By: Ethan Bledsoe ‘26
On Wednesday, October 12th, The Garage welcomed new members of the Tinker Program and current Residents to Family Dinner. This week, students had the opportunity to hear from Northwestern alumni Jimmy Paul, McCormick ‘13 who is the current CTO and Co-Founder of Crafty; a one-stop-shop for the pantry needs of businesses across the globe.
Jimmy started by describing his time at Northwestern as a computer engineering major. The other co-founders of Crafty had unique perspectives as well, with degrees ranging from flute performance to Chinese. While each of their majors did not necessarily relate to entrepreneurship, Jimmy pointed out that each co-founder brought an essential set of skills to the team that were crucial in developing Crafty.
Especially in recent years, companies have tried to attract employees by making office spaces more enjoyable and fun. Jimmy and his team noticed a potential market in providing beverages on tap in offices through kegerators, a small refrigerated system designed to hold a keg and dispense cold drinks. Jimmy spoke with one business with a kegerator and noticed the inefficiencies—the parts were scattered across the city, the machinery was difficult to clean, and the kegs were inaccessible. He then talked to dozens of other businesses that experienced the same problems and ultimately realized that they could provide the solution.
The Crafty founders were excited about the potential market for kegerators, but Jimmy emphasized that they did not start the business hastily. The team researched liquor licenses and sought expertise from Northwestern’s Pritzker School of Law, which provided pro bono work for startups. Additionally, the founders utilized the Northwestern alumni network to build connections with potential customers and investors.
After conducting extensive market research, the team developed a strong business model. This made Jimmy confident enough to leave his full-time job to launch Crafty. The business was very successful from the early stages because of the unique services it offered. Even as the business grew, Jimmy and his team still delivered and set up the kegerators themselves. Eventually, they realized that hiring a delivery driver would increase efficiency by allowing them to focus on the management side of the business – which in turn allowed the organization to grow exponentially. As clients started asking for services outside of providing beverages, Crafty grew to 140 employees and started stocking entire companies’ pantries. They also built out a supply chain in San Francisco to expand their offerings in the Bay Area.
During the pandemic, office spaces shut down and created great difficulties for Crafty. However, this experience gave the Crafty team some time to rethink their business model. Now, Crafty is stronger than ever with over 200 employees that service over 260 offices around the world. In April, the company announced it had raised a $10M Series A to continue growing the business.
- Early on, Jimmy and his team said yes to almost every request. Even though not all of the experiences were exactly what they wanted to do, this allowed Crafty to expand more rapidly and learn what the company’s strengths were.
- Perseverance is key. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Crafty had to downsize and reevaluate its business model. They took this time to learn what was working – and what wasn’t – so that they could come back stronger and more efficient than ever.
- Students at The Garage should utilize all of the resources available to them at Northwestern, such as The Garage, Pritzker School of Law, and Kellogg School of Management.
Ethan Bledsoe ‘26 is a Mathematical Methods in Social Sciences (MMSS) major from West Lafayette, IN. He is a student aide at The Garage, tasked with managing different administrative, marketing, and operations projects. His favorite thing about The Garage is the welcoming and vibrant community of entrepreneurs.