Food Startup Josephine Brings the Sharing Economy to the Kitchen

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Mariela Rosa worked as a pediatrician in her native Argentina. But in Seattle, where she relocated with her husband for a few years for his tech job, she’s found a surprising new calling: Starting a small business right in her own kitchen.

With her young daughter in preschool during the day, Rosa was itching for something to keep herself busy. She discovered a spunky, sharing-economy startup called Josephine that helps home cooks create and sell food to neighbors. And it wasn’t long before she was offering five varieties of homemade empanadas for sale through the site.

“I think it’s the thing that I miss the most from my country,” she says. And the opportunity to spend her time cooking these cherished hand-pies for others fulfills a life-long dream: “When I was young and I had to decide between medicine and something else, that something else was cooking,” she recalls.

Oakland. Calif.-based Josephine was founded in 2014 by Charley Wang and Tal Safran, entrepreneurs with tech-industry roots who brought a sense of larger purpose to their new business. The company is more mission-driven and people-centric than many of the other ventures flooding the sharing-economy space.

Wang contends that there are two types of sharing-economy companies: those that aim to eliminate the need for humans and those that "champion" humans. He sees Josephine squarely in the latter category, along with handmade-craft-marketplace Etsy, while Uber is the prime example of the former.

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“A company like Etsy grows through the empowerment and inspiration of their sellers,” he says. Josephine, similarly, thrives when its producers are enthused, creative, and connected to those they cook for.

It’s no wonder that one of Josephine’s core values is “be more human.” That’s a fitting approach for a business predicated on the act of knocking on someone’s front door to pick up caringly crafted, handmade nourishment.

For Josephine chefs, that intimacy brings warmth and positivity to their transactions. And for Rosa, the result is glowing reviews of her empanadas on the site, a sense of satisfaction, and the enthusiasm to keep on creating.

“I feel good about it,” she says. “It’s one of the things that I always love about cooking--people enjoy what they are eating. It’s something made with love and care.”

At Josephine, that’s just good business.

Article by Katie Gustafson

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