Social Belly is an online community that helps Londoners find dinner parties hosted by other people. Founded by Dimple Lalwani (aged 24), the aim is to help Londoners meet new people and bond over mutual interests and home cooked food. Currently still in the Beta phase, Dimple shares her experience in launching Social Belly.
Can you tell us a bit about your education and your team?I’m originally Indian and born and brought up in Spain, Madrid of course ;) I graduated with a hospitality degree from Les Roches School of Hotel Management in Switzerland in December 2012 and I then moved to London to start work doing Revenue Management at Marriott International and now have over 4 years of experience in the hospitality industry. We’re a team of 5 at the moment, including myself, a CTO, a community builder, a marketing intern and a business development intern. We’re a successful team because we’re not stubbornly attached to our own ideas, and instead focus on making something great together. We’re all flexible and bring different skills to the table, however we all share the same passion, dedication and motivation towards Social Belly. We're all big foodies who found it hard to meet new people when we first moved to London.
What is social belly and how does it work?Social Belly is an online community for people to meet and chat with people with similar interests and enjoy an authentic home-made meal. Diners join a table in their local neighbourhood and enjoy interesting conversations. Whether you want to improve your social life or have just arrived to London, you may make friends or maybe more. Diners can search for meals on the website, check out the dinner party menus, concepts and check out who’s going. They will be able to view the attendees profiles and read a little bit about them before they meet in person. Once the diner finds the right meal, they will need to pay a minimum contribution towards the meal in order to confirm their seat at the table.
Where did this idea come from?My first months in London made me realise that meeting like-minded people and eating home-made food is a big challenge for some people in this crazy, cosmopolitan city. To meet new people, I started hosting small and intimate dinner parties in my home with friends and my one requirement was that they bring someone I didn’t know. I loved it. It was at this moment that the idea arose for Social Belly. I knew I wanted to build a c ommunity marketplace for people to list, discover and book unique dining experiences and meet like-minded people over a delicious home-made meal. [su_youtube url="https://youtu.be/mHDofO2bkxc"]
Why did you decide to start your own business?The truth is that I love food and I love to meet new people. I really want to make a difference and improve people's lives in some way. My goal is to make London a city where people feel at home, and can easily testify that there is a community feel in every neighbourhood.
How have you been funded?After I came up with the idea, I focused my efforts on market research. I wanted to gain proof of concept which is when I built a simple informational website using squarespace. I started doing some A/B testing and soon realised how interested Londoners were in attending and hosting dinner parties! In July 2014, I applied to the #GetStarted2014 startup competition hosted by Simpleweb in Bristol. Through this competition I won £50,000 worth of resources for Social Belly, including web development, web hosting and marketing and legal advice. Using these resources I built the beta website you can see today, which launched in March 2015.
What is your business model?Think Airbnb, but for food. We take a 10% host commission and an additional 5% guest transaction fee. As the community expands, we plan to curate featured meals and integrate Revenue Management to the food industry. Networks like ours can make money in a variety of ways and these are just a few we're exploring at the start.
How long did it take you to build this project?It’s difficult to say how long this has taken as the first 15 months I was working on Social Belly part time. I quit my full time job with Marriott Hotels in February 2016 and am now a full time entrepreneur. All I can say is that time has flown really quickly!
What has been the biggest challenge in building your start-up?
- Finding the right talent with the right skills at the right time depending on the product’s needs
- The consistency in taking user feedback and analysing strategies depending on our users needs. This one is much more of a constant challenge in all start-ups.