Meet Lily Wolfe: alumnus, foodtrepreneur who delivers Trader Joe’s right to your dormstep
For university students, a long day of Zoom lectures and scrolling through Instagram leaves a hole that only creamy cauliflower jalapeno dip from the beloved niche grocery store Trader Joe’s can fill. Woefully, the closest location is about 30 minutes away, which is a trek for many students, especially for those without a mode of transportation.
With a limited amount of options available for delicious and affordable food, Lily Wolfe knew that there had to be some way to give Blue Hens their fix.
A recent university graduate, entrepreneur and self-proclaimed foodie, Wolfe has always had an appetite for new ideas. Her latest innovation: delivering Trader Joe’s groceries to students across Newark each week for a small service fee.
After returning from long shopping trips herself, Wolfe realized Trader Joe’s was a fan favorite with her roommates. It became more apparent when she shared Trader Joe’s tidbits on her personal Instagram story, grabbing attention from her followers.
“I was like, ‘Wow, there’s so much hype over this!’ and I wasn’t the only one,” Wolfe said.
The idea struck while she was studying entrepreneurship abroad in Australia, and Wolfe started up her new company when she returned for her last semester. Simply called “UDel x Trader Joe’s,” she uses her Instagram platform to acquire new followers using the Location feature on the app.
The coronavirus pandemic helped Wolfe develop a loyal following of customers who looked forward to receiving their Trader Joe’s each week.
Erica Gimpel, a senior, first heard of Wolfe’s new service pre-pandemic through a friend in her sorority. After a failed attempt using another grocery delivery app for another store, Gimpel began using the service when she was quarantining off-campus, and coronavirus was at its peak in Delaware.
“Trader Joe’s doesn’t have [their own delivery app],” Gimpel said. “And even if they did, I’m just happy to support another student.”
Besides mentioning convenience and accessibility, Gimpel also noted the importance of having a personal connection with other students on campus, especially during a turbulent time.
“If [Trader Joe’s] ran out of something [I wanted], she would text me personally,” Gimpel said. “I just knew it was more of a personal connection than if I texted [a stranger] over an app.”
Wolfe is no beginner when it comes to business, however. As well as earning her degree in entrepreneurship with a concentration in health and wellness, she began her business ventures early in her college career. As a 2018 summer sales intern at Forto, an organic coffee company, she began to see a clear discrepancy between men and women in the food and beverage industry.
“I noticed that the industry is so male-dominated,” Wolfe said. “I would go into sales meetings and I’d be the only female in the room. Or, I’d be selling all day long, pitching to stores with male managers. There seemed to be such a disconnect, where were all the females in this space?”
That fall semester, she took the “Startup eXperience” course where she put her ideas into action and introduced “Munchbox” to the world: A snack subscription box company curated with snack foods made by female entrepreneurs, along with “#GirlBoss” inspiration cards. Wolfe’s company led her to success, even becoming a finalist “Roo Crew Fellow” of the Aussie Business Plan Competition.
However, her involvement with Munchbox raised another problem to solve.
“I realized there was also a lack of community amongst the female [entrepreneurs I spoke to],” Wolfe said. “They weren’t talking to each other.”
This evolved into establishing the Female Food Foundry, a safe, online community where female entrepreneurs in the food space can meet and share their expertise. After launching over a month ago, the Female Food Foundry now has over 400 active members.
Wolfe gave one last word of advice to current university students.
“While you’re at UD, it would be a great time to start a business, because you have so many people around you who are facing the same problems you are,” she said. “Take advantage of it.”
For more information on Lily’s Trader Joe’s delivery service, visit her Instagram page.