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A One-Stop Cooking and E-Commerce Site Heats Up

A One-Stop Cooking and E-Commerce Site Heats Up
Image credit: Photography by Robert Wright
Cooking stars: Food52's Merrill Stubbs (left) and Amanda Hesser.

What It Is
New York City-based Food52.com launched in 2009 as a crowdsourced and curated food and cooking site with a decidedly stylish and sophisticated flair. This past August, the company started Food52's Provisions, an online shop for kitchen and home goods, cookware and special ingredients needed to create recipes found on the site.

How It Started
Former New York Times Magazine food writer and editor Amanda Hesser and freelance food writer and recipe developer Merrill Stubbs launched Food52 with the goal of creating a beautiful curated site where users could crowdsource recipes (23,000 so far) and share information. With the Provisions store, they promote "Collections"--themed groupings of feature stories, recipes and products for sale that range from kombucha to corn tortillas.

Why It Took Off
Popular writers Hesser and Stubbs had a built-in following. Food52 attracts upward of 1.9 million unique visitors each month, while a small army of "Provisions Scouts" share their product finds on Pinterest Provisions boards. Those boards are "the first place we look" when planning future collections, Hesser says.

The Business Case
In December 2012 the site secured a $2.25 million Series A funding round led by Bertelsmann Digital Media Investments. Revenue, which was not disclosed, is split equally between advertising and merchandise sales; however, the team expects that balance to shift toward the Provisions e-commerce side.

What's Next
Food52 continues to build its content and product offerings. Hesser and Stubbs are working with manufacturers to create exclusive items for the site, twists on existing products and vintage items, such as a copper preserve pan. "We feel like there's a lot of room for innovation in the kitchen and home retail base, not only online, but potentially offline as well," Stubbs says. "It's all part of our plan to be the leading food brand."

Gwen Moran is a freelance writer and co-author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Business Plans (Alpha, 2010).

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This article was originally published in the December 2013 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: A Fully Baked Idea.

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