Women Business Owners Series: Del Lim, Owner and Founder of Del the Grocery Gal
As part of our series on Women Business Owners, we recently sat down with Del Lim, Owner and Founder of Del the Grocery Gal, to learn more about why she started her personal grocery shopping business, the unique customer service she offers and her advice to other women who are thinking about starting their own businesses.
TorchLight: Del, thanks joining us today and sharing your story. To kick us off, what led you to start Del the Grocery Gal in the middle of the pandemic? Why did you pick grocery shopping in particular?
Del: In the beginning of 2020, right before COVID began, I was freelancing as a paralegal. My freelance work dropped off due to several factors, so I started looking for other opportunities. I wasn’t having much luck finding anything, so my sister suggested I Iook into grocery shopping services. I ended up becoming a contractor for Instacart.
My customers were very happy with my service so I thought there could be an opportunity to work directly with them—and I turned it into my own business!
TorchLight: How does your grocery shopping service work? How do customers order from you and how do you charge for the service?
Del: I use a free app called Dumpling which customers can download. It allows them to order on their phones, as well as build shopping lists, enter credit card info and add gratuity. I charge a flat $20 fee to cover my costs and the gratuity is the profit. I have a new customer discount and returning customers receive a loyalty discount on every 5th order.
TorchLight: It sounds like it’s very easy to get started working with you. Tell us more about the personalized shopping service you offer. What kinds of things do you do to ensure your customers receive quality grocery items that meet their needs?
Del: First, I help solve the produce issues that many people experience with grocery shopping services. I’m an experienced cook and shopper so I’m much better than the typical grocery shopping services in selecting high quality fruits and vegetables. I shop for my customers like I shop for myself. I look out for deals, buy in bulk and find other ways to save money. For example, I have memberships to warehouse stores like Costco and club cards at most area grocery stores which I use to save money for my customers
I also communicate with customers in real time in case I have any questions or recommendations. For example, if something is out of stock, I’ll send them a text with a recommended substitution and photo so they can decide if they are ok with it.
TorchLight: The real-time communication sounds amazing. Given your cooking expertise, what other kinds of recommendations do you make?
Del: I’m a problem solver. Because my clients regularly use me for their grocery shopping, I get to know their tastes and preferences. For example, a customer may need a hot pepper for a particular recipe. My cooking background enables me to give them options like a serrano, banana or other peppers based on their likes and dislikes.
TorchLight: That is truly personalized grocery shopping. Do you help customers with other kinds of shopping as well?
Del: I can shop at any store that takes a Visa card, so I sometimes pick up other items for them. Recently, one of my clients had a fight with her boyfriend and asked me to buy an “I’m sorry” gift and card. I picked out something she liked, and hand-delivered it to his office. That was an unusual request, but I like helping solve my customers’ problems.
TorchLight: I know who to call the next time I need to apologize to my husband! So, what is your favorite part about being an entrepreneur? What’s the most challenging part?
Del: I love connecting with customers and working with “real” people—elderly couples, families with young children, single people working crazy hours and many others. My previous jobs were not as personal and now I connect 1:1 with my customers. We sometimes even become friends over time. During the pandemic, I’ve helped many people who couldn’t go out. Their gratitude and appreciation have been amazing.
The biggest challenge is being on my own which limits me. I can only shop for so many people at one time. I’m hoping to expand to B2B shopping and supply restaurants, so I’ll need to bring in family members to do that. I also need to find a way to market myself differently, perhaps as a time-saving service, given that more people are comfortable doing their own shopping now.
TorchLight: What advice do you have for women who are thinking about starting their own businesses?
Del: Don’t be afraid to take a bold step and go out of your comfort zone! Do something totally unexpected.
TorchLight: Great advice for potential entrepreneurs. It’s amazing how you took the leap and started something you are truly passionate about that makes customers so happy. Thanks so much for sharing your story with us and best of luck with your business!
To get in touch with Del and learn more about her shopping services, visit Del the Grocery Gal.
Check out her Facebook page here.