Piikup was a Resilience Lab Accelerator participant in 2020.
The shelter-in-place orders of the last year drastically changed the role of delivery services in our everyday lives, and for April Fenall, founder of wholesale food and retail delivery service Piikup, it’s a moment rife with opportunity—but not necessarily for the reason one might assume.
While large corporations that provide consumer-facing delivery from restaurants and grocery stores have seen a massive increase in demand, the boom also prompted increased awareness around the exploitation of workers and the hefty fees imposed on small businesses.
And this is where Piikup is positioned to shine. The company describes itself as the “only socially responsible delivery service for food and retail businesses.” Beyond providing reliable delivery services to small businesses in the Bay Area, April emphasizes that Piikup is also a social enterprise with a big focus on workforce development: “Our employees aren’t ‘drivers,’ they’re ‘team members.’ Our clients are not ‘customers,’ they’re ‘partners.’ It’s about how we work with people. It’s more than commerce. It’s more than a paycheck.”
Piikup’s philosophy that supporting small businesses and creating good jobs creates stronger communities made April a natural fit to participate in ICA’s Resilience Lab Accelerator in 2020. Below, April discusses how the connections she made with fellow ICA companies like Bread SRSLY and Firebrand Artisan Breads eventually turned into partnerships, as well as how the accelerator and additional educational programming helped prepare her for what’s to come.
Before you participated in the Resilience Lab Accelerator in 2020, you also participated in some business education programming with ICA. What impact did those courses have on Piikup?
I took a workshop on finances at Mills College, and just the act of having the money conversation and talking about funding was so important. To be honest, at that time, I wasn’t ready to act on everything that I learned. But it was so valuable to have those seeds planted and to be around the businesses that were ready. It’s like I was a freshman and I was in a room full of seniors. It was so good for me to be around that.
That’s one of the biggest things ICA has done for me; they introduced me to entrepreneurs that became mentors to me, like Sadie with Bread SRSLY and Matt with Firebrand Artisan Breads. ICA really showed me the need to spread your wings outside of your initial community.
What were some of your biggest takeaways from the Resilience Lab Accelerator last year?
One of the biggest things was just the affirmation that I’m not crazy to be going through so much angst. I was in a place where I was experiencing imposter syndrome and having doubts over whether this was ever going to work. But hearing similar stories and concerns from more senior companies—it just really helped calm me down. Being surrounded by the ICA community was like CPR. It breathed life into me.
The other major thing ICA helped me with: They connected me with JPMorgan Chase; we’re in conversations with them right now. During the accelerator, I worked on my financials, and that’s obviously been really important for these conversations.
What do you think the long-term effect of your participation in the Resilience Lab Accelerator will be?
There was one activity in particular that left a huge impression on me: Writing down what I want the end to look like. Thinking through that was such great practice, because in all of the funding circles and conversations you go on to have with people who want to give you money, they want to know that answer.
How have the challenges of the last year and the support you received from ICA informed Piikup’s mission in 2021 and beyond?
Delivery isn’t novel. There are so many companies out there. But one thing that differentiates Piikup is that in addition to serving small businesses, we also exist for the job seeker. I’m formerly incarcerated. I’m Black. I’m a woman. I have a disability. And building Piikup with a focus on job seekers has confirmed for me that folks are looking for jobs where they can show up with all of those identities safely.
It’s so important to me that the people I support and the people I work with are intentional and unapologetic about their support of Black Lives Matter and their relationship with Black people in general. This is not the time to go back to business as usual; you have to walk the walk and you have to be a good employer. This is how we lift up our workers.
Learn more about Piikup at piikup.com.