DELRAY BEACH — Jayson Koss admits the early stages of his Delray Beach "delivery service" 10 years ago weren't exactly in accordance with the law of the land.
With only a moped and a few bucks in hand, Koss said he began his venture as a one-man operation delivering food and marijuana.
“I lived in New York on-and-off, and you can get anything delivered up there,” he said. “I had a lot of friends in the restaurant industry in Delray Beach. I just signed up for a couple restaurants and started delivering weed and food.”
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Then, things really started to pick up.
“Over the years I took on partners," Koss said. "I ended up raising money and took on investors, we started to take it seriously."
As it turned out, Koss was ahead of his time as Uber Eats, Door Dash and Grub Hub and other food delivery businesses are in the game.
“We were delivering food because we thought that, that made sense," he said. "We stopped delivering weed. We realized that, that was a stupid thing to do, people still wanted food delivered."
'I felt like my life was financially over'
Fast forward to 2019 and Koss, CEO and founder of Delivery Dudes based in Delray Beach, now partners with restaurants to bring meals to customers in 60-70 cities. And he's proud that he grew the business privately without institutional backing.
He credits his success to being in the right place at the right time.
“When you stop searching is when you usually find something,” said Koss. “I felt like my life was financially over and I’m on a moped and I’m delivering people food and I’m all of a sudden having the best time of my life. I’m making restaurant owners happy, I’m making customers really happy. Of course when you’re doing something that you love, it explodes and that’s what happened.”
Koss admits that he wasn’t all that business savvy in the beginning, but the delivery service took off and quickly expanded outside Delray Beach into South Florida.
“I wasn’t sophisticated back then, I didn’t know how to raise money,” he said. “I’ve since learned those things. I want to give everyone an opportunity. I want to give my drivers the same opportunity I had. We built this program, Dudes University. This whole company is driver-owned and operated. Every one of our executives is a driver. I’ve done over 10,000 deliveries myself.”
And, the business has continued to expand.
“We have a pretty big position in Nashville, and we have a lot of locations in Pennsylvania," Koss said.
And something that is very personal for Koss — Delivery Dudes takes pride in the selection of restaurants it partners with.
“There’s a sign up form on our website,” he said. “We get a lot of inquiries from restaurants wanting to work with Delivery Dudes. One of the ways we like to separate ourselves is we don’t work with McDonald’s. We don’t do fast food that much. We like to curate our restaurant list to have the best of the specific genres of food in each market.”
Working with the 'small guys'
In neighborhoods where the pickings are slim, Delivery Dudes make an effort to offer quality food options.
“Sometimes, we have to work with restaurants that just do volume.” Koss said. “But in places like Delray Beach, I try not to work with the chains, more of the independently owned, family restaurants. We like working with the small guys. We bring in the good local food for the locals by the locals.”
Koss says 70 percent of Delivery Dudes restaurants are exclusive to Delivery Dudes. He also says that while most orders come through their app, and some through its website, customer service remains paramount.
“We have customer service operators that you can call,” he emphasized. “You can literally call and talk to an actual human being."
As passionate as Koss is about his business, he has discovered there are complications as businesses grow.
Delivery Dudes is still facing a discrimination lawsuit from a 56-year-old Broward County man who claims he was denied a job because of his age. The lawsuit was filed in December. The company, like competitors, has also faced lawsuits from workers who claim they should be classified as employees and not independent contractors.
Koss would not comment on active cases but does admit lawsuits come with the growth of a business.
"As soon as you get big, it's a sign of success," he said. "I will say that our drivers like being independent contractors. For now, we are going to continue that business model."
Helping the environment
He also wants to improve his business.
“One of the only bad things about Delivery Dudes is all the to-go packaging,” he said. “It’s this crazy amount of waste. One of the biggest issues is cutlery. All this single use cutlery, it ends up in landfills, it ends up in the ocean, and it ends up everywhere."
Delivery Dudes is partnering with ocean cleanup group, Boca Raton-based 4ocean, to help reduce plastics in its delivery service. Customers can check the option “4ocean Cutlery Opt Out” and won't get plastic ware.
“There are so many people that are like, ‘I want to save the planet.’ They get a quick rush and then it fizzles out,” said Koss. “I’ve never seen it done the way 4ocean is doing it. You see their boats every day, you see what these guys are doing. I’ve been part of the beach clean-ups they’re growing it as a business which I think is very important."
"I really want to make an impact." he said, emphasizing there's more to come. “This is step one."