2 years ago5,000+ Views

Hello Vingle Fam!

It's Helixx here, reporting back from my interview at the SnackFever headquarters in Los Angeles, California. I armed myself with the questions you wanted answered and headed towards Koreatown. Not only was the interview informative and entertaining, but the generous SnackFever Oppas have set up an exclusive VINGLE ONLY GIVEAWAY!
*L-R David, Howard, James, Jo
**Photo credit: @Helixx

Can you please tell us about the SnackFever origins story?

Jo: Okay, so we had this idea a couple of years ago and David and I were working for a venture capitol firm. We were investing in technology startups. So this (motions to all companies in office) is all part of Strong Ventures the venture capitol firm, with John.
We went on a trip to San Francisco, to Silicon Valley and on our way back we were talking about our friends from Drama Fever. Cause we grew up with the Drama Fever founders. We grew up in- we’re Koreans but we grew up in the Canary Islands of Spain. So we’re talking about that and Drama Fever got sold to Soft Bank, a Japanese company and Viki got sold to Rakuten, another Japanese company. So we’re thinking “Okay, Koreans don’t believe in Koreans, but Japanese people believe in Koreans.” And we’re thinking what can we do to target this demographic, this same target audience, what can we do, what can we offer them that is hard to access and addictive? So we’re thinking we’re in Koreatown, LA, what can we get that not many people can get? Food and snacks.
So we decided let’s create a website. I have a computer science background so creating a website was really easy so we created that in about a week. We went to all the Korean grocers and checked the prices and then we asked for a further discount. We said “this is for kids from our church, can you give us a good price?” and they give us lots of snacks.
Because this is a subscription we got the money first. So we got the money first and then we shipped them on the 23rd of each month. That’s how we started. We started with $500 only. We said, this is a challenge; let’s see if we can start a company with $500. We put in $100 each and that’s how we started.
Who are our first customers? They are my students from Puerto Rico. I also teach Korean online and a lot of them are from Puerto Rico. They have absolutely no access to Korean snacks or food at all so I asked them “Would you guys be interested if I started something like SnackFever.” They all said they’ll sign up and a lot of them did sign up and that’s how we started.
Basically it was a challenge to see if we could start a company with just $500.

At KCON we heard about a much bigger pictur; a plan you have for the future. Can you tell us about that?

Jo: So the bigger picture is we know a lot of vendors here only target Koreans or Korean markets. That’s very limited. There’s only 2 million in the US, but they still make millions. But, there are 18 million non-Koreans in the U.S. who are interested in Korean culture, Korean food, Korean language, you know… Hallyu. And a lot of them live in the middle of nowhere; Alaska, Utah… all these places where you cannot get Korean food or snacks. So we said- our plan is to sell online everything that Koreans eat. And we have access to everything here. We have a good relationship with all the vendors, so that’s our plan. But, at the end of the day, selling snacks, you know anyone can do- it’s not rocket science. The hardest thing for companies, and our competitive advantage is that we know how to create communities, you know, fan base. We’re all young, we’re good with Snap Chat and social media, so that’s one way we want to reach out instead of being too corporate. We’re not a big corporation, we’re a small company. We’re only four guys, one part time and then summer interns. We’re not a big company- yet.
So that’s our goal; we want to provide more valuable content in terms of social media, video content, uh.. you know. And we want to teach people about Korean language and culture. That’s why we’re starting to add inserts with Korean word of the month and some other stuff we want to do.

Are you planning to expand to other parts of the world, other parts of the country? Would you consider going to KCON in New York in the future?

Jo: Yes, we were thinking of going to KCON in New York, but it was just too expensive. With that kind of money we might as well go to Korea.
David: That too, but as well we were passing out free snacks to everyone cause we wanted them to try out and if you wanted to ship all those boxes to New York it becomes too hectic, too complex.
Jo: So we got all those snacks for free from our vendors. We have a good relationship with them and they love what we do so we got all the snacks and we gave out everything but something like that, how would it be possible in New York? How can we ship out all those boxes? It just doesn’t makes sense in what we call in business ROI- Return on Investment. It doesn’t make sense. So far now we will stay here in LA, but as we grow more we can send more boxes to New York and France and Japan… wherever.
Helixx: Abu Dhabi?
Jo:(laughs) Anyway, so you can see we are a small team and we’re working really hard. Our priority is to build a community and fan base and we like to have fun. For us it’s not much work, it’s very natural. Social media is very natural and that’s how we plan to expand.

