Like most good things in life, the concept for Ungrocery originated on the heels of a fishing trip. Having more fish than we could eat, my Guinness-world-record-setting, artist uncle and I decided to sell some in order to offset some of the trip’s cost. We sold as much as we wanted in the next 20 minutes. Hmmm..maybe there’s something here?
I phoned my friend Daniel back in Austin and asked him if he wanted to open a tuna stand on South Lamar. He laughed, then asked, why not sell it online?
So I tested out some other products I could acquire: jerky and raw honey. I had no trouble selling either online. What other bounty could we sell online?
Now, while this testing was happening, I was living in a shipping container outside of Austin. Before you get all judgmental, it was a really nice shipping container. Check out the white oak paneling and chrome flashing on the ceiling. Pretty dope.
If you’ve ever lived in a shipping container, you probably didn’t have much cash either. “Broke” was a nice way to put it.
Even so, on November 5, 2014, I purchased the domain name “mundobo.com” thinking I’d made a great new word to represent the ‘world’s bounty’ (’Mundo’ meaning world in spanish and the B-O from bounty).
And so I excitedly sold under this name. Then one of those telemarketers from India called and could not pronounce ‘Mundobo.com.’ While his attempts were humorous, if the guy trying to sell me a website design couldn’t pronounce it, we’re in trouble.
Next, my cousin called me. I had told him about the idea previously, and he had created some sales on the jerky. The convo started, “Hey Tim, how’s that Mun-DODO…I mean Mun-DOBE or whatever going?”
My response, “Well the name sucks but I’ve sold some jerky.” That’s when I knew it was time to change the name. The name Ungrocery came shortly after, inspired by my ceaseless search for “un” foods, as in unwaxed apples, undyed fish, and unprocessed meats.
The tests had proven people desire honest food. And I knew I could sell food directly to consumers. Who knows, perhaps it’d allow me to move out of the shipping container. It was time to begin.
If you’ve ever started something before, you know you don’t start with thousands of users. You start with one. We started with perhaps the best beekeeper on the East Coast, Mr. James Knox, who had been keeping bees for 67 years by the time we approached him. He had an established customer base for his honey, sold nucs (bee hives) consistently, and could have very easily declined.
The weekend we spent with him was one of the most impactful experiences of my life (I wrote about it then and when I heard of his passing). After getting to know him, the pursuit became clear: find people who are passionate about what they are creating.
Back in Central Texas, we started working with passionate people creating delicious products like peanut brittle, jerky, and pasta. We attempted to capture their attention to detail, careful processes, and constant energy in short videos. We weren’t creating an online retailer—we were building a community.