Meet the Team! Jordan – Account Executive

Next up in our series of interviews with the Hazlnut team, we sat down with Jordan, an Account Executive for Hazlnut:

Thanks for joining us, Jordan.

Thanks for having me!

To get started, tell us about what you were doing before starting at Hazlnut?

Before working at Hazlnut, I worked for Publix: a supermarket chain based here in Florida. I worked there for over 6 years and it’s the only other job I’ve ever had. Publix’s Tuition Reimbursement program allowed me to work there part-time all the way through college without having to worry too much about class payments. I graduated from the University of North Florida with a Bachelor’s Degree in 2019, shortly before I started at Hazlnut.

How do you feel Publix prepared you for your role at Hazlnut?

Publix is all about customer service and quality. When I interviewed with Hazlnut, I asked Dick Sikes, our CEO, what the company values were and those were two things that he mentioned. I knew it would be a great fit.

Publix helped me gain invaluable people skills that have helped me in my current role. During my middle and high school years, I was the quiet kid. Working a customer service role forced me to talk to people all day, every day and that helped me gain a level of confidence that has carried over into my position here at Hazlnut.

Was it strange transitioning from retail to software sales?

Definitely! Working in retail is very fast paced. There is always something to do and more customers to help. But it’s always the same exact thing every day, just moving customers through the line.

Compare that to my job at Hazlnut… It’s night and day! The job here is task-oriented, so it feels more satisfying to get things done. The work environment is also much more relaxed, which I definitely appreciate.

How did you hear about Hazlnut, and how did you start working there?

That’s a funny story, actually. I was about 2 months away from graduating college and having trouble finding jobs that seemed like a good fit for me. Marketing was my major, but I was never really into the creative side of marketing. Business to Business sales were something I had a growing interest in, but sales can be tough to step into without any experience or internships under your belt.

One day a close friend of mine applied for an E-Commerce position with PS27 Ventures, a group that invests in Startups. He mentioned a sales position was available, and the possibility of working together peaked my interest. I applied, and later discovered that the position was for Hazlnut, a business that PS27 invested in. After researching the company, I became very interested in what Hazlnut was doing. I moved forward with the interview and was offered the job later on.

That’s great! I know B2B sales can be cut-throat. How do you stay inspired in your sales position?

It’s definitely a challenge sometimes. I was told it would be an emotional rollercoaster, but I didn’t really realize what that meant until I got started.

Sometimes things go really well and everything seems to come so easily, other times you have to grin and bear it until things start to fall into place. But, between my faith and the encouraging work environment here, I’m able to work through the rough days, knowing that better times will come if I work hard enough.

What do you do outside of work? 

I love to spend time with my girlfriend, friends, and family, but when I have free time, I enjoy watching sports and playing video games. Both of my football teams, the Jaguars and Seminoles, aren’t doing very well right now so, like sales, it can be an emotional rollercoaster and I try to stay positive!

COVID-19 really ramped up around the time that you got hired, and after only a few weeks you ended up working from home for several months. At its height, how did COVID-19 affect the way you connected with the team and restaurant owners? 

I was just beginning to get comfortable around the office and all of a sudden I had to work from the desk in my room. Communication between the team was tougher and we had to meet on Zoom every morning to make sure we were all on the same page. Everyone was really helpful in making sure I was well equipped to do what was asked.

Thankfully, it didn’t really affect communication with restaurant owners on my end, as most of what I do is through email or Zoom. However, it did cause me to become an independent employee much faster. Doing demos from home without my bosses around to help or answer questions, forced me to learn new things on my own in such a short amount of time.

I understand working for a growing startup business is considered risky to most college students. Do you have any recommendations for young professionals who are afraid to take a leap of faith shortly after graduating?  

Through college, I always assumed I’d find a job with a big company and try to work my way up in a secure environment. At Publix, everything was structured by corporate and there wasn’t much flexibility, so that’s what I was accustomed to. Working for a start-up is a completely different world. You have a lot more say in how things are done, and you get an in-depth look into how the business is actually run.

I’m really thankful I ended up working here, and to those who are afraid of taking the leap: I recommend you look at the leadership and values above anything else. If you feel confident in the leader’s ability to take the company where it needs to go, and the values are consistent with those goals, then it’s worth taking the chance!

Thanks for your time today, Jordan!

Click here to schedule a demo and ask for Jordan!

Meet the Team! Steven Edwards – COO

Next up in our series of interviews with the Hazlnut team, we sat down with Steven Edwards, COO of Hazlnut:

Thanks for joining us, Steven.