Do you have a plan set out for the furture? Where do you want to be in a year, 5 years, 10 years?

Jo: Yes, so we’re working on a marketplace e-commerce store where now you can start buying stuff in bulk or pick and choose the snacks you want. For the past and right now we can’t do it for logistical reasons. We don’t have a warehouse, we don’t have the inventory, as you can see. Right now we just get the money, order the exact amount and we just ship it out. But the plan is to have our own warehouse, to have our own products to pick and choose what you want. But obviously we want to differentiate, we want to add extra value in terms of adding a culture card or adding in terms of value where people can learn something about the Korean culture.
Helixx: With the e-commerce store, if you really like a certain item that came in your box, can you just order that one item?
Jo: Yep. You can do that. We’ll also have an app where you can order and we’ll have video content where you can see snack hacks or ramen hacks. If you see you want something you can add to your cart immediately and we’ll ship it right away.
Helixx: Does that effect the subscription boxes as well? Would you be able to choose what comes in your box potentially?
Jo: That we are still debating. The challenge we have right now is we have so many orders that the vendors cannot fulfill the orders sometimes cause we do too many of one thing. So they have to order for us directly from Korea a couple months in advance. Which means some of these snacks, we are the first ones to get them. So that’s the challenge. If we have 100,000 subscribers it would be almost impossible to order 100,000 of one product so we have to plan that. And we are planning how to do that right now.
*Photo credit: SnackFever

Currently how many subscribers do you have?

Jo: Oh, that’s a secret.
David: That’s confidential.
Jo: But I’ll tell you, we started with 20 the first month, 20-something subscribers and now we have many more.

How do you decide what’s going to go in the boxes each month?

Jo: We usually sit down and brainstorm and we talk about what we can include for this month and the vendors will contact us and say when they have new stuff. That’s how we decide and then Howard sources them.
Helixx: Is it difficult to figure out how much to include in each box based off of how much people are paying for the boxes?
Jo: What people don’t think about it shipping is expensive and obviously there are the credit card fees and e-commerce fees so there is a lot going on. Then there is the weight too. We have to make sure it doesn’t go over a certain weight or the shipping price goes up. Then the size we have to figure out so it’s a challenge.

K: How many countries do you currently ship to?

Jo: Around… 30?
Howard: Yeah, more or less, 30.
Jo: More or less 30?
Howard: Yeah.
Helixx: Whoa, Howard speaks! (laughter)
David: Yeah!
Howard: So English is not my first language so I-
Jo: In Korean if you want…
David: I could do it in Korean.
Helixx: I’ll probably understand every 30th word.
David: She’ll probably go back with Google translation and go “Oh, that's what they said!”
Helixx: A little bit I’ll pick up on, but I’m learning and I’m still a beginner. I can understand more now when I’m watching dramas or interviews though.
Jo: Where do you watch your dramas?
Helixx: Drama Fever usually or somethings I can find on YouTube.
Jo: As I said, I grew up with the founders of Drama Fever, but we’re also friends with the founders of Viki so this month we’re doing a Viki box and then in a couple of months we’ll do something with Drama Fever.

How do you decide who to partner with? Clearly you have some background with some of these companies but are there other companies like Glow Recipe that you didn’t have a history with? How does that come about?

Jo: We know everyone in the Korean tech start up industry- we all know each other, kind of. So Glow Recipe was friends of John (mastermind behind all the companies in the office), so he introduced us. Then there is Egg Bun, the language app. Do you know them?
Helixx: We learned about them at KCON.
Jo: So they are also apart of our company- they are apart of Strong Ventures. Then, what else? And then OnDemand Korea. Do you watch it?
David: You should check it out.
Jo: All the Koreans watch OnDemand Korea.
David: I also think that our customers, it’s the same demographics so in a way we all want to grow together and expand together and by doing so we can help each other out.
Jo: And you know, unlike dramas and movies, food you cannot download illegally. And a lot of people are used to not having to pay for content- for video content. But people are used to having to pay for food. So it’s easier to pay for food then to pay for a drama. So anything Koreans eat will have a curated box. We’ll have a recipe box, everything. We’re going to offer everything we can in a fun way, you know? And we’ll have the best price.

