Earlier this month, Off the Grid’s founder and CEO Matt Cohen accepted the National Small Business Association’s 2018 award for Small Business Person of the Year in the state of California, beating out nominees from nine other districts in throughout the state. The award not only celebrated Off the Grid’s business leadership in the events space, but it honored the company’s role as an innovative problem solver and job creator that’s making a difference in our local communities.
“10 years ago I was answering phones and working in the belly of the W Hotel in San Francisco. It feels especially meaningful today to celebrate the SBA Small Business Person of the Year for the State of California on the roof of the W Hotel Washington, DC,” said Matt from the national awards ceremony in May, where he converged with winners from 50 other states.
Originally from Denver, Colorado Matt started his career as a public school educator in Atlanta, Georgia. A stint teaching abroad in Japan left him enamored with Asia’s bustling night market scene, and was quickly followed by a foray into the world of mobile food — via a ramen truck called Tabe Trucks — that provided a crash course on San Francisco’s notoriously tricky permitting system. It was these experiences that presented the opportunity for what would eventually become Off the Grid.
What started with five hundred dollars and some traffic cones in 2010 and has since grown into a thriving events and experience platform with nearly 300 mobile food creators, who together serve more than 4,000,000 meals a year from Larkspur to Cupertino, and everywhere in between.
Speaking from last week’s awards ceremony in San Francisco, Matt thanked both the SBA for its support of small business, and the Bank of San Francisco for its direct contributions to Off the Grid’s success. “When I first came in to get a loan, I came in bearing crème brulée, Chinese dumplings, liquid nitrogen ice cream and taco trucks. We’ve evolved considerably since then, and now we’re doing manufacturing, we’re doing software, we’re offering large-scale catering and corporate dining, and we’re really working to adapt to the lay of the land in San Francisco.”
Matt also attributed Off the Grid’s success to the Bay Area community and its embrace of outside-the-box thinking, innovation and placemaking. “What we’re really about is helping communities thrive, and building vibrant spaces. Our experiences offer the opportunity for those casual collisions that knit a community together.”
The Off the Grid team couldn’t be more proud of Matt’s accomplishments — or excited for where the company is headed next. Check out the video below to see what some of us had to say about Matt’s trailblazing leadership, and life at Off the Grid.