Finesse Grocery was originally a student-run painting company (Finesse Finish Painters Inc), but when the pandemic hit, many of their contracts were delayed and postponed. To keep business alive, co-founder, Vincent Nguyen repurposed the company, and thus, Finesse Grocery was born. Finesse Grocery is a a grocery delivery company, whose proceeds help supplement discounts on groceries for seniors and people with disabilities. In this interview with Ownr, Vincent shares his inspiring business story, and how a temporary pivot, amidst a challenging and uncertain time for small businesses, resulted in the success of a service becoming a core part of his business.
Tell us about yourself and how your journey as an entrepreneur began.
Vincent: I am an entrepreneur and a life-long student currently working towards getting into medical school. Though I am pursuing a medical career, I have always wanted to build my own company since I was in high school. That is why I started a painting franchise during the second year of my engineering degree. It was here that I learned the difficulties and rewards associated with entrepreneurship. After graduating, I began my master’s degree and decided to create my own painting company instead of running a franchise. The business helped me pay for my master’s program and will hopefully be enough to pay for medical school.
Give us some background on Finesse Grocery and what your business does.
Vincent: As I mentioned earlier, my company was originally a painting business. We do commercial and residential painting as well as wood staining (we are still operational). With that being said, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the majority of our contracts have been pushed back and delayed. As such we are now in the grocery delivery & personal shopping business. We provide grocery stores with delivery solutions such as on-demand drivers and also offer personal shoppers for customers looking to get groceries at different stores.
With the developments of COVID-19, you’ve been able to pivot your business and adapt to these changing times to better serve consumers. Tell us about how you did it.
Vincent: We completely repurposed our business during the COVID-19 pandemic. Knowing that most of our painting contracts would be delayed, we scrambled to find work for our employees. One afternoon after having difficulties getting groceries delivered, I thought, “why not help out other people with this problem AND keep my employees working?”
That night I quickly created a page on the painting website offering grocery delivery services and posted a few ads to test out the demand. The next morning my phone was blowing up with calls and emails from people inquiring about our services. Eventually, we decided to create a completely separate website for the grocery delivery service and created a business plan to make grocery delivery a sustainable, core part of our business instead of just a temporary solution.
Take us back to the beginning. What first inspired you to become an entrepreneur?
Vincent: I confirmed that entrepreneurship was the path for me after working for a government company full of bureaucracy and red-tape. I never realized how much I valued autonomy until I was without it. Entrepreneurship on the other hand gave me the ability to be creative and make things happen without the inertia. Whether the outcomes were good or bad, I could live with them because they were my own decisions.
What are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned in both starting, and then pivoting your business?
Vincent: The biggest lesson I learned was to act quickly and not get comfortable. The amount of times that we had to change our process and game plan in the past 2 months has been the cause of many headaches. Every time we think that our process is solid and that we can just coast, something pops up causing us to change our game plan. For example, we were only planning to be personal shoppers but offer delivery solutions for grocery stores. With the social landscape changing so quickly, if we fail to adapt fast enough, we will lose to the competition. Be open to new ideas and ready for change!
What is the most rewarding aspect of running your business since you first launched?
Vincent: The most rewarding aspects of running a business are the thrill and excitement of seeing how the business grows and evolves. Even though you have a vision for your business, it is inevitably affected by the current social landscape. As such, the business grows but not in the way that you thought. The fun is trying to adapt and work with the realities of the business so that you can achieve your vision. It also feels good to help people and receive emails from happy customers!
Do you have any future plans for Finesse Grocery that you’d like to share?
Vincent: After seeing how businesses are struggling after being shut down for 2 months, I believe it is increasingly important to have both a physical and electronic presence for a business. As such, we will continue to improve our use of technology and perhaps in the future start an online grocery platform. The main focus right now is to make our system more user-friendly and increase our collaborations with local businesses.