A new e-commerce platform designed for independent culinary artists has launched out of Indianapolis-based venture studio High Alpha. Castiron says its platform provides users with a customizable website builder, built-in food-specific product information such as ingredients and allergen disclosures, and order and inventory management tools. Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Mark Josephson says the goal is to support kitchen-based creators who “represent a massive opportunity for growth in our economy.”

In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Josephson said the idea for Castiron was born out of a High Alpha sprint week last year.

“We spent that week exploring consumer behavior around food, business behavior around food, online and e-commerce behavior and trends and we were able to identify that there was this group of entrepreneurs, these independent artisans, these makers that were trying hard to build a business online, but they were largely disconnected from some of the systems of success and tools that have already been build or that might exist,” said Josephson. “Things just didn’t fit their business model and so we saw an opportunity to purpose build software and tools and content and community for this specific group of entrepreneurs and it turns out it’s a really big market.”

Castiron says the platform also provides customers with the ability to manage multiple delivery and fulfillment options such as pickup, delivery and shipping, access to customer information, and community support to connect with other culinary artisans.

Josephson, who previously served as CEO of Bitly, says the sprint week process was very instrumental in the development of the platform by forcing the team to learn about opportunities in the market. He says through the process, they were able to get customers to commit to using the product before it was ever built.

“We got a very real signal from the market. We got very real data on things that might work or not work. We got to actually create something and, in that whole process, you as an entrepreneur have to gain confidence in the idea and the opportunity because you have to pitch at the end of it and present at the end of sprint week. It was a very productive way to explore a market, test a hypothesis or two and then see if I had enough conviction and the team had enough conviction to take the next step.”

Castiron says hundreds of culinary artisans have been using the platform as part of a beta program and Josephson says the feedback has been very rewarding.

“This is something that has been very important to me and to our team was to make sure that we were building products that solve problems for our customers. We have ideas and thoughts, but unless we validate those with our customers, it doesn’t matter,” he said. “Our goal is to have somebody show up at the website and feel as if it’s been built for them. It is specifically built for kitchen-based creators and so I think that feeling of recognition, understanding and appreciation…we’re trying really hard to make that resonate and come through.”

Josephson is based in New York but says the majority of Castiron’s small team is based out of Indianapolis. He says he expects the company to continue invest and grow in Indy as the platform gains more users.

Josephson says the idea for Castiron was born out of a High Alpha sprint week last year.