By Ryan Harrison
As so much of the food industry has been forever changed because of food delivery services available everywhere, it’s hard to imagine anyone, much fewer students, attempting to challenge their foothold in our lives, but Tulane students Alex Leiman and Jonah Bornstein have done just that with their food and delivery company called Sexycakes. What started as a passion project has become a full-fledged company that works tirelessly to accommodate its customers with whatever they may need.
From the beginning, Leiman came into freshman year with experiences in a restaurant and venture capital firm, which gave him the idea and confidence to attempt to fill a void on campus since City Diner, one of the only on-campus places for food late at night, was closed. This led to the creation of Sexycakes as a brand, which had to appeal to the audience the food was targeted for, which was late-night college students, as Leiman says, “It’s late night. Let’s just do something sexual, right? We came up with Sexycakes and asked each other if you come with anything better? We couldn’t, and said we’ll go with that for now and change it down the road. Then we never changed it.” While the name and brand has remained the same, one thing that did evolve over time was the kitchen.
At first, Sexycakes operated with Leiman cooking, and Bornstein delivering, using the Tulane dormitory kitchens, serving a small but loyal group of customers. While the food available from them was good, it’s not what made them such a unique and appealing service, as that was their delivery. As the Sexycakes team were all Tulane students, they could access Tulane dormitories, unlike any other delivery service available, and bring people’s food straight to their dorm room’s door.
“The key is we take advantage of the high density of the college campus and also the high volume of orders that we do. With those two factors, one driver is taking five to ten meals at a time, whether that be to on or off campus and a student who’s delivering and taking it right to the doors, probably carrying like three orders to one dorm hall. That means the time to deliver is split among many more people than a traditional delivery service. Whereas with UberEats, one driver is getting two orders an hour, compared to Sexycakes with one driver doing 10 orders in that time.”
Leiman’s strategy allows Sexycakes to not charge any delivery fees, which Leiman said they were able to do because of the nature of their business, being so close to Tulane’s campus and primarily delivering to Tulane’s campus, they don’t need to worry about far spreads of orders.
This has helped the company grow further, allowing for them to expand to a full off-campus kitchen, to then use drivers to carry orders to the on-campus delivery hub and drop off any nearby orders off-campus, allowing the on-campus delivery people to deliver the food to students’ dorm rooms. This growth has also led to expansions of the menu, which started with breakfast cuisine but now includes groceries, candy, drinks, healthy and unhealthy snacks, as well as dorm and health goods. When asked about the expanding variety of goods available, Leiman said, “if we, we have the storage space and if students want it, we might as well do it. Down the road, my vision is if college students were to buy a hundred things on a given day, I want to be able to sell 80 of those things.” While Sexycakes isn’t going to be the next Amazon, as Leiman admits, they strive to provide convenience with their variety, as they’ll never have every single product a student needs, but if a student is hungry and needs basic goods, Sexycakes is the ideal service for their needs.
One thing that stood out about the company was the growth and resolve of the founders, as this journey was anything but easy, as there were many hiccups but each time, they returned stronger than ever. Leiman attributes part of this to his experience with startup companies, saying, “I realized that it [business strategy] was accessible to anybody and that there wasn’t some secret playbook that only businesspeople had. It was just common sense and intuition and hard work.” This came in handy when students were sent home from school due to the Coronavirus pandemic, as many would panic and worry about losing their existing customers, the Sexycakes team worked to make the service even better for when students did return, confident that people would remember them and continue to order from them. This confidence that the team had, while entirely correct, was tested many times, and their resolve to improve the company each time is what helped them grow. Moreover, the founders have yet to take a paycheck, rather they reinvest everything right back into the company, all to provide a better service to the Sexycakes community.
The sky is the limit with Sexycakes, as no idea is too ambitious for these entrepreneurs, with many changes and additions coming soon, first being the hours of delivery for everything but the kitchen food changing to be available from noon on. Second, more products are becoming available to purchase, such as day-to-day groceries and furnishings for dorms. Lastly, the Sexycakes team’s aspire to expand the brand to other schools, striving to improve the late-night college experience for more students and more schools.