Sramana: Zalmi, let’s start with your personal story. Where are you from?
Zalmi Duchman: I was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1980. My parents moved to Miami Beach before I turned a year old, so I pretty much grew up there. I went to an Orthodox Jewish high school in L.A. at 14. I was in a dorm from ninth grade on and my roommate there, Yosef Schwartz, is actually my business partner and the executive chef of Fresh Diet.
As a kid, I was always into selling things. I sold anything. I sold candy in school, and in high school I was always involved with fundraisers. I was also really fascinated with the Internet. I had gone to a friend’s house for Passover when I was 13, and they had Prodigy. I found it fascinating to see all the sports scores on the computer.
I started working right out of high school. When I was 18, I moved to New York to work for WorldSpy, which was an Internet startup that spied on the prices of products throughout the world. It was somewhat similar to what PriceGrabber is today, except that they would source and stock the merchandise. I started there as an online researcher. I would browse other sites to see what they were charging for merchandise. I worked there for a year and a half before I realized that WorldSpy was not going anywhere.
I quit and started taking Web development classes like HTML and Photoshop. After I finished those courses I was 21, and I moved back to LA. I went to work for Crescent Heights, a condo developer. I went to work for them because they bought the building of an Internet company that had gone out of business. They had kiosk-type computers throughout the building as well as other types of equipment. I was allowed to sell it all on eBay.
Over the next few years I started taking care of the travel for the company, using Priceline once I heard that they were paying $800 for trips to Miami. The company had 500 employees, and I handled all of the travel. I was able to work my way into the company using technology. Eventually they moved me to Miami because that is where the boom was happening. When I was in Miami I started getting into mortgages and did not work with computer technology much.
I really enjoyed working with technology and when I was sitting at the real estate desk I found out how much I missed it. That is when I decided to call Yosef and tell him about a company in L.A. that made meals for people and delivered them to their homes. I knew that the real estate boom was about over. and I thought that perhaps we could take that same idea to Miami, perhaps by offering a kosher menu to cater to the Jewish community. When I did a Google search I was not able to find any other companies offering a similar service in Florida, so I said “Hey, forget kosher, let’s just do this in Florida!”