105: Tiara Miles (Koki)

Tiara Miles on Innovation City

“If I’m not bringing value to you, then I’m not doing you any good and the business is not going to be sustainable.” — Tiara Miles

Welcome to Innovation City—powered by Venture Cafe—where Tyler Kelley and Michael Johnson, Co-Founders of SLAM! Agency, interview innovators, creators, and disruptors to discover how business is changing in the modern world.

Created and produced by SLAM! Agency in cooperation with Venture Cafe St. Louis and Venture Cafe Miami, Innovation City gives you an inside look at how rapidly business and culture are changing thanks to increasing diversity and inclusion, heightened creativity, and a stronger and better-connected business community. Venture Cafe is the largest combined gathering of entrepreneurs and innovators anywhere in the world. Events are held every Thursday in St. Louis, Miami, and other leading innovation cities around the globe.

Today’s guest is Tiara Miles, Founder & CEO of Koki. Koki delivers personal chefs next day to your home to prepare fresh healthy meals. The chefs prepare four entrees, help you set the table to eat one meal same day, while carefully packing away the others. Tiara joins the team to discuss how Koki got started, creating her business out of need not want, her early struggle to get business and decision to pivot, working with a business accelerator, and much more!

They discuss:

  • How Koki got started:
    • Busy lifestyle means less time to prepare meals
    • Found a void in the market for an in between food service
    • Not wanting take-out but also not wanting to cook
    • Researching chefs, menus, marketing, etc
  • Figuring out the full process and then looking at the big picture and asking herself how she would improve it
  • Not taking the typical entrepreneur route
  • Her corporate background and feeling stagnant after several years
  • Taking an exploratory journey for herself to figure out what she wanted to do next
  • Her “book of ideas”
  • Koki was brought to life out of a real need not just a cool idea
  • The uphill climb to being successful in the food industry in a city that is overcrowded with food services and restaurants
  • Her love for food has grown significantly over the years (starting when she lived in Louisville, KY)
  • People care about what goes into their food and how it is prepared
  • People are generally willing to pay a little bit more for fresh and organic foods
  • Being accommodating to people on specific food diets (vegan, gluten free, etc.)
  • When Koki first launched, people were not booking
    • She learned quickly that she needed to do some brand awareness marketing and fill out her website with more details about the in-home process to make people feel comfortable
    • She also learned that people only needed the events service 1-2 times a year, so she launched a weekly meal prep service
  • She thought her early adaptor audience were young millennials with disposable incomes
    • After some marketing research and testing she learned that small families were actually her natural first adaptors
  • Pivoting Koki to focus more on weekly meal preparation and less on special events
  • Tiara is in the business of helping people…not meal prep
  • A business is not sustainable if it’s not bringing value
  • Koki’s pivot was a win not a loss
  • Working with a local accelerator, The WIN Lab
    • Getting exposed to the entrepreneurial community
    • Forcing herself to answer tough questions
    • Learning things she maybe would have learned over a long period of time in the short timeline of the program
    • She saw 400% revenue growth after finishing the program
  • Her biggest challenge is “filling in holes”
  • Gaps in different areas of the business
  • Koki in 5 years:
    • Expanded into at least 3 markets
    • Greater brand awareness
    • Hopeful to expand as quickly as possible while staying sustainable
  • Koki can come as early as the next day for meal prep
  • The menu on the website rotates every 2 weeks
  • Follow Koki on social media @kokiexperience
  • Learn more about Koki on their website