Communal dining can help build relationships that can lead to people into finding the perfect job or even one's soulmate. One way to find a group is Nommery, a social dining networking platform which connects you with the right people over shared meals at superb restaurants. Before founding Nommery, Founder & CEO, Melisa Lin, dined with thousands of strangers across 14 cities. 

Nommery's VIP users include Fortune 500 executives, venture capitalists, and founders. Lin discusses the magic to matching like-minded people and overcoming the challenges which can come along with fundraising.

Project Entrepreneur: What inspired you to start your business?
Lin: Loneliness was Nommery's impetus. When I first moved to San Francisco, I was lonely and eager to build my network. I also wanted to try all the best restaurants in town, so I founded the San Francisco Foodies on Meetup and started dining with strangers.

I had so much fun meeting fascinating people over delicious meals that I took all my vacations to fly to cities across America to dine with new friends. We now have 30,000 Foodies in our Meetup groups spanning 14 cities across the U.S.

As I was sharing hundreds of meals with thousands of people, I noticed members meeting over meals and going on to travel the world together, help each other find their next jobs, and even getting married. I decided to build a platform, Nommery, to connect the right people to build meaningful relationships over delicious meals.

Luckily, I had met the CTO of Coffee Meets Bagel through SF Foodies, and he joined Nommery's founding team to bring our dream to life.

What's been the biggest challenge you've faced so far?
Our biggest challenge has been fundraising. Nommery has been generating revenue since we launched our site, and while growing 50% month-over-month in gross revenue, we took dozens of meetings with VCs for our seed round.

Unfortunately, the feedback we received was to come back when we hit $50k in monthly gross revenue. One VC told us we should hit $300k/month before his firm would consider investing in our seed round. Fortunately, we have been able to raise some funding from our own users who've found Nommery to be the easiest way to meet new friends.

What's been the greatest reward?
The greatest reward is seeing life-changing relationships form over Nommery meals. It's magical when the right people meet and hit it off.

What is the biggest thing you'd like to see changed in your industry, and how are you working toward making that change happen?
We'd like to see more social networks focused on connecting people in real life rather than online. To that end, we're onboarding new members as fast as we can, and will be building machine-learning algorithms to connect them with the best people over delicious meals.

Who or what motivates you to keep going, even when things get tough?
Our wonderful users keep me going. Their passion for Nommery and success stories remind me that this may be the most meaningful work I've contributed to society.

What's one piece of advice you'd give to another entrepreneur just starting out?
Build relationships with your users and constantly collect feedback, to make sure you're building something they love and share with all their friends.

This article originally appeared on the Project Entrepreneur website and has been condensed for clarity.

Published on: Nov 27, 2017