The cost of the Original box is $20, which includes shipping. It’s a great value for your subscribers and it’s a wonderful thing for those who live in areas without access to this kind of food. But how are you guys making a profit?

David: It’s tough.
Jo: Yeah, we make a little bit. For example the shipping price- the more volume goes up the shipping cost goes down. There is always USPS, UPS, Fedex trying to get our business so we say to Fedex “UPS is offering us this” and to UPS we say “Fedex is offering us this” and they’re always lowering their prices.
Helixx: I have noticed with Fedex it takes longer to get the boxes. With USPS I’ll get my box before you’ve even announced they’ve shipped but with Fedex it takes about a week.
David: We’re working on that too. Obviously, they have different systems and we’re talking with both. Hopefully down the road it’ll be more consistent.
Jo: That’s kind of a nightmare for us. A lot of people are checking the tracking every single day and then they ask us “Why is it going all the way over here when it’s only 5 miles away?”
David: We have no control over that.
Jo: All the information we have, you have. Don’t worry, it’ll get there. With Fedex we try to ship a few days early. USPS lowered their prices and so we are using them right now.
David: We’re trying both, but in general if you use Fedex it’s probably going to be faster because there are special ways to get it faster, like priority.
Jo: So for the e-commerce store we’ll have the shipping options. If you want it faster you pay more. If you want it in 24 hours, you can pay more. There are lots of things we’re figuring out.
David: We’re still learning.
Jo: That and we’re working on the content site.
Helixx: Any idea when you’ll have that up and running?
Jo: We’re working on it. We’re thinking end of September. You’ll be able to choose anything you want. And we’re thinking of doing a beta test for it. We’ll have a nice box to pack it in.
David: So originally, before we had that kind of box, we used to send it in a plain brown box with a sticker. But since we are growing and we want to get more people we are improving.
Jo: Every month we want to improve. We get feedback from everyone and we are trying to improve improve improve! What can we do to make people stay? We want to be the Drama Fever of Food.

All of the products that ship in your boxes have allergy information and ingredient labels in English and if it isn’t on the package you have it on your website. Who does the English translations for those?

Jo: Oh, we don’t do that. It’s the distributors, the vendors who do it; the importers.
David: Ah, if we had to do that it would be too complicated.
Jo: Maybe later on when we import directly from Korea ourselves.
Helixx: Delegate that to the interns.
Jo: (laughs) Maybe.
David: But that is something we do have to consider if we do expand to Korea and if we have an office in Korea.

What is the most popular box size and special box?

Jo: The Original box is the most popular box, the $20 one. And then it’s the Deluxe box and then the Mini box. The popular special box has been the… Valentine.
Howard: The Valentine and the White Day box.
*Photo credit: SnackFever

What are your favorite snacks?

Jo: Mine is the Choco Cone.
Howard: Same.
Jo: Really?
Howard: Okay, I’ll choose another one.
Jo: Choose another one.
Howard: Um, tteokbokki, tteokbokki snack.
David: Uh, mine’s the Korean taffy snack, the jelly.

What are your favorite American snacks?

