Disha Gulati Created an Online Food Marketplace to Support Local Culinary Talent and Amplify Their Stories

The CEO and founder of Here Here Market also wants to provide an easy way for consumers to discover these makers.

disha gulati of here here market
Photo: Courtesy of Here Here Market

Have you ever wondered how to turn your dreams of owning your own business into a reality? We can help. Each week, as part of our Self Made series, we showcase female entrepreneurs—as well as their quality, handmade goods—and share their best advice related to starting, maintaining, and growing your own business.

Here Here Market is an online destination where culinary talent and consumers meet. Before Disha Gulati, the CEO and founder, created the marketplace, she found her footing in the food space by heading up global analytics at Mondelez, one of the world's largest snacking companies. "I implemented systems to enable data-led customer growth and increase operational efficiencies," says Gulati. "I also spent a good part of my management consulting years supporting food and retail clients."

Although her career helped her grow towards her current role, her love for all things food stems from her upbringing in Dubai. "From a young age, I was influenced by various cultures and foods in the expat-rich city, as well as my family's deep ties in the culinary world,"says Gulati. "While my uncles owned and operated restaurants, my dad took the literary route to become a five-time published cookbook author (the self proclaimed 'Super Indian Cook')."

By the early 2000s, Gulati settled in Chicago and found herself in the middle of the city's food scene, trying all of the hidden gems and attending the openings of independent, chef-led restaurants. Together, these personal and professional experiences provided the framework for Here Here Market—where Gulati honors and amplifies diverse talent in the culinary world.

here here market female founders box
Courtesy of Here Here Market

Opening the Online Marketplace

Gulati and her co-founder, Nick Florek, founded Here Here Market in 2019 as a dining platform to help restaurants host large group experiences. "You can guess what comes next," she says—she worked with these eateries until the COVID-19 pandemic hit and forced her and her business partner to pivot. During this period, the business owners ideated Here Here Market to reconnect with food artisans and support their restaurant partners and chefs online.

"On a more practical level, I learned that each year, nearly 30,000 new brands are launched, yet 75 to 95% of those brands fail because the creators don't have the marketing, positioning, and distribution horsepower that big companies have—even though their product in many instances is more interesting and appealing to the consumer," says Gulati. "Even though nine in 10 consumers want to support small businesses, they lack convenient channels for discovery of and access to them."

Enter this restaurant-to-retail experience: The marketplace is a space for culinary creators to sell shelf-stable, packaged products and improve product ideation, development, and sales, so they can simply focus on making their quality goods.

Disha Gulati

As we share the products and stories of our creators with our audience, we like to think of ourselves as more than just a platform, but also as a cheerleader for these emerging brands.

— Disha Gulati

Developing the Business

Gulati says a few tried-and-true steps helped her get her business up and running—and they're worthwhile tips for aspiring entrepreneurs, too. "For starters, I identified the nucleus of the startup ecosystem in my city and worked towards becoming an active part of the community. I worked out of the incubation space, attended events, and scheduled coffee chats with other entrepreneurs who were further along in their journey," she says. "In doing so, not only did I build a peer network of advisors, but I also discovered a diverse set of resources that were either free or subsidized for early-stage entrepreneurs."

Gulati got one of her first big-break opportunities—she received seed capital to start Here Here Market—after meeting with her now strategic investor. From there, she talked with culinary creators to learn their career goals and how her market would be of service to them—and then officially launched Here Here Market's online platform in 2021.

here here market macha by chef rishi
Courtesy of Here Here Market

Creating Meaningful Partnerships

Each partnership Gulati and her team forge with culinary creators is designed to uplift them in the early stages of their business and diversify the food industry. "Over 60% of the culinary creators on identify as women, and we wanted to highlight how special that is, especially in the culinary industry that has long been dominated by white men," she says. Gulati knew that she wanted to achieve gender parity through her work, as well as provide a platform for people of color to thrive, as both women and minorities are most overlooked for funding.

She works with founders of brands like 8 Track Foods and Macha by Chef Rishi to do more than just list their products—their mission is to tell their stories. "Each order comes not only with the requested product, but also a write up about the creator and suggested ways to use the product," says Gulati. "As we share the products and stories of our creators with our audience, we like to think of ourselves as more than just a platform, but also as a cheerleader for these emerging brands."

What's Next

The aim for Here Here Market is to break down barriers in the food world for chef-preneurs. "We're proud to say we're already the largest platform for culinary creators within Illinois, but we are just getting started!" says Gulati. "Our primary goal is to be the largest marketplace for foodies and culinary creators across the United States, and perhaps even the world."

The business founder also wants to be the go-to one-stop shop for consumers to connect with culinary talent: Her team hopes to build a community-like experience through their products, content, metaverse, and in-person events.

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