Reach Out, Dine In

A Madison couple hopes to taste success with, their newly launched Web site to bring food, friends and family together

Jun 11, 2009

When Katie Thompson Colbert moved back to her native Madison from San Francisco with her husband and kids, they missed having dinner with her in-laws and trading recipes afterward. Like most families, food brought hers together, and she didn’t want to lose that connection—not to mention those great new recipes.

So, the Colberts got a team of talented people together experienced in programming and HTML from across the country and launched out of their Madison home, a website where people can share their recipes and their lives. A virtual recipe box and social networking site wrapped into one, Sharecipe allows users to create a profile where they can designate a signature recipe, share other favorites and post cooking tips. A “food for thought” box can be updated to let your friends know what you’re cooking or what’s cooking in your life.

“It is absolutely a site for the everyday cook,” Thompson Colbert says, adding that she wanted the site to appeal to everyone from kitchen novices to gourmet cooks and the tech-phobic. Her ultimate goal was to “make the site so easy my mom could use it—and she does!”

The site came after years of tossing business ideas back and forth (the couple met in college at the University of Colorado at Boulder). The idea for Sharecipe came after years of moving around the country and asking friends and family to e-mail recipes “and all of the sudden, just those words: ‘there has to be a better way of doing this,’” Thompson Colbert says. “It was a lightbulb moment.”

That moment was followed by nearly a year of research and development, and, on June 5, Sharecipe launched. “We never wanted to start something until it really made sense and we really felt there was a need and it was something we would be proud of and would use,” says Thompson Colbert.

Use it they do—Thompson Colbert says that just after a week into the beta launch, she was gathering ingredients to make tiramisu, something she wouldn’t have attempted “in a million years.” But, since the recipe came from a Sharecipe friend and she was able to get tips on every detail, down to the brand of ladyfingers to buy, Thompson Colbert thought she’d give it a try. That kind of experimentation is exactly what Thompson Colbert had in mind when she and her husband began developing the site.

A mother of three, Thompson Colbert knows the frustration of spending time on a new recipe only to have the whole family push it around their plates. “You know if your mom sends you something or your good friend, you’re just more apt to really enjoy it and like it, if you have similar interests,” says her husband Alex Colbert.

If you do like it, the site allows you to privately flag favorite recipes for easy access and add notes of your own. Cutting down on failed dinners saves money too, another way the Colberts feel Sharecipe will benefit cooks. Although the idea for Sharecipe came to them last summer before the economic meltdown, the timing of the launch couldn’t be better.

“So many people are having to cut back and reevaluate where they’re spending their money, and for them to have better options in terms of what they’re cooking for their family is very exciting,” says Thompson Colbert.

Recipes on Sharecipe can be categorized as low budget to help those in your network keep grocery bills low, or into special diets or kid-friendly categories to make sure the whole family stays happy and healthy. The Colberts hope that Sharecipe will help bring busy families together around the dinner table, a daily tradition they both grew up with and try to carry on with their three young children.

“Dinner can last ten minutes; it can last half an hour. You never know, but at least you’re setting aside that time,” says Colbert. “It’s important to get together at least for half an hour a day and we hope [Sharecipe] encourages that more.”

It seems that Sharecipe is bringing more than just families together—the Colberts say they’re amazed at the Madison business community’s enthusiasm and encouragement. They joined a new entrepreneurs group and were assigned four business-savvy mentors to guide them through their venture.

“I feel like everyone wants each other to succeed and I don’t think in a bigger city anyone really cares as much for other people,” Thompson Colbert says of Madison’s business atmosphere. “Madison’s one big family like that,” Colbert adds.

The Colberts hope that Sharecipe membership will grow within that Madison family and spread virally, since Madison is full of people like them, connected to friends and family across the country and around the world.

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