College isn't for everyone. For some people, finding their passion and using it as a springboard to building a business is what works best. Take Steve Jobs. He dropped out of college and his name will always be synonymous with Apple. Then there's Oprah. She dropped out of college and became, well… Oprah.
And there's David Cabello. His name may not be as well know yet, but give him time. After dropping out of college two years ago, he founded Black and Mobile — the first Black-owned food delivery service for Black-owned restaurants. The Philadelphia-based business is not just thriving, it's booming.
"I was delivering for Caviar (food delivery service) and I made $1,100 in 30 hours of work on a bike," said Cabello in an email interview with FastCasual. "I thought I could start the same business, but tailor it to Black-owned restaurants. There were very few Black-owned restaurants on Caviar or other services and I wanted to highlight them exclusively."
What's also different about Black Mobile, which charges a 20% fee, is that instead of simply offering customers a list of restaurants in which to choose, the app lists menu options by "cultures," including Halal, American, Deli, Pizza, Dessert, Jamaican and Soul Food, for example.
Cabello brought his twin brother, Aaron, on board to help with the business, and together they went to work to find Black-owned restaurants that would fit into the company's business model. To find the restaurants, Cabello searched Black-owned directories, Google maps, Instagram and kept his eyes open for any new restaurants in town that, according to Cabello, were "flying under the radar."
The app, which has a blog, a signup for restaurants and an application for those who wish to be drivers or delivery coordinators, also includes a merchandising section with Black and Mobile T-shirts, sweatshirts and delivery bags.
Off to a rocky start
Cabello launched the company in 2019, during Black History Month, but despite his drive and ambition, the company got off to a rocky start.
"2019 was rough," said Cabello. "We closed down for a few months after I got hit by a car, but we did get to $25K in revenue."
Determined to make the business a success, Cabello got back on the bike and the first two months of 2020 showed marked improvement in sales.
"(Within the first two months) we already beat our sales from the previous year," said Cabello.
By the end of the year, Cabello's company boasted $500k in revenue, a record he plans to break by the end of 2021. The company also received substantial media coverage.
Helping bring awareness of Black-owned businesses
In 2020, there were also two unrelated events that would unintentionally help the struggling company gain momentum and focus on helping underrepresented businesses in urban communities.
When the coronavirus pandemic shut down the country, it forced restaurants to suspend indoor dining and offer customers delivery or take-out options. In some cases, restaurants weren't prepared for doing delivery and reached out to Black and Mobile for help. The company's client list began to grow.
And as the country grappled with the pandemic, the death of George Floyd sparked Black Lives Matter protests across the country, and the brothers realized they could help bring awareness to Black-owned businesses through social media, articles and word-of-mouth. The company was also providing jobs and revenue in areas struggling with unemployment due to the pandemic.
"We also helped give underrepresented businesses exposure (through its online app) helped the dollar circulate and help customers save money because we are cheaper than the competition," said Cabello, who isn't trying to compete with bigger third-party brands like DoorDash and Uber.
"We are just focused on building our brand and our technology," he said. "The advantage we have is by focusing on a specific niche, which has helped us gain popularity and helped our community."
Being part of something from the ground up
Keenya Wiggens, the owner of Shugar Shack Soul Food in Glenolden, Pennsylvania, who has used Black & Mobile since it launched in her area, loves supporting the company.
"Being part of something from the ground up is just wonderful," said Wiggens, who was also impressed with how the company dealt with customer service issues.
"I just love dealing with them," she said. "Whatever questions I have they talk with me personally. A lot of companies don't do that. I'd like to see them expand to as many cities as possible and I plan to stay with them as long as I can. It's been a great experience," said Wiggens.
As more restaurants signed up with Black and Mobile, the company reached out to software company, Onfleet, to help expand delivery service.
"Before Onfleet, we just called the order into the restaurant, sent the driver the pickup location and the customer name, address and phone number via text," Cabello said. " I was so excited when I found Onfleet because I was set on making 'my own Onfleet,' since I did not think anything like that existed. Once I discovered (the software company), I read every single link in the help center, did a free trial, and built my business up so it could pay for the service. It had everything I needed from dispatching to the driver app, which was the biggest help."
With Onfleet, the company's delivery service expanded into Baltimore, Detroit, Atlanta and further into Pennsylvania.
The next step for Cabello is to expand to Los Angeles, Houston, Washington D.C. and NYC/Brooklyn.
Despite his big plans, he still continues to highlight the communities he serves and bring recognition to the underserved. This year, two years after celebrating Black History Month with the launch of Black and Mobile, Cabello was excited to launch new ways to honor those who helped build industry throughout the country.
"We are highlighting Black men and women from the past and present that have made major contributions to the food industry and to our community as a whole. We are also highlighting all of the partnered restaurants on social media," said Cabello.