David: I’ll go first. Hot Cheetos all the way. I love Hot Cheetos, I’m addicted to them. Ever since I was young. That’s actually my favorite snack of all time. They’re saying that it’s so addictive that schools are banning it. It has been banned for the past five years because it messes up your stomach. It’s bad for your health, but… I just love it.
Jo: I like anything with salt and vinegar. That’s very English.
Howard: I didn’t try many American snacks but the Hot Cheetos are so good.
David: It’s addictive.
Howard: I like Pringles too.
David: One of the downsides to Hot Cheetos is that everything turns red. It’s just… but you know, you don’t care about it.
Howard: Yeah.
David: I know some people who eat with chopsticks.
Helixx: The Cheetos?
David: Or you can put like, chili and cheese inside the bag and mix it together. There’s a variety of ways people eat it, but um, for people who can’t do spicy, I don’t recommend it. It does mess up your stomach.
Jo: We have the Korean Lotte Cheetos. They sell them in Korea but they’re not allowed to import them here… because of the licensing issue.
David: It’s because Cheetos itself is owned by Frito-Lay and Frito Lay is a U.S. Company.
Jo: And Frito-Lay licensed it to Lotte to sell in Korea only.
Howard: They are only allowed to sell in Korea.
Jo: But it’s different flavors.
David: I think if you try it, some people will really like it. I really like the Korean chips as well. It’s amazing. They have this different flavor.
Helixx: Do they have ones that aren’t spicy?
David: No, they are not spicy. Some of them are not spicy. They have different flavors. Koreans themselves, their chips are not salty or very spicy.
Jo: So, Koreans- what they eat for lunch or dinner, that’s spicy. But then snacks- we have everything. Not too salty or too spicy.

Do you ever repeat the special boxes?

Jo: We haven’t yet, but once we have the store up and running we’ll have the various special boxes.

How can you apply for an internship or job at SnackFever?

Jo: I mean we are always looking for interns.
David: We are working on a careers page [for the website] so people can look at that.
Jo: We are working on the careers page so people can apply there. We always say, we don’t guarantee money but we guarantee fun.
David: That’s not true cause everyone has different standards of fun.
Jo: We always have fun.
David: Maybe he’s the one always having fun.
Jo: We are always having fun, we are always meeting celebrities, yes or no?
David: No.
Jo: No?
David: No. Only you meet celebrities.
Helixx: According to your Snap Chat, you always look like you’re having fun.
David: I think it’s a balance I mean we work hard but we try to have fun because we don’t want to get exhausted.
Helixx: You guys go out to eat a lot.
Jo, Howard, David: Yeah.
Helixx: There’s some goofing around from time to time.
Jo, Howard, David: Yeah.
Helixx: Some of our Vinglers are asking how can they work here because it looks like so much fun.
David: Cause on the Snap Chat there’s a lot of interns and they’re wondering How did they get there? How’d they get there in the first place!
Jo: So we had an intern Lea and then she brought all her school friends.
David: Her fraternity group.
Jo: So we have Taylor and Maggie, they are Vietnamese. Sarah, she is Japanese from Guam.
David: But Sarah understands Korean… and she know how to speak it. She spoke to me in Korean the other day.
Jo: Jinwoong was a student of John’s. Ji Hyun... They are summer interns. If we could get interns the whole year, that would be great. But they’d have to live around this area.
Helixx: Any idea when the careers page will be up?
David: We’re working on it right now. Cause, as he mentioned, we only have 4 full time and one part time.
Jo: We want to work on the content side more so anyone who is good at editing videos, is creative, can write good posts, who knows a lot about Korean culture… we’re looking for people like that.
Helixx: What about packing boxes?
David: Believe me, packing boxes is not fun. After a month, I think I was done.
Jo: Maggie and Taylor are doing the video content. So we want to provide good quality, fun content like Buzzfeed. And that’s another business model. To be honest snacks are very low margin. Food is very low margin so we have to find other ways.

Do you listen to Kpop?

David: I do.
Jo: He does (points to Howard). He listens to a lot of girl groups.
Howard: Twice, GFriend.
David: Twice is also my favorite group.
Helixx:Twice? Momo high-fived me at KCON.
Howard: You’re so lucky!
David: If she high-fived me, I think I wouldn’t let go of her hand. I’m like You’re not going anywhere… until the security starts coming!
Jo: Uh Kpop, I listen to BIGBANG, I listen to 2ne1…
Helixx: YG trash?
Jo: Hahaha.
James: Is that the name of their new girl group?
Jo: We’re doing a YG collaboration next month.
James: YG America.
Jo: We’re going to do something with BIGBANG for the anniversary.
James: It’s 10 years, right? Their ten-year anniversary?
Helixx: Yes.
James: We’re doing something for that.
Helixx: And that’s going in which box?
Howard: Deluxe box.
Jo: The item itself is worth more than the whole box. There’s also stickers and key chains and a lot of things.
David: The Krunk key ring.
Jo: YG is here.
David: YG America.
Jo: YG America is where he [David] lives. Their office is a whole house. It’s not like an office like us. It’s a house with each department in separate rooms. It’s recent. They just moved in like two months ago.
*Photo credit: SnackFever

