After receiving an Arch Grant in May, Ola Ayeni, president and founder of Dining Dialog, is now relocating his new restaurant-marketing firm eateria from Naperville, Ill. to St. Louis.
The annual Arch Grant competition, which started in 2011, awards 20 startups $50,000 in seed money, along with other support services, in exchange for moving to St. Louis.
Jerry Schlichter, president of Arch Grants, said that the organization seeks startups that show qualities like the potential for national and international sales, great technology and a founder with ability to implement a vision.
“Ola’s firm has already accomplished a lot,” said Schlichter. “It has great potential to stand out by delivering a valuable service to restaurant operators. In addition, his personal qualities of great passion, energy and ability to carry out his vision are exceptional.”
A veterinarian by training, Ayeni moved to the United States from his home in Nigeria for more work opportunities. He took a teaching job with the City Colleges of Chicago after discovering a distaste for the Monday through Saturday schedule.
Then, after another career shift and working several years as a consultant to the restaurant and food services industry, Ayeni said he wanted start his own business. “I was doing well, but I wanted to do much more,” Ayeni said. “My parents were entrepreneurs, and I loved the fact that you could create things. I wanted to make things happen.”
So he started from scratch, opening Dining Dialog in 2010. “It literally grew from my basement, to now, several people working the company,” Ayeni said.
In March, Dining Dialog, a food service and restaurant marketing company, launched eateria as a new affordable marking solution. Ayeni built eateria as a tool for restaurant, food and hospitality businesses to promote their services effectively by connecting and engaging with customers.
The company has 11 current staff members and planned to host a recruitment party in St. Louis this weekend. Ayeni says the money from the Arch Grant has provided eateria with the opportunity to grow and expand its team. “The resources and grant will allow us to be able to do quite a lot in St. Louis,” he said. “There are a lot of great people here, and we are looking to put many of them to work, to build a great vision and to add value to the city.”
Just hours after Ayeni arrived in St. Louis, he sat down with Missouri Business Alert to talk about his company’s recent progress.