Glad to be here!

As one of the founders of Hazlnut, I’m sure the company is a big part of your life, but what hobbies do you have outside of work?

I enjoy listening to music, reading, brewing beer, and playing guitar and bass.

You have some pretty creative and artistic interests. Did your work life before Hazlnut reflect that?

Not really. I worked as a Quality Engineer for Vistakon/Vision Care and DePuy Synthes, both of which are Johnson & Johnson companies.

We spoke to Dick a few weeks ago and got a lot of insight into the founding of Hazlnut, but that’s only one side of the story. Tell us more about your role in starting the company.

Dick Sikes called me one day and said he had a coding project he was working on and wanted to know if I’d help him with it since I had a little development experience. I helped get his vision off the ground and we immediately started thinking about how we could launch it and turn it into a viable business.

While we didn’t have any direct experience in starting a business, Dick was very sharp in terms of accounting and finance and had some business acumen from his days at FSU, but the rest we just learned on the fly. Just to be clear, it was very different from what the company is today as the initial concept was centered around customer satisfaction surveys. All of the stuff we learned on our own during this venture helped define what the company would eventually become and later expanded to include a loyalty reward system and eventually morphed into online ordering. Hazlnut is the culmination of all of the hard work building out the former company idea and learning every facet of running a real business.

I’m sure that process of getting things off the ground came with all sorts of ups and downs. Any interesting stories from the early days of the company?

When we first conceived of the company, we decided to launch it at a local startup festival called One Spark. We had a big vision with lofty goals for One Spark and while we did draw very impressive crowds at our booth (in addition to some local press and placing 6th overall in the Technology category), we walked away with zero customers. We did however pilot with a local restaurant who took a shot on us and while it didn’t work out in the end, we learned a ton about ourselves and our business. This eventually set the foundation for the evolution of our company and helped propel us to where we are today. I have a lot of fond memories of that week at One Spark and it’s awesome to see how it started as an idea to now, where we have a company of 8 people and still growing.

That’s great! What has your role been at Hazlnut?

Currently my title is Chief Operations Officer. In the beginning I handled all of the customer onboarding activities, customer service interactions and new customer apps, while also heavily contributing to the User Interface for all of our products (apps, online ordering and dashboard). While I currently do a lot less of the hands on with customers, I do oversee most of the day to day activities including customer onboarding, new customer apps and customer service and while also still communicating with the bulk of our customers directly.

It definitely sounds like you had a big role in creating the customer service-focused culture at Hazlnut. Were there any mentors or experiences that helped you develop this focus on service?

I would definitely say the first thing that made me think about the customer’s needs, and to a greater extent placing the customer first, is when I first started working at Johnson & Johnson. Embedded in their DNA is the company credo. Their credo touches every single part of the company, no matter your title or position and in that credo it literally says in the first sentence: “We believe our first responsibility is to the patients, doctors and nurses, to mothers and fathers and all others who use our products and services.” In this case, patients, doctors, nurses, mothers and fathers who use their products are their customers and no matter what product they’re working on and no matter how small the task, we always had to work with that in the forefront of our minds.

This was very impactful on me and made me understand what customer experience is all about and what makes a great company. I know it’s a little cliché, but I’ve always been inspired by Steve Jobs (for what he’s accomplished in business). I’ve seen him in interviews and being quoted in various articles as saying “You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back toward the technology – not the other way around.” Especially in technology, you have to start with the customer in mind. Where a lot of companies fail is when they invent a new technology and try to find a need in the market that may or may not exist.

Thanks for sharing with us today, Steven! It seems the company is in really good hands with you and Dick in charge. We’re all looking forward to watching as the company continues to grow and succeed in the future!

Meet the Team! Dick Sikes – CEO

We recently sat down with Dick Sikes, CEO and Co-Founder of Hazlnut:

Thanks for joining us, Dick.

Thanks for having me.

We’re looking forward to learning a little bit about Hazlnut. For those who aren’t really familiar with the business, tell us a little bit about what you guys do.

We build high quality online and mobile ordering solutions to help smaller restaurants compete with bigger brands. I’ve said it so much now it almost sounds cliché but it’s really our ethos. We’re constantly looking at the latest and greatest features on the market and in the best apps (Starbucks & Chick-fil-a for example) and thinking, “How can we make something like this work for our customers?”

