While studying at UT Dallas, Leezen Amatya BS’15, Daniel Flores BS’15, and Thang Duong BS’15 began selling Nepalese dumplings (called ‘momos’) at pop-up events throughout Dallas. In 2018, they took a leap and pitched their food concept in the finals of the Big Idea Competition – they were a hit. We met up with Leezen recently to see what the crew has been up to.
What has team momo been up to since competing in the 2018 Big Idea Competition?
The Big Idea Competition really opened the doors to our big dream – becoming a national brand. Since the competition, we were able to streamline our pop-up operations, started our direct-to-consumer eCommerce store and got into our first retail store by winning Foxtrot’s Up & Comers competition!
Simultaneously, we have been focusing on three main categories to grow – the team, the brand and the production.
We understand that this is a marathon, not a sprint, so we put a strong emphasis on personal growth and team dynamic. The more each one of us grows as individuals, the stronger the team becomes.
The importance of brand is crucial to what we do. This involves storytelling, being vulnerable, sharing not only our wins but also our failures (lessons) and being authentic to who we are. The connection we create with our community means a lot to how we run our business.
Since momos are all handmade at the moment, we have been looking at different ways to operationalize production so we can crank out more momos. If we have more momos, we can serve more people and continue towards our big dream.
What was THE moment you knew you had something that people would consume?
I (Leezen) have been inadvertently testing the market ever since I moved to the US at the age of 10. Whether it was school or work, I would always take momos for lunch when our family would make them and share with my classmates and coworkers. They would always say that they had never heard of momos before but all it took was one bite. Once they had that first bite, they loved it. This translated to the Dallas Farmers Market when we first started this journey in 2017. We were able to test the concept with a broad variety of customers and when we saw their reactions from the first bite, we knew we had something special steaming.
How did your team deal with Covid? Any setbacks?
From the business perspective, Covid really helped us accelerate our CPG journey. For context, we started testing the frozen momo concept in Q4 2019 to see if people would be interested. Then when Covid hit, we were able to quickly launch our e-commerce store from the previous year’s experience and began selling frozen momos since in-person events were shut down. This helped us grow our brand and further our reach with more customers.
From a personal standpoint, Covid is a lot to process for probably all of us. 2020 was a tough year but with challenges comes growth so we’re thankful for the lessons.
What’s on the horizon for Momo Shack?
Team, brand and production. Our goal is to continue growing as individuals and as a team, increase our brand awareness by leveraging content, social and podcast (The Secret Sauce Podcast) and unlock production to get into more retail stores. Our focus will be a mix of pop-up events, B2B relationships and DTC model.