When NFL dreams ended for Gilroy entrepreneur Benjamin Pope, 32, a new one began. He would help Gilroyans get food without leaving their homes or desks.
“I was sitting on the couch rehabbing from an ACL injury last December and that’s when I came up with the idea,” Pope said.
A year later, Gilroy GO, an Uber-like food-delivery service, was up and running. It hasn’t been easy for the former semi-pro football player.
“When you have a new startup, it’s not easy; you need to sacrifice a lot of time,” Pope said. “I didn’t have a summer. I didn’t have holidays. I was in my studio working on two laptops to get this done. I underestimated how much work it would take. In the next couple of years, I would like to find time to sit down.”
For a $5 delivery fee, Gilroy Go delivers for Station 55 Authentic Mexican Food, A-Jay’s Cheese Steaks and First Street Coffee House.
“We’ll deliver to everyone and everywhere in Gilroy,” Pope said. “It’s the first of its kind in Gilroy and I’m proud to be one of the few black business owners in town.”
Indeed Pope has no time to relax, working three days a week as a nursing assistant as well as driving for both Uber and Lyft along with raising a 5-year old daughter. The dream is worth the work however and Pope is working to make Gilroy Go pop.
“What makes Gilroy Go special is that you’re going to get your food fast, it’s going to be clean and it’s going to be accurate,” Pope said. “It’s faster than GrubHub and we’re working to make Gilroy our own. Gilroy has never had something like this.”
Pope spent a year, building a brand, the technology and running through hoops to get his business license from the city. After obtaining his business license, Gilroy Go has been delivering food for a month. With $3,000 in sales so far and three drivers, Pope’s young business is growing.
“A logo can say a lot and I wanted everyone to know exactly what we do when they see ours,” Pope said of Gilroy Go’s logo, a sprinting bulb of garlic.
The app, built on a platform by the German-based tech company Ordering.co is sleek and easy to use.
“It costs $33 a minute to talk to them,” Pope said of building the app. “From January to December, I’ve only spoken with them twice. But we have sent thousands of emails, but it was a struggle to get in the app stores.”
One of nine children raised by a single mother, six boys and three girls, Pope was raised by his mother. The family was raised in the Jehovah’s Witness faith, with which Pope no longer identifies, and this led to family struggles. They grew up and went their separate ways, but have recently come back together in San Jose.
Football was and remains one of the loves of Pope’s life. Between 2009 and 2016 Pope played defensive end, linebacker and running back and coached for semi-pro football teams including the San Jose Hawks. While Pope still loves to talk football, a huge Raiders fan, his second ACL tear put his football career on the sideline.
Fearsome on the gridiron, Pope works fulltime marketing Gilroy Go to local businesses. He works the phones and hits the pavement speaking to business owners working to expand his delivery options.
“We’re not greedy,” Pope said. “We are about building partnerships and the brands. The money will come, but If we focus on the wrong things, then bad things are going to happen.”