New site brings local eats straight to doorsteps

USC students are often plagued by a dire craving for a burrito that obviously only Chipotle can satisfy. Sure, the location is just barely southeast of campus, but who has time to walk that far? 

Thanks to a new website by freshmen Chad Massura and Anthony Zhang, Envoy, which launched last Friday, hungry students no longer have to settle for the typical LA Café order. For just a $3 delivery fee, Envoy customers can enjoy Chick-fil-a, Chipotle and Panda Express at just the click of a button.

Upon joining the USC community, Zhang, a business administration major, and Massura, a business cinematic arts major, were determined to create a startup that would serve campus.

“When Anthony and I started rooming together last semester, we decided, ‘Okay, if we don’t come up with a really cool idea for a business, this year is a failure,’” Massura said. “We literally would chill in our room in New/North for countless nights just bouncing off ideas.”

Around November, the duo’s brainstorming finally paid off.

“We were just hanging out, sick of EVK food and nearby delivery and dying for some Chipotle,” Zhang said. “Wishing that they delivered, it hit us. We could do that, and the concept of Envoy was born.”

This project engrossed the two over winter break and by the time they returned for the spring semester, Envoy was well on its way. The two hosted an information session in January, publicized only through social media and word of mouth.

“It was great to see so many people on campus were interested in our idea,” Zhang said. “We only posted in Facebook groups like the ‘Class of 2017,’ and we left the info session with a ton of students interested in delivering for us.”

Envoy’s business model emulates that of the car service Uber to accommodate the hours of the students who would likely deliver food for the company. Deliverers create their own hours and only pick up jobs when they want to earn some money. The $3 delivery charge (plus tips) goes straight to those who deliver the food, while the founders earn a profit to maintain the company through commission earned in partnership with the restaurants. Massura and Zhang chose this kind of setup to offer students a flexible job that can work with any schedule.

“Though I joked earlier that this year is a failure if we didn’t come up with an idea, it’s slightly true,” Massura said. “Anthony and my main purpose in creating a business is to make a company that can help the USC community. Envoy offers both delicious food right at your door, and a convenient job for anyone to have, and we think that’s pretty profound.”

As of its launch on Friday, Envoy has had more than 35 deliverers sign up to work for the startup. Envoy decided to start small, delivering only to Marks Hall, Marks Tower, New/ North Residential College, Pardee Tower and Trojan Hall, and the two founders are using the first few days to test out demand and work out any kinks in its structure.

The response from customers was double what they had expected. Saturday night, Envoy posted a promising comment on its Facebook page: “Demand has been so off the charts during dinner, we’re pretty sure the kind folk at Chipotle, Chick-Fil-A and Panda Express know our names already.”

If this success continues, the duo have big plans for the future. Envoy plans on expanding its delivery services to more of the USC community to cover the entire University Park Campus,  including locations such as Lorenzo Student Apartments, The Row, University Gateway and West 27th University Place in the months to come. In addition, the company is reaching out to their current customers to see what other restaurants they want to see on the Envoy website.

Currently, Envoy only takes orders from its website, but the company is hoping to create an app that can improve service. Ideas on how to expand its business, such as delivery tracking similar to that of tracking Ubers, are also in the works. As for the future of Envoy, the founders hope to expand the app’s capabilities to “where a student can order exactly what they want from any restaurant on campus with a few simple taps, be able to track their food being prepared and delivered to them and not have to ever deal with cash or even credit cards during the entire process.”

For now, however, Massura and Zhang are taking in the initial success and planning the future of Envoy one-step at a time.

“The fact that an idea we’ve been talking about on our bunk in New North for months is now realized is so awesome,” Zhang said. “We have big hopes for Envoy, and the overwhelming support makes us hopeful for its future.”