As I’m sure you’re aware, you’re in a pretty competitive market. What makes Hazlnut stand out from the competition?

Our passion for what we do and our commitment to quality. All of our apps are native and full featured. We don’t just build a shell of an app that points to your online ordering page and I think the app store ratings reflect that. I was just looking at the Larry’s Giant Subs iOS app the other day and it had a ton of ratings and 4.9 stars on average. People have been really receptive to the quality we’re putting out there.

What’s become more and more evident lately is our service is a core element of our offering. I think people like the fact that they can call our number and get a hold of someone right away who knows what they’re talking about. That doesn’t happen much anymore in this day and age.

That’s awesome. It sounds like you have a hand in multiple areas of the business. What exactly is your role at Hazlnut?

My title at Hazlnut is CEO but of course in a start-up we all wear many hats, this was especially true early on. In the early stages, my co-founder Steven and I would act as development, sales, marketing… a little bit of everything. Luckily as we’ve grown as a company we have more qualified people filling a lot of those roles. And although I still do some development (mostly for iOS) I’d say my primary roles could be classified as Business Development and Strategy and Accounting and Finance. With our co-founder, Steven Edwards, in Operations this plays well to both of our strengths. He’s keeping the trains running on time and I’m expanding the routes and making sure we’re getting paid on each trip.

So how did you guys come up with the name Hazlnut?

I really wish there was a better story here but it just kind of came about. At the time we were called Gonogo but we couldn’t get the domain name or consistent social media handles. Also, SEO was impossible because it’s kind of a common phrase (a “go, no-go” decision) so no one could find us online. We knew we needed to change names.

We wanted something that represented the restaurant industry since that was the core segment we’re serving so Hazlnut kind of works there since it’s a common flavor, but also it was vague enough to work as a software company name to keep us flexible. In the same vein of “what does Apple have to do with computers?” Plus, we got a cool mascot out of it. Everyone likes squirrels, right?!

Of course! Now that we have a little insight into the company, why don’t you tell us about what you did prior to starting Hazlnut?

I worked in capital markets for a bank and I loved it there. Early in my career I worked very hard to earn my CFA charter and being an Analyst at a bank was exactly what I wanted to do. In a lot of ways that job shaped who I am, and how I think and approach things. 

As I much as I loved it, there was still something nagging at me to strike out on my own. And working in that role I started getting more and more into programming, first with macros in excel and then some other various business intelligence tools. So I really started developing a passion for software development and knew if I was going to do something entrepreneurial, that’s what it was going to be.

So what would you say to someone who’s unhappy with their corporate job but is too scared to take a leap into starting a business?

First, I’d say you shouldn’t really approach going into business for yourself as an escape from a job you hate. I think what you’re going into needs to be a passion for you or you won’t succeed.

Secondly, I’d say you need to get into a mentality of starting. It’s too easy to just think about something and never start, or to continue iterating and iterating to make your product or service perfect before you release it. I’ve seen it happen way too many times and have been guilty of it myself. PS27 Ventures, the VC group that invested in us has a motto, “Think Big, Start Small”. I love that, but I’d even amend it to just “Think Big, Start” because that’s the hardest part. Get something out there, fall on your face but learn from your mistakes and keep going. We’ve really bought into a mentality of “1.0, 2.0” here. Just get out a version 1.0 first and you can always work your 2.0 along the way.

Reid Hoffman has a great quote about this, “If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.”

Also, I was extremely lucky to partner with my childhood friend Steven Edwards in this case. He’s a doer, so it made for a really good combo with us teaming up. I know advice on working with a friend is probably 50/50 out there, but I wouldn’t do it any other way.

It definitely sounds like you’re passionate about the company. Was there a specific role model in your life who helped transform this passion into a successful business?

There’s not a single role model, but multiple role models for different reasons. There’s a family friend who is a very successful business owner here in town, Greg Matovina, that I meet with regularly to catch up with and get advice. Jim Stallings and all of the advisors at PS27 Ventures who have been invaluable through the whole entrepreneurial process. And all the way back to high school I had an amazing teacher named Mr. Clark who ignited a lifelong passion of learning within me. As a side note, I also really enjoyed reading the Steve Jobs biography and loved learning about his view on products and marketing, definitely wouldn’t want to model his interpersonal skills though!

I know COVID-19 has definitely had an impact on decisions to start new businesses. How has the pandemic affect Hazlnut?

