Trey Rudolph, a rising junior at WashU studying computer science and business, is the co-founder of FreeEats. FreeEats is a free food sharing app that is available on Android and iOS, with the aim to reduce food waste on WashU’s campus.
During his first year at WashU, Trey noticed there was often excess food at campus events and extracurricular activities, which would result in free, leftover food being thrown in the trash. Thus, Trey and his fellow co-founder Elijah Olasunkami began to brainstorm ideas for a mobile app that would streamline real-time information to students about where free food exists on campus, ultimately reducing food waste on WashU’s campus. Trey and Elijah continued their work into the summer, and branded their app “FreeEats” for a Microsoft Hackathon project they hosted, further developing FreeEats to a usable MVP stage and conducting beta tests on campus with around 120 student testers. After their initial test run, the app received overall positive feedback, resulting in the release of the app on Google Play and the App Store.
In terms of the next steps for FreeEats, Rudolph is aiming to market the app to students at WashU through various grassroots marketing strategies, which includes tapping into WashU’s student networks, partnering with club leaders on campus, organizing short giveaway campaigns, and advertising on campus. Rudolph says that the FreeEats team has set benchmarks for how many downloads they would like to achieve, until the app has received a critical mass of users that allows the app to successfully carry out its mission of reducing food waste.
When asked about what he loves most about being an entrepreneur, Rudolph said that his favorite aspect is the “constant trek into the unknown.” While many entrepreneurs may be wary of the risk that is prevalent in every venture, Rudolph says that he personally loves leaning into risk and the unknown as the “journey of trying to wade through a new environment and overcome unexpected obstacles is the most exhilarating part of forming a new venture.”
One piece of advice that Rudolph wants future entrepreneurs to have is to create a low-stakes prototype of the product or service your venture is centered around. Rudolph emphasizes that feedback is critical at every stage of a venture, so it is important to seek it out early to avoid creating a product or service that may ultimately be something people do not want or need. Through his work with FreeEats, Rudolph has learned that any individual idea must be validated with actual usage by the end customer. With even just a brochure that outlines the basics of the business idea, aspiring entrepreneurs can quickly begin to receive customer feedback from their network. Rudolph says that especially with mobile apps such as FreeEats, the end-user experience determines the entire future of the business. This has pushed him to prioritize creating a product that students at WashU will be eager to use, while not sacrificing the original mission of FreeEats.
In terms of advice for aspiring entrepreneurs at WashU, Rudolph recommends taking the Intro to Entrepreneurship class at Olin, as it offers important lessons on how to test and form a profitable business idea. He also recommends taking part in Engineer Test Kitchen, which he says is a great opportunity to create a technical solution for a real business need. This process of creating something when starting with nothing is a huge skill valuable for any entrepreneur, and has ultimately allowed Rudolph to get to where he is now with FreeEats.