pitches. There were some brilliant ideas and brilliant prototypes all around and it was impressive to see what the class of 90 could bring to the table in one week of madness. In the end my team was satisfied with our clarity of storytelling and the strength of our product.

pitching

There have been some major learnings from the week. Especially as to how teams need to function to deliver innovation. The obvious ingredient for success is the diversity in a team. We were able to throw up different ideas and solutions only because of the diversity of thinking that we had in the room. The other ingredient that we were fortunate to have in the team was a sense of shared leadership. Everyone led in various dimensions either pushing ad campaigns or finishing the prototype or pitching the product or building the deck or creating defining videos. We had an extremely enjoyable experience and thanks to IMD, Cyril Bouquet and Peter Vogel for creating this fantastic one week experience. This taught us more than we could ever have gained from classroom lectures.

Until next time….

lego_parthMy very own personalized lego: souvenirs from the innovation week

Parth

Day 5 – Innovation Challenge

The entrepreneurial rollercoaster is on, and we start to enjoy the ride. It is day five in the IMD Innovation Challenge and our master coach made it clear that we are passing through the informed optimism phase, an excellent place to be. This week has been a constant spin of ups and downs, it started with the great excitement of an idea, it passed from the hard crisis of a reality check, to when we critically readdressed our project towards a new and unexpected dimension. Continue reading “Day 5 – Innovation Challenge”

Day 3 – Ideate: be wild, weird, absurd!

20180425_093001
Peter Vogel, Professor of Family Business and Entrepreneurship
Debiopharm Chair of Family Philanthropy

On the first two days of the challenge, my colleagues and I had met new team mates, explored the healthcare scenario in Lausanne and finally found a problem we wanted to solve. So, day three took us to ideation stage. In a single day we had to come up with a solution for a problem we were passionate about, for Team Misfits (us!) that was helping elderly people to have more autonomy and move more freely. And if the two first days were all blue skies, making friends and exploring, day three is where things go crazy.

Even though we had known each other for a few months, the time constraint of this project put a lot of pressure on the team. And we also needed to onboard our new team mates Georg Foster, a designer from écal and Mohamed Jerad, our very own physicist from EPFL. As IMD’ers we were already used to the idea of pushing the team, giving loads of feedback and working like hell. But how were they gonna see it? How can we achieve the goal of the week and still be sensitive to their needs and motivations?

During our day we were all trying to come up with as many possible solutions as possible, no matter how absurd they were, the idea is to stimulate creativity, and avoid idea killing. Judging is forbidden! Expressions like “yes, but” and “that doesn’t make sense” are banned… So we had the funniest, weirdest mobility solutions: like the suction grip,  the spring cane and the booty hammock, my personal favorite, just because I like the name.

Building a solution for a problem is a messy process, you bring a bunch of smart people together and ask them to come up with absurd, weird and out of the box ideas. And maybe out of all or of a combination of some them you may end up with a good solution. The problem is, this process requires letting go of the fear of looking stupid, of the fear of failing, of the fear of being wrong. And when you finally find that sparkling, elegant life changing idea you discover either one of two things: someone did it before or it has some major flaws and it is not life changing after all.

I learned that innovation requires a good deal of resilience because at this point I was frustrated, tired and I started to question myself. Is this the right solution? Is this a good model? Does this problem even matter? So what you do is you gather some courage and a lot of humility and you ask for help and guidance (thank you Eric, for coming to our rescue!).

Truth is, coming up with innovation is messy, crazy and sometimes frustrating. And that’s how it is supposed to be, ideas need to collide before they can build upon each other. People need to fail in order to learn and succeed…
Well at least that’s what we are told by Cyril Bouquet and Peter Vogel, our professors for this madness challenge.

Joyce

LinkedIn