Imagine this. You’re a mom of two toddlers under the age of three, have a full-time job in one of the largest software companies in the world and you decide you want more. Linh Ho had a passion and that passion turned itself into Omnummy, an app that connects home bakers with food enthusiasts. Need 3 dozen cake pops for a product launch? Or a Star Wars themed birthday cake and cookies for your five-year-old? Or do you need to bring a cheesecake to your friend’s potluck this weekend? Ho, a Canadian currently residing in the Seattle area and who is founder of Omnummy, has disrupted the baking industry with this app that’s a cross between Yelp and Etsy. Already with thousands of users across the US, Omnummy is starting to build its following in Canada, including Vancouver. The app is free on the AppStore. You can download it here.
The Vancouverite recently sat down with the Omnummy founder to learn more about the app and how she juggles a full-time day job, kids, and her own company this past year.
What is Omnummy? How did you come up with this idea?
The name comes from the Sesame Street character, Cookie Monster’s “om-num-num” when he’s chomping on his love of cookies. The idea and the concept came when I was on maternity leave, I had a hard time finding home made food, and while I love cooking I just didn’t have the time. I love home-baked goods - cakes, muffins, cupcakes, you name it - I’d rather buy from a home baker than go to the supermarket to get a cake. If you go to a supermarket today and you pick up any of the cakes, you look at the ingredients and you can’t even spell or pronounce any of the ingredients. So on my maternity leave, I decided to roll up my sleeves and created this app to help me find home bakers and cooks wherever I go. Today, we have a few thousand users and thousands of products available on the app across North America with the biggest concentration in LA and NY.
You must have been busy as a new mom. When you first started, was it just you or did you have partners to help?
I’m the founder, but I was extremely lucky to have a solid support system through friends and family.
When you first started, how did you get the word out to start building the Omnummy ecosystem?
Traditionally, the concept of buying from any home cook or home baker was through word of mouth. It’s taking that word of mouth concept online, and more importantly on mobile. The whole strategy with going mobile first was that people are using apps these days and less on desktops. And people have been downloading the app and joining the baking community just through word of mouth. There’s been very little invested in marketing. With the majority of folks on the app through word of mouth, it validates the whole concept. We also got lucky to get plugged into the huge LA community of bakers. They’ve been spreading the word like fire. If you look at the concentration we have in LA, there’s hundreds if not thousands of products available!
Is it primarily baked goods or is it also savory goods?
Today, it’s primarily desserts/sweets. I would say 90% are sweets because of the cottage food law across North America. This is a law that allows you to sell from home kitchens. Ninety percent of the people on the app are home bakers, mostly treats and sweets.
It’s for socialites who throw parties who want to provide a spread of desserts based on a theme or for busy moms like myself who don’t have the time to bake who can pull together a spread of cupcakes for a kids birthday party.
Is your app widely used in Canada?
Currently we have products sold in Vancouver, Toronto and in Montreal.
For those aspiring home bakers, how do they get signed up to become part of the Omnummy family?
It’s super easy for them to sign up. Download the app for free and create an account. Start loading up your pictures, put your price down, a short description of what you’re selling, and you’re good to go. The end result is like a Yelp meets Etsy app. From a “Yelp” standpoint, you can look at the map view, specifically down to your street level as to who’s baking in your neighborhood and selling. From an “Etsy” standpoint, it’s like an Etsy for homemade food, rather than homemade artifacts that Etsy sells.
I’ve noticed that Omnummy participates in larger conventions like the Cookie Cons. What’s your role in that participation?
We’ve been approached by the founder of Cookie Con and other events to participate. I was at the LA Cookie Con to judge the competition and there ended up being a broader judging responsibility in dessert tables, which means it’s a full spread of a dessert theme. I’ve seen anywhere from Star Wars theme to an Alice in Wonderland theme. There’s so much talent out there and it’s really hard to be a judge for such beautiful, handcrafted products. So my role there was as a judge, as a keynote speaker and obviously there to spread the word about the app can bring to the local community of bakers.
So how long has Omnummy been around now?
We released this app a year ago. We are continuing to refine and invest in the product to make sure we’ve created a product that adds value to both sellers and the buyers like myself.
In the year that you had been in business, what’s been the most impressive thing you’ve seen out there?
I have seen anywhere from a stiletto shoe cake to a thong for a bachelor party!
Who are the bakers?
Most of the bakers are women. In fact, most of them have full time jobs and do this on the side. Some are stay-at-home moms who want to earn extra income. I feel good about enabling them to do something they’re super passionate about outside of their workday and at the same time help them earn a bit more money.
That’s not so different from your own experience of juggling a day-time job even though you’re the Founder of Omnummy? So talk about what it’s like to run your own business while juggling the demands of home, life and a career in software. What are your biggest learning moments?
It’s really being the CEO of your own day. You decide how you want to spend your day, your time, and what’s important to you. More than anything, it keeps you on your toes - stay focused on your priorities, what you have to get done that day. You have to keep moving the needle on the full-time job front, but also keep moving on the app and while also meeting family demands. Having two little toddlers under 3 is not easy to juggle but I make sure that when I’m wearing my mom hat or my wife hat that I am fulfilling all aspects. It’s not easy but you have to be strict about how you spend your day.
What does Omnummy look like in 5 years?
In an ideal world, this app would take off with millions of users. I’m currently focused on acquiring users rather than making money so I’m not actually monetizing it at the moment. I’m hoping that by the time we hit 5 years we could be in a position to monetize. I would hope that the volume would be there.