With their new company, two alumni are offering their customers curated boxes of food from different international cities every two months. Kat Vortova, CC ’07 and Business ’14, and David Foult, SIPA ’14, started Try the World this year and are working to grow it as it moves into its fourth month taking subscriptions. Allison Schlissel sat down with Vortova to talk about what it takes to fill boxes with international goodies.
Allison Schlissel: Why did you and David Foult, SIPA ’14, decide to start Try the World?
Kat Vortova: David and I met at Columbia ... and we realized that we both love food and travel. We met at a Thai food tasting event and we were like, “Let’s start a company that’s based on these two things.” We’re all about discovering these cultures. Between the two of us, we’ve been to more than 50 countries. So, we’re in New York and all of this culture is so easily accessible to us—there’s so many international restaurants and people here. What if you’re not in New York, or even if you are but you’re not doing all of this research, what if it was more convenient if culture came straight to your door?
AS: When did you start this company?
KV: We started thinking about this concept last December. ... We literally went to stores, bought some French products, put them in a box we got from Michael’s, put a photo on Facebook, and said, “Who wants this for Valentine’s Day?” We created a website overnight selling this one product, and the response was so huge. People said, “This is the perfect gift for Valentine’s Day and I can’t wait to see other cities.” So we were so inspired by the response that we decided to continue working on it and incorporated it in May of this year. We started working with suppliers, actually getting real products and working with curators from those countries. ... In the summer we actually recruited a team and rebuilt our entire website and started offering subscriptions, and so since August, we’ve been taking subscriptions.
AS: What do you take into account when making the boxes?
KV: We have this philosophy of food and art which is why we created the boxes that focus on the best gourmet products that we work with local experts to choose, as well as a list of music that you should listen to and a list of films from that culture. We also include poetry and music lyrics. So it comes with little cards that describe each product and how to use it and the history of it, and the brand itself. ... A lot of the brands have been around for hundreds of years and they’ve been using the same recipe for a while so we try to pick products that are very natural and artisanal and are very representative of the culture. So we explain that in the card but in addition to these cards we have like a list of music with a link to our website where you can listen to it for free, movies, lyrics, and then we’ll probably expand and add other kind of cultural content.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.