It’s been mixed. First off, it’s hard to be happy about any positive impacts it’s had on the business when it’s devastated so many lives. It’s a really weird feeling. Overall for the most part, right now, it appears to have been very positive. A lot of restaurants have been needing online and mobile ordering as dining rooms have been closed and people are practicing social distancing. 

The reason I say it’s been mixed though is to help restaurants get something up and running, we’ve reduced pricing on a lot of our services. All this has worked to shift our product mix entirely. Whereas now we’ve got a lot of new customers going with our online ordering only product which is not our core product (mobile apps) and affects things from a profitability and servicing standpoint. We’re seeing more attrition as restaurants close their doors, sometimes for good, unfortunately. We have concerns about what things will look like as this pandemic lingers on and government stimulus runs out.  So regardless of any short-term economic benefits, like everyone else, we’re hoping for this to be over very soon.

I think we’re all in agreement there. It’s been a strange time for everyone.

Well, we’re out of time today, but just one more question: Any exciting things on the horizon that you can share with us?

So many things. We have some really ambitious projects lined up for the remainder of 2020 into 2021. Mainly looking to expand our integrations to additional point of sales as well as coming out with kiosks which we’re really looking forward to. Also, some BIG things in the pipeline in terms of AI and machine learning that we’re really buzzing about internally, but I’ll keep it quiet for now. But we feel we’ve got some things in the works that could change the industry. I’ll leave it at that for now!

Thanks for your time today, Dick. Best of luck to everyone on the Hazlnut team!

Meet the Team! BJ – Software Developer

Next up in our series of interviews with the Hazlnut team, we sat down with BJ, a software developer for the company:

Thanks for joining us, BJ.

It’s a pleasure to be here.

Before we get into your work life with Hazlnut, let’s learn a little about your personal life. What are your hobbies outside of work?

I’m a diehard Jacksonville Jaguars fan & ticket holder, a total nerd, and a gamer. I spend the majority of my non-work time on a computer either gaming, surfing the web, writing code (yep, in my free time), or just chatting with friends via Discord. If I’m awake and the Jags aren’t playing, you can probably find me at my PC.

Thanks for sharing! Most people probably don’t associate development and sports, but it shows you’re a well-rounded person. Now why don’t you tell us a about how and when you started working for Hazlnut.

I started working for Hazlnut as an intern in November 2018. Back then the company was just Dick and Steven, and they found me through a program at Florida State College at Jacksonville called I-Tech. The internship covered by the program was set to run for 9 weeks, but thankfully I was offered a full-time position before the end of that term.

That’s awesome! It’s really cool to see a temporary situation like that turn into a permanent job. What did you do before Hazlnut?

While I was in the I-Tech program, I landed a temporary position doing some quality assurance (QA) work for a database administrator who changed my life. I am so grateful to “Cap” because I gained valuable experience and skills while working for him, and the job, which was supposed to be a few days of QA, turned into months of me testing and helping to develop the workflow for their new system. Then, when I interviewed for the position at Hazlnut, he wrote me a fantastic letter of recommendation which I believe helped Dick and Steven make their decision to take a chance on the guy with no professional coding experience.

What made you get into software development?

My step-dad has always been into computers and technology so we’ve pretty much always had a computer in the house; and I quickly developed a passion for computers and figuring out how they worked. In middle school, I saved up enough money one summer to buy my own computer; that’s when the hobby really took off. I eventually found Internet Relay Chat (IRC) and started to learn how to write simple macros and custom scripts there. I realized that writing code is a lot like solving a puzzle; you know what the end result should look like, the challenge is putting the pieces together. You know that awesome feeling you get when you solve a difficult problem or finish a puzzle? I get that from my job.

I love that you’re so passionate about your job! I know “Development” can mean a lot of different things. What does your average day look like and what are your responsibilities?

Man, I feel like I don’t have an average day, and I think that’s cool. I am pretty much always writing code in multiple software languages either for exciting new features or to fortify current features. The reality of software development is that there will be bugs, so I spend time on some days looking into reported issues and fixing those. I also monitor the status of our clients throughout the day in order to alleviate the pain of service interruptions caused by things like internet outages at their location.

Very cool! It sounds like there’s a lot that you love about your job, but what would you say is your favorite thing about working for Hazlnut?

That I get to be a real part of what goes on here. I get to see my work put to use because what I do actually matters to the company. Also, there is a lot to be said about feeling valued by your employer, and I appreciate how valued I feel working at Hazlnut. I never leave work feeling like I wasted a day on a useless project or busy work.

