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Building a business in the city by the bay: Greenbox

Posted 1 week ago in Small business by Sarah Richards
Posted by Sarah Richards

In light of San Francisco Small Business Week, we’re highlighting one of the city’s 85,000 small businesses that make it a hub of ingenuity.

In a city synonymous with innovation, not just in technology, William Kasel and Megan Kistler couldn’t ask to be in a better place to run a small business. Partners both inside and outside of work, William and Megan own Greenbox. Greenbox is a purveyor of salads, smoothies and breakfast staples in San Francisco.

Their intent behind Greenbox is to make food that is natural and bright, using unique ingredients. William says it’s the open-minded nature of San Franciscans that makes it a great place to experiment with food.

“In San Francisco, people are forward-thinking both in technology and their palettes,” William explains. “When we use weird ingredients, people think that’s normal.”

At this cross-section of people who are willing to try new things, William and Megan have been able to build a bustling little food empire.

A couple of serial entrepreneurs

As a couple, Greenbox isn’t Megan and William’s first entrepreneurial endeavor. Food is their passion, and Megan says it’s been amazing to build a business out of that. With great local produce and amazing dining experiences on their doorstep, they’re able to bring all of this back to their business.

“We don’t like to manipulate food, we’re obsessed with going to the Farmer’s Market, finding new vegetables and appreciating the beauty of the produce that is naturally occurring,” Megan says.

“We want to make food that everyone can appreciate and we want there to be a food option for everyone.”

Megan works a 9 to 5 in corporate merchandising. She says it’s been really helpful to take her customer focus and apply it to Greenbox. Although, she half-jokingly admits she wasn’t getting a lot of sleep between her full time job and running the business in the early days.

William moved to the San Francisco Bay Area when he was 20 and quickly found himself immersed in the local tech scene. He started a software consulting company, building some of the first iPhone apps for tech giants like Genentech. It also served as a content management platform for mobile apps, a social media aggregation app and a corporate catering company.

Or as Megan describes it, “he taught himself to code and he taught himself to cook.”

Running a food startup with good, clean books

In starting and winding down their catering company, William says they learned a lot about how and how not to scale a food startup. One of those lessons being a food business is different to a software business.

“You can throw VC-style money behind something, but it doesn’t mean you solve a problem,” William says.

“You have to run a real business and part of that is keeping clean books.”

William says they use Xero to ensure that they have an updated, real-time understanding. So they know where their business is financially, down to the cent.

William says Xero’s integration with Square has been great for them, giving them the insights that wouldn’t normally be available to small businesses.

“You don’t have to be a software developer or founder when you’re building a company to do the things that really benefit you, you can plug and play,” William says.

At the moment they’re managing their daily activities, working with a virtual CFO quarterly. Megan says as an owner of a new business without a robust accounting background, the ability to work with an accountant every so often and do the rest themselves is one of the big advantages of Xero.

Looking forward, Megan and William have plans to open a third location. William has plans to build out an integrated suite of applications. This will allow customers to track the sourcing and nutritional value of their ingredients. William has even considered rolling out self-serve fridges where customers can place their order via iPad. They can’t think of a better place to test such an ambitious move than San Francisco!

William jokes, “Elon Musk is building an autonomous car, we want to build an autonomous business.”

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