Samuel Chazen ’21 builds a food education venture inspired by idea lists he made as a child

student in a suit jacket

Sam Chazen was born to be inventive and energetic. When he was a child, he dreamed of jumping eight feet high in the air, as well as many other “outlandish inventions” that sound a little silly to him now as an adult.

His father, however, encouraged him to write all of his ideas down and keep them in a journal. This became a stimulative idea because Chazen generated the idea of founding his own business based on a short phrase he wrote down — food encyclopedia.

The idea of constructing a food encyclopedia inspired the birth of Food-E, an innovative application used to connect communities far and wide through a cross-cultural passion for food and cooking. Along the foundation of this new-born company, Chazen is also on his journey to understand food culture from an entrepreneur’s eye.

Chazen is currently a senior studying marketing management and entrepreneurship and emerging enterprises at the Martin J. Whitman School of Management of Syracuse University. Before entering college, he did not really have an idea of what to major in but knew that he wanted to study business when he was in high school.

“It was a process of elimination.  I looked on the list of all the majors at the Whitman School,” Chazen said. Accounting, finance and supply chain management sounded too far removed from his interests, but marketing, along with a dual major in entrepreneurship, felt like a perfect combination.  These interests seemed embedded in his blood.

There is a long history of entrepreneurship in his family. Chazen’s mother’s-side great-grandfather owned a steel factory and invented and held one of the original patents for the fly swatter and the metal coat hanger.  His father’s-side great-grandfather also held a patent for the first industrial microwave vending machine.  His own father started a company back in the late 2000s.

All these family stories inspired Chazen to select the field of marketing. After gaining real-world marketing experiences through internships, he opened himself to entrepreneurship and joined the Entrepreneurship LaunchPad class with Linda Hartsock, the executive director of Blackstone LaunchPad at SU who is an adjunct faculty member in the EEE program at the Whitman School of Management.

“I would not be where I am without this class.  There are so many resources that I’m able to utilize from the class,” Chazen said. In this class, Chazen is also able to further develop his idea of Food-E into a real venture as part of competitions through the LaunchPad, the iSchool and at the Whitman School.

Food-E is a two-pronged application that includes a social media platform made for sharing recipes and promoting creativity in the kitchen with a food information database to bridge the gap among food information. The two main questions that Chazen and his team want to answer through this application are what people should make, and whether it is healthy, Chazen said.

“I realized that there were a lot of ways to answer these questions, but they were all done on different platforms, and you definitely weren’t getting both of the answers to those questions on the same platform,” Chazen said. “So, my team and I created the Food-E app to connect and educate people from around the world.”

Chazen designed this application with a long-term vision of making it useful for everyone, but also realized that he needs to narrow in on first markets. For the initial audience base, Food-E wants to serve three main groups of people — high school and college athletes who need to track their nutritional intake, young professionals who are living on their own for the first time and need to learn to cook for themselves, and young parents who want guidance on healthier foods for their children. These three initial target segments will be his first path to market, but the beauty of Food-E is that it is universal and can easily appeal to broader groups, Chazen added.

To better integrate into social media, the team has conducted discovery around different food platforms, including Instagram, Twitter and Tik-Tok.

“We discovered some interesting statistics. For example, the #food tag on Instagram has 417 million posts and #nutrition has 55 million,” Chazen said.  “There is a rapidly growing forum to share food via multimedia because #food on Tik-Tok has 80.9 billion views and #nutrition has 1.4. I think it comes down to the fact that people love to eat, and one of the hardest things of being an adult is figuring out what to eat three times a day.”

Right now, Chazen and his team are working on seeking funding opportunities to further develop their business. They have just won 3rd place in the School of Information Studies Raymond von Dran iPrize for Student Entrepreneurship with a $1,000 prize and will be moving on to the statewide finals of the New York Business Plan Competition.

Chazen also wants to recognize of the contributions of his team, including Nick Julian as the director of digital content, Edwin Duke as the director of finance, Chris Wildman as the director of marketing, and Ryan Kiey as the director of IT.

He and his team have a collective goal of tackling even more business competitions and pursuing other opportunities.  “We see ourselves on the verge of success, but we’re also facing hurdles, Chazen says.  That’s the path of entrepreneurship. “We’ve done a really good job of managing both the long-term and short-term views and our goal is to stay on track.” 

As a founder, Chazen loves one entrepreneurial quote. “You have to always have your telescope with a microscope.”  He’s using both to build the ideas that started with his imaginative childhood book of lists.

Story by Kaizhao Zero Lin, LaunchPad Global Fellow