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The Smart Locker, outside of Lavii

Lavii Founders, L-R James Bagley, Rea Huntley, Marcus Gunn)

In a year when so many businesses are facing unprecedented problems, three brilliant black engineers sought to create a solution to revolutionize food establishment's customer experience, and promote safety amid a global pandemic. Enter the Lavii Smart Locker Solution.

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The lockers were launched in August with their pilots in two small businesses in the DMV area. With the idea in mind, of getting customers their food safely, and reducing human interaction. Not to mention keeping your food safe. I know we've all done some type of curbside pickup or call in order, and you go to get your food and it's sitting on an open shelf, and you still have to wait sometimes depending on where that shelf is.

Lavii smart lockers in Crab Boss (Brandywine, MD)

Lavii Smart Lockers in Shark Bar (Waldorf, MD)

The smart lockers can be integrated into existing POS systems that restaurants already have, a huge plus! And the process is pretty simple on both sides...customer places their order, restaurant receives order; customer receives confirmation, the restaurant assigns locker to the order; when the order is ready the restaurant places it in the locker, customer arrives, and scans their code to open the locker to get their order.

This is a simple yet amazing solution that all restaurants need, and not in the way that the technology or design isn't complex, but in the sense that it's purpose is simple, and it fufills the overall purpose of technology. To improve, to make things we do easier. But what was even more amazing to me is that this startup was founded by 3 black engineers! We can literally do/create anything (but y'all knew that already). I had the privilege of speaking with the founders! Let's dig into some of our convo!

CDG: I guess we'll start out with a general question that I want you all to did you get your start in IT? We're gonna get to the business but I definitely want to know.

James Bagley, COO of Lavii: I guess I'll start what got me into IT was a computer class back in senior year of my in high school. I was actually on path to be studied law at the time. That's what I wanted to go in a school to study. I took a computer class as an elective in the twelfth grade and the computer teacher said that I had a gift for it said that I was just picking up things super quick and he believed I should just take a look at it and he put me into a web design class that was like an eight week course on the weekend and I fell in love with it.

JB: I fell in love with writing the HTML code back. This was when, this is before the IDE and stuff like Dreamweaver and all that. It was straight notepad and Internet Explorer mostly things like Netscape back then; but I fell in love with it and he just he just kept pushing it and kept pushing. I know you want to go into law. I know you want to do that, but I think you should really look in to go into computer science or something of that nature and I agreed. I decided you know what that's less school, I'm all for it

CDG: Ok soo who wants to go next?

Rea Huntley, Founder and CEO: I'm Rea the CEO and Founder and I would say I first discovered tech by just having a curiosity mindset and also the needs of feel challenged actually when I was younger, I was always curious to kind of figure out how my PlayStation worked. So I would sit there literally take it apart and challenge myself to put it back together to kind of see if I can get it to work again and my curiosity just continued to grow as time went on and I ended up going to school majoring in electronics and just seeing the way that you can actually take an idea and visualize it from a idea to a concept in my class, which was amazing.

So like in class we had this final project before we graduated. We had to come up with a programming where we had to program C language and kind of get it to to work the way you needed to so my final project was a stop light which seems so simple but on the back end it's very much so complicated so I had to kind of assemble the breadboard. I had to come up with all the wiring the capacitors everything needed to kind of get this job like to work and from then my curiosity just sparked and I just kept going.

CDG: All right. That sounds like me. I was like I need to not be bored. They've like we don't know what you mean. I can't be bored or I'm not going to do anything. Real quick, I just want to tip my hat to you because I see your certs and ma'am! (Rea has her CCIE - Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert) Those are some hard certs!

RH: It's it's a lot of work and that and that's one of the things that kept me going the needs of feel challenged and that CCIE definitely humbled me and challenged me at the same time.

Marcus Gunn, Chief Technology Officer: I guess I'll go now my I guess my story is a little less traditional. I kind of stumbled into Computer Science and Tech honestly, I was enrolled as a student at Boston University, you know Jenkins and I went to Bowie State but I was up there and I was actually supposed to be a dual-degree math and Engineering student. And yeah, my mom really wanted to I didn't even choose that myself. So but I was up there and like I just didn't find interest in it at all. So what I would do during class, you know is like just I would be drawing like a lot during class and like so a lot of people just kind of knew me as as guy whose failing the classes but drawing all the time.

So yeah, it's not a beautiful story. But but yeah, so like I remember one time I was actually sitting in the Bowie State University library and I was drawing again, you know. I would just kind of draw as I was trying to figure out what I'm supposed to be doing for school and stuff like that and one of my team-mates kind of saw me and she was like Hey, like can you draw for our computer science department website like that, and I'm like, I don't know anything about that at all like how to do that. But I'm more than willing to you know, try like that sounds like if you could take what I drew and get it on on a website. I'd love to see that process took so she took me to one of the computer lab and she use Adobe fireworks to like break my image, you know, well, I guess like outline it and you know transfer it over to the website and all that kind of stuff.

And when I saw the process, I think wow so I can draw anything and you can put it on the computer. That's that's amazing to me and then you know she could color in Photoshop and you know change sections of it to look a certain way and the whole thing just kind of was incredibly and it's like impressive to me. And then like I knew I could draw something on paper put her computer and take it even further, you know, and so I kind of like really enjoyed, you know, like I'm learning how to do that and then I actually had an opportunity to internship up there and that's what I met James, you know, she walked in the internship and when I saw, you know, what he and the other people, you know involved in the internship were doing with websites and code I just took off

CDG: Where did the name come from?

RH: So when I initially was thinking about names the first name that literally came to mind at first was Scan IT. I didn't like that. So I trashed that off. The next one was Express grab-and-go did like that one either. So when I started to like look up other Locker companies a lot of them started with at least off all the time with an l so I figured let me look up something. I don't want it to be Locker XYZ. So let me look up something that unique that's different that we can kind of put out on stage to it. And then after I actually came up with the name actually decided I saw that online the meaning behind it actually does have some meaning it's like it means ambitious, perseverance, just different characteristic traits that kind of resemble us. So it's almost like the meaning for the name was like the perfect fit.

CDG: Tell me how is this going to