2022 Most Disruptive MBA Startups: ByMe, Carnegie Mellon University (Tepper)


@madefastbyme (Instagram & TikTok)

Carnegie Mellon University, Tepper School of Business

Industry: Food / Food-Tech / QSR

Founding Student Name(s): Rob Miller

Brief Description of Solution: ByMe is a prepared meals micro-retailer serving high quality, flavor-filled, and affordable grab-and-go grain bowls with a tech-enabled consumer experience. All the meals served at ByMe are made fresh daily at our local commissary kitchens and prominently feature regionally-sourced and sustainably-grown ingredients. By combining these attributes, ByMe is the exciting meal option that time-starved individuals turn to, day in and day out for convenience, without breaking the bank.

Funding Dollars: $50,000
What led you to launch this venture? Food has been a centerpiece in my life for as long as I can remember. I was the fifth generation to grow up on my family’s farm in Upstate New York. Since the earliest that I can remember, food from our farm made a huge impact on our lives. I think growing up that way is what led me to be interested in a wide variety of cuisines, as I was able to travel more and more throughout the years. Food is also where I began my journey in startups. When you work in that space, you are constantly reminded of just how many problems there are to solve. Through this work, I realized simple access to fresh food was lacking innovation. Ultimately, when launching ByMe, I leaned on my experience working in the food space, but also my desire to bring a simpler solution to high quality and healthy food to a wider array of people.

What has been your biggest accomplishment so far with this venture? The biggest accomplishment so far with this venture has been the speed we have been able to bring the business to market and prove true consumer demand. In the summer of 2022. ByMe launched its initial Pilot test in Pittsburgh. In launching this initiative, we were able to create a popup retail store, launch food operations out of a local commissary kitchen, and build the initial pillars of the ByMe brand. Across this month-long pilot, we engaged with over one thousand consumers and validated the demand for our product, overachieving on our sales targets. Most importantly, we were able to do this on an extremely lean budget, which provided the validation needed to know our business model works.

How has your MBA program helped you further this startup venture? Getting my MBA from Carnegie Mellon’s – Tepper School of Business drastically upgraded my set of business “tools”, something I knew I wanted to get out of the experience. During my time at CMU, I was able to dive deep into the entrepreneurial space in a world class way. At Tepper, we have the entrepreneurship track within the MBA program. During my time in this track, I had the opportunity to develop real businesses with my peers, test them in the market, pitch in front of investors, and network across the country. It was the true “out of classroom” experiences that the MBA at Tepper was able to give me that prepared me to dive into the startup space. Tepper, and more broadly Carnegie Mellon, are extremely well prepared to give their students the best opportunity they can to succeed.

What founder or entrepreneur inspired you to start your own entrepreneurial journey? How did he or she prove motivational to you? It would be impossible for me to answer this question without mentioning my parents. Both have owned and operated their own businesses since I was born, while still managing to operate the farm I grew up on. It has always been one of the most impressive and inspiring things to me.

I have also been inspired deeply by Thomas Tull. Thomas launched and ran Legendary Entertainment into great success. In many ways, he accomplished feats in the entertainment industry that no company ever had. Not only have I been lucky enough to learn many lessons from him throughout the years around building a business but knowing his journey has always been inspirational. He has an unmatched ability to turn unseen spaces into massive opportunities, and that is something I certainly aspire to do.
Which MBA class has been most valuable in building your startup and what was the biggest lesson you gained from it? Lean Entrepreneurship. This is typically one of the first classes MBA students will take in the entrepreneurial side of things at Carnegie Mellon. To be blunt, this class shows you the not so fun side of building a startup and that was the best dose of reality I could have asked for. Taking this class, you open your eyes to the proof points needed to truly know you are working on a problem that is worthy of building a business around it.

What professor made a significant contribution to your plans and why? Both Craig Markovitz and Dave Mawhinney have made a huge difference in my growth as an entrepreneur. Throughout my time at CMU, they were not only professors but more importantly mentors. Both Craig and Dave are extremely successful entrepreneurs, and they continue to give back to this community in an unprecedented way. Each of them has given me countless hours of their time, pouring over ideas, and even counseling me to become a better leader and person outside of business. Without both of them, my approach to my career would be drastically different.

How has your local startup ecosystem contributed to your venture’s development and success? The Carnegie Mellon and Pittsburgh ecosystem has been extremely influential in helping me develop my startup. Startups in the consumer food space are not your typical venture launched at Carnegie Mellon. I am probably missing a few robots and some AI right now, but members of the community were there to support it immediately. When going to launch my initial pilot for the business, there were a host of influential folks in this community that opened their doors for partnerships, to gain access to space, and assist in operations. It has given me a lot of conviction that Pittsburgh continues to grow as a place to begin and test early-stage startups. There is a network of talented people here ready to support founders.

What is your long-term goal with your startup? The goal with ByMe is to become the number one access point for cravable and healthy food, that does not break the bank. Access points to high quality food right now can typically only check one or two of those boxes, ByMe checks all of them. With the changing tides in consumer behavior after the pandemic, people have opened their minds to trying new models. ByMe will ultimately become the future consumers meal and grocery solution.


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