Customized Culinary Experiences and Tours, A Self-Funded VA Company Continues to Grow

 

We recently spoke with the founder of The FTC4Lobe Group. The company has grown from a food tour to a multi-layered company offering tours and events team building with a culinary focus.

 

Essentials

Company Name

The FTC4Lobe Group

Founding team

Jeff Swedarsky

Investors and total raised

0$ Bootstrap and self funded, and profitable by year at three

Location

HQ- old town Alexandria, Virginia (4 miles outside national mall)

Employee Count

85

 

The Exception Interview

How would you describe your company and its product to someone who has never heard of it?

We offer tours, events team building with a culinary focus. Our offerings include walking food tours in 27 cities are on the United States, customize diner rounds, iron Chef style culinary challenges, cooking classes, unique team building events, destination management.

How did you come up with the idea for your company? How did you validate the concept early on?

I started originally the company as a food tour in Alexandria, as it was where I lived. I have traveled the world extensively, living in some places, and visiting others. I love how food and drinks are embedded in different cultures. I’m fascinated by architecture, and intrigued by history. I had finished a dual MBA/MS program between Purdue University and University of Hanover in Germany (also GISMA) I knew at some point I had to come back to the United States. I took a government job initially to enable me to bootstrap whatever company I would do if I was working at night, on weekends, and whenever I had to get the job done. I wanted to put together something where all the things I enjoyed into one cohesive product. I read an article on something called a food tour, and I use the brand recognition, and figured it out for myself as to what I wanted.

What does your ideal customer look like?

They are interested in the culture of an area. They love to eat and drink. They spend money, but expect a great product and experience.

Where would you like to see your company in 5 years?

I hope for continued expansion like I said throughout the United States, the Americas, and beyond.

I would like to see they separate entities 4Lobe events (www.4lobe.com), welcomeDMC (www.welcomedmc.com),even our high end food tours at FTC Dine (www.ftcdine.com) expand in their own right, as we develop more food tour companies, establish great partnerships, and help make this into a sustainable and long-term piece of the tourism puzzle and offer another great option for events, team-building, destination management, etc,

What broader trends are driving interest in the food tech sector?

People know more about where they’re going, and what they want before they even get there. There is then a focus on getting the right stuff and having the right experience rather than just finding the right place. Things like reviews will continue to drive the interest of potential guests .

What excites you personally about working in food tech?

It’s always evolving. There are things that you can do to reach wider audience is, to find one dishes and people that share an interest or could be a potential part of your target market. Plus I love food and tech.

Do you believe your city and state supports its food tech startups?

We have had a lot of support and many of the cities in which we work. From grants to funding FAM trips to marketing to help in anyway they can. When we are promoted, they promote their city at the same time which is a big win win.

What other companies or founders do you follow for inspiration or advice?

Ted Leonsis is a mentor who inspires me to grow and be the best I can. Mark Cuban is in a similar category but I do not know him yet. Both men helped inspire me especially as I bootstrap my company working full-time and building things at the same time

What words of wisdom would you like to share with the next generation of food tech CEOs?

Make sure you find an area that you absolutely love and go for it. Also it’s not always about the money but about creating something special. The money will follow.

What are the biggest risks for your business in 2017?

Apathy and complacency. These are risks that we have, as we never want to rest on our laurels. We can always be better, stronger, smarter.

Photo courtesy of The FTC4Lobe Group

Email editor [at] exceptionmag.com if you operate a food tech startup and would like to be profiled.