Today we’d like to introduce you to Drew Aveling.
So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I never thought I’d be an online entrepreneur. The original plan when I left Australia at 17 was to attend Film School, become a director of photography and make movies – the classic LA cliché. I still love the lens. My happy place is exploring National Parks with my Fuji X-T1. After attending Film School at FSU, I sidetracked and moved to London. I ended up working for a Venture Capitalist. I missed film, so I moved to LA in 2002.
I’ve been fortunate to work for Dreamworks SKG, and for 11 years at Dreamworks Animation. Then life threw a curveball. During Christmas one year, my stepsister Paige was rushed to the hospital. She flatlined twice on the way and spent five days in a coma. The doctors didn’t know what was attacking her body, so they pumped her full of antibiotics to keep her alive. It turned out she had bacterial meningitis.
What no one knew, and it wasn’t the doctor’s fault, was that Paige was deathly allergic to three of the five drugs dripping into her body. To access her medical files, we had a friend break into her condo (different city, different state). When the doctor saw her allergy list, he bolted to her room and yanked the IV. Paige came out of the coma five days later. Had we not found the information, they told us she would have died or suffered permanent brain damage.
To pay our lesson forward, as I didn’t want any family to go through the same pain, I started Online Allergies with a friend. It was a free site that let people list and share allergy details with family members. While that concept didn’t work, per conversations with hundreds of moms, it led to Siitch, which we just launched.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Not at all! Every day brings a new challenge. There’s always something new to learn. A struggle when I started Online Allergies was teaching myself design and Photoshop. A struggle launching Siitch was ramping up my education in wire-framing/UI/UX/Product Dev and QA, and everything that goes into starting a company. Marketing strategies, brand management, product roadmaps… it’s endless.
One of the biggest struggles after deciding to pivot was finding a Co-Tech Founder. I really wanted a woman in the role, or at least a parent who understands what it’s like to organize an array of events. Parents come with key insights. They’ve had hundreds of conversations with other parents about their family’s collective food challenges, especially their children. I went to a ton of tech events and had many ‘dates’ trying to find that person. People were either too expensive or lacked the experience. I’m still looking for that person.
I’m in accelerator called Bixel Exchange downtown, which has been extremely helpful. You get a mentor and access to experts from many fields. I created a network of Supermoms to provide feedback on copy and design. They’re brutal, but they’re great.
We’d love to hear more about your business.
Siitch is a simple party tool, with many layers. It’s short for “situation.” It lets hosts send invitations and collect their guests’ diet needs in one easy step. Think Evite & Paperless Post, but food focused. It solves the problem for any event host who wants to know what their guests can and cannot eat. Whether it’s allergies, ethical, religious or other dietary needs, everyone has their situation.
If guests click GOING they simply check if they’re vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, kosher, listing allergies, etc. To help eliminate awkward conversations, they can also select “It’s complicated. I’ll bring my own food.” Hosts can also ask custom questions about food, or anything.
A fun example, a friend of mine is organizing a combined 40th birthday for her Navy mates. They’ve decided to go on a cruise, so one of their questions is, ‘Do we want to go to Alaska, Caribbean, or the Panama Canal?’ It helps people get in sync pre-event and avoid annoying email chains. People are loving the custom question feature.
The goal is to modernize the party experience. On a practical level, it helps folks save time and money. When you know quantities and other data, you can make accurate decisions. On a societal level, it helps reduce food waste. I’m a nature nerd. Everyone who has used it has saved money and bought less food. I’m super proud of that.
There are 800,000 birthdays every day in the US, let alone all the work events, weddings, and bridal showers. It makes me giddy knowing we can help people save money and keep food out of landfills. Less food in the landfill means less methane in the atmosphere, less plastic in the oceans… It’s all about solutions.
To that end, there are hundreds of recipe links on the blog. So if you find you have a vegan or gluten-free guest, there are recipes ready to go. Get your info, find solutions, get on with your life, and have fun doing it. That’s what Siitch is about.
What were you like growing up?
I was a pretty shy kid growing up — the studious, disciplined, read-a-lot-of-books type. I have an older brother, and we were unbelievably competitive. Whether it was baseball or backgammon – backgammon is a blood sport in my family – we hated to lose.
He was the gregarious extravert while I was the introvert. Tennis was a huge part of the teenage years. I was playing five times a day during the summer. Roger Federer is kind of my God.
- Under 20 people: $1 (first event free)
- 20-50 people: $3 (first event free)
- 51-100 people: $7 (first event free)
- 100+ people: $10
- We’re donating 10% to the L.A. Food Bank.
- Website: www.siitch.com
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org