After discovering that skipping breakfast was a common trend among college students, Christophe Gerlach ’20 and Pedro Bobrow ’20 co-founded Suna Breakfast, with the hope that their start-up will encourage more students to start their days with a healthy meal by having the food delivered to their doorsteps.
“It’s just become a normal thing for college students, to kind of either skip breakfast in the morning or grab something really quick because all the options out there are too inconvenient to make it worth all the hassle,” Gerlach told The Sun.
Orders must be placed the night before on the Suna Breakfast app, and customers select a 5 minute delivery window for the food to arrive the next morning. Gerlach said that this model is ideal for college students because they know exactly what time they will be waking up and leaving in the morning. Additionally, since orders are taken the night before, they can map out the route in advance and fulfill a multitude of orders with each trip, unlike the traditional delivery system.
Bobrow, who is originally from Brazil, explained that the name “Suna” is Portuguese slang for “have it easy,” emphasizing the convenience of their service. The idea for the company came about during a lunchtime conversation between Gerlach and Bobrow, who met in the fall of their sophomore year after having many classes together.
“We would fantasize about where there were inefficiencies at Cornell or where we could create a business model and also help Cornell students in their day-to-day lives,” Gerlach said.
Both were student athletes – Gerlach on the soccer team and Bobrow on the sprint football team – and realized they often ate inadequate breakfasts due to the lack of available options.
“At best, I would grab a Cliff bar and run to class in the morning because I would always set my alarm for the last minute,” Gerlach recounted.
After coming up with the idea, Bobrow said that they interviewed over 500 people to see if there was a common need, and found that 76% of the people interviewed said they were “dissatisfied with their morning routine.”
They then ran two pilot programs, one in the Schuyler dorm and one on College Avenue, to test the viability of their idea.
“Basically after we had the idea, we were like ‘I guess the only way to see if this will be legit or not is if we try it’ and we literally went door-to-door and accepted money with Venmo and we made all the food ourselves,” Gerlach said.
Since then, they have become legally incorporated, gotten health permits, made an app and have partnered with the Lincoln Street Diner to help them provide the food.
“The thing is these local diners see very little revenue Monday through Friday from 6 – 10 a.m. because most of their potential customers are either on their way to work or on their way to class so they’re willing to let us share their kitchens to make our own food and sell us their hot items at discounted prices,” Gerlach explained.
The company will be launching this upcoming Monday, hopefully followed by a larger launch to all of Cornell in August, according to Bobrow. They have expanded their team to about 16 Cornell undergraduates and 12 delivery drivers. Bobrow is leading the team in Ithaca this summer as part of Cornell’s LCL Incubator, which gave them $3,000 in exchange for 1% equity.
“From a business perspective, our biggest problem is changing consumer behavior,” Gerlach said. “Right now, a lot of people just skip breakfast, so it’s hard to convince people to start spending money on something they currently don’t.”
To address this challenge, they plan to emphasize the many health benefits of eating breakfast everyday – including decreased stress, increased concentration and regulated metabolism – and said that their main goal was not to make a huge profit.
“Especially at first, we’re not really trying to make a huge profit, we’re just trying to convince people to try this new system where they go on their phone and place an order the night before to be dropped off in a brief window in the morning,” Gerlach said. “It’s like a new concept, so we’re trying to keep prices low. It’s healthy food, it’s really affordable and it’s very, very convenient.”
Furthermore, the company used the money it raised by selling t-shirts to donate over 200 free breakfasts to homeless people in Ithaca last week, which Gerlach said is part of their “overarching philosophy [of] doing well by doing good.”
Mayor Svante Myrick was present at this event, and provided encouragement to Gerlach and Bobrow.
“The reason why the mayor really, really was on top of this initiative was because he was actually homeless himself growing up,” Bobrow said. “He really understands how many homeless people there are in Ithaca, and when living in Cornell, it’s this big bubble where we don’t see anything outside of this.”
Looking to the future, Gerlach and Bobrow’s goals are to prove their business model and potentially expand to other colleges.
“All the really successful companies, you use their name as a verb too – Google something, Uber somewhere or Venmo [someone] – so we hope people will ‘Suna’ on a recurring basis,” Gerlach said.