In this week’s episode of NothingWasted!, we chat with Brook Sheehan, co-founder, Cup O’ Sugar. Cup O’ Sugar is an app that allows neighbors to connect over food ingredients, sharing and/or requesting items and helping to fight food waste.
We spoke with Brook about turning a passion for fighting food waste into a business, the importance of partnerships and more.
Here is a sneak peek into the discussion:
Waste360: Can you tell us a little about your background and how you ended up founding Cup O’ Sugar?
Sheehan: Well, I was actually in chiropractic school, which I completed in December. But this story began back in 2017 when I was living in San Diego, staying at my best friends’ house. We were baking some cookies late at night for the kids’ bake sale and realized we didn’t have eggs. So my friend texted her neighbor like, “Hey, any way we can get a few eggs?” And that’s where the idea for Cup O’ Sugar began. I later moved back to the Bay Area, was making a recipe I’d never made, and it called for Worcestershire sauce. I was in an apartment complex and thought surely someone in the building had this ingredient, but I’m an introvert, so I went to the store and bought a bottle…used it twice. And that bottle, of which I used maybe four tablespoons, haunted me. Because I HATE food waste. So I was thinking about it and called my best friend and said, “What if we created an app that allowed communities to connect over the simple question, ‘Do you have this ingredient?’” We launched on Earth Day 2018.
Waste360: Can you tell our listeners about how the app works?
Sheehan: We’re currently on the Apple platform and looking to expand to others. But the way the app works is that you log in to a very simple interface where you can share excess items, or you can request an item. If you make a post to request, say, a few eggs, a push notification goes out to other users within a certain radius. There is an interactive chat feature within the app that lets people respond to the request and note how to pick it up. In light of COVID, I think people are trying to connect yet still be socially responsible—so, through the chat, it can happen in a seamless, easy way. On the flip side, you can scan the UPC code of an item you want to share, and the basic information about the item will populate. Then the user can add other relevant details about the product.
Waste360: Do you feel like the app is working toward your goal of reducing food waste?
Sheehan: I do think it’s working. It could be more impactful, of course, with more users engaging on the platform. And I know a lot of people aren’t concerned about food waste to the degree that I am, but the app can still help them do their part and get, for instance, the three eggs that they need — as well as meeting their neighbors and making new friends. So the app is a good way to target the people who may not initially care as much about food waste, but ultimately help combat it in this small way.