Thanks so much for giving us some insight into Hazlnut today. Good luck to everyone on the team going forward!

Meet the Team! Nathalie – Account Coordinator

Next up in our series of interviews with the Hazlnut team, we sat down with Nathalie, an Account Coordinator for Hazlnut:

Thanks for joining us, Nathalie.

It’s my pleasure!

To start off, tell us a little bit about your life and hobbies outside of Hazlnut.

Photography has been a major hobby of mine for as long as I can remember. Since I moved to Jacksonville from West Palm Beach, I’ve taken it a lot more seriously. I try to book photoshoots or take pictures of surfers whenever I’m free. Besides that, I love helping small businesses by creating logos and branding kits for them to take their business to the next level. Most of my free time ends up consumed by editing photos and brand assets on Lightroom and Photoshop.

I’ve also devoted a lot of my time to the Honor Flight Network. My high school history teacher asked me to join his volunteer club, and next thing I knew I was on a flight to Washington D.C. with 80 World War II veterans. Since then, I have helped organize local fundraising and volunteered at a wide array of events to support their cause. I highly recommend you research their mission at honorflight.org.

That’s really cool! You don’t really hear about people being involved in those types of causes while in high school. What were you doing between high school and working for Hazlnut?

I’ve always worked in the restaurant industry in some capacity. I’ve worn many hats: hostess, to-go specialist, server, captain, kitchen prep, delivery driver, and in the catering industry I’ve seen how much time and effort goes into being a manager/owner. 

Since I moved to Jacksonville, I took advantage of my school-to-work schedule ratio and made sure I gave myself enough time each week to travel. I’ve been lucky enough to visit several states and countries in such a short amount of time, not to mention all the local sightseeing around Florida. In May, I graduated with my Bachelor’s at the University of North Florida. I was working on 2 majors (Business Administration and Marketing & Logistics) and 1 minor (Digital Marketing & Analytics).

How did you start working for Hazlnut?

I got very lucky that a friend of mine worked at Hazlnut already. We studied at UNF and took several classes together, always teaming up for projects. We reached out to one another to catch up and eventually my plans for post-graduation came up. He recommended me for the job and the rest is history!

Awesome! I understand that customer service is a big part of your role as an Account Coordinator. Customer service is definitely a challenging area and takes a special kind of person to make it work. What’s been the most challenging part of your role at Hazlnut?

The sheer volume of it all! I love answering questions, working through feedback and concerns, and simply helping people in any way I can. What I didn’t know was just how often customer service and support is the primary point of contact. At first it was hard to navigate since I was still learning so much about Hazlnut, how to write SQL queries, and how to search through a large database for the specific information I needed. It’s funny because I’ve always heard the saying ‘you don’t know what you don’t know’ but my first month at Hazlnut definitely opened my eyes to so much I didn’t know.

We all know that customer service can be stressful, but you make it look easy. How are you able to stay so motivated and passionate about the job?

There are a few mottos I like to live by, these have helped me stay altruistic and motivated even outside of work.

(1) “Do at least one thing every day to change at least one person’s life for the better” 

(2) “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others” 

(3) “Good customer service is less time consuming than bad customer service”

(4) “Happy customers are your biggest advocates and can become your most successful sales team.” 

(5) “Above all else, what are you doing to make sure everyone around you is positively impacted by your acts?”

I handle the stress by reminding myself what it’s like to be on the other end. At the end of the day, the customer is just as stressed as I am. Remaining positive allows me to convert my stress to motivation, and channel my energy towards resolving customers’ concerns. It also helps to have such an incredible set of coworkers that I know I can depend on. If the workload catches up to me, or if I can’t figure out a resolution on my own, we have a team of highly skilled and generous individuals to lean on.

Thanks for sharing today, Nathalie! Just one more question before we go: You’ve said a lot of great things about Hazlnut, but what is your favorite thing about working for the company?

It sounds cheesy, but it really is the team. Dick & Steven have done a great job creating a workspace that is welcoming and supportive. Teamwork is essential, especially in a fast-growing business. Working at Hazlnut has allowed me to wear several hats, learning new skills along the way and I know I can always turn to my coworkers for help when I need it.

Since it’s still a relatively small-sized company, brainstorming leads to innovative ideas that are implemented without needing to jump through too many hoops. You really get a sense of ownership and can see the end-result of your hard work. They’ve created a great balance of a relaxed work environment without losing productivity. I’ve never been a part of a workplace culture quite like this one. 

Wishing you all the best going forward!