In the beginning, when you started out with $500 and a challenge; did you imagine this is where you’d be a little over a year later?

Jo: Uh, to be honest, yes.
David: Jo… yeah.
Jo: I thought this was a huge opportunity. Yeah, I thought it would be and I think it can get much, much bigger. There are still a lot of people who are interested in Korean things and the majority of them have not heard of us. The majority still have not heard of us so we still have a lot to do.
As I said, selling snacks is the easy part. Engaging with people and creating a community, that is the hard part. And that’s what no other companies can do well. They can if they want to but it has to be natural.
David: They don’t have Howard.
Jo: For us, it's natural.
David: Howard is our ultimate weapon... You can put that in the interview. WE HAVE HOWARD!
Jo: So yeah, we think it could get bigger.
Helixx: What about the rest of you?
Howard: Yes, I believed. That’s why I didn’t get paid. The only thing I did in the beginning is tie a little ribbon around chopsticks.
Jo: The first day he came, I didn’t like him.
David: To be honest, I don’t like him either.
Howard: I feel so loved.
Jo: Cause you know, his facial expressions are like… he’s always very serious and he’s so Korean…
Howard: Of course I’m Korean!
Jo: He’s so Korean, I said “Sit there and tie the ribbons on the chopsticks we’re giving away.” And he did. I have a picture somewhere. But then after a week I said “This guy’s good.”
David: I liked him after three days cause I found out we’re same age. It took me three days to figure out we’re same age.
Helixx: But if you weren’t same age then you wouldn’t have like him? Is that what you’re saying?
David: I was a bit scared of him. His impression is… cause he’s big so let’s not mess with that. He’s very quiet but um, there’s two different Howards. There’s the night Howard. At night he is one of the most entertaining guys I know. He lives in his own world.
James: I think the company would explode if Howard was exposed.
Jo: We need to start our own Kpop group.
David: Kbap.
Jo: Kbap?
David: Howard needs to start rapping.
Howard: I would rather sing...
*Image credit: SnackFever


As I mentioned, the good folks at SnackFever have kindly set up give away exclusively for our Vingle Kpop Community members. There are three of the special July 1 year anniversary Original boxes up for grabs.
Entering is quick and easy. Simply click on the link. There are 7 ways to earn up to 19 entries for the giveaway. >>>SNACK FEVER GIVEAWAY LINK<<< You have until Friday to enter the giveaway. The winners will be announced right here on Vingle.
If you're a BIGBANG or YG fan and don't currently have a SnackFever subscription, I'd highly recommend subscribing for the month of September. Jo shared with me the exclusive BIGBANG 10 year anniversary item that will be shipped in all of the Deluxe boxes and it's pretty awesome. The Original and Mini boxes will also have some YG items inside. You can always cancel at anytime, but I'm confident you won't want to.
*Photo credit: @Helixx
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arigato , thank you , gracias , gomawo I'll keep saying it a million times this wonderful opportunity for a giveaway
You are most welcome! I'm very excited to have the opportunity to bring this giveaway to our Vingle community. Good luck!
Love this!! I've been with SnackFever almost from the start - my first box was the September box 😆 When I got the email about the YG box I totally freaked out - I can't wait!!! Thanks for doing this!
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any hints?? 😉
I wish you could have heard how enthusiastically David said it. I listened to the recording at least three times and cracked up. He went from saying he didn't like Howard to saying he's their secret weapon. 💕
omg when they mentioned Utah I almost died. That's where I live haha. But this is a really cool system! I'm in love!!
good luck everyone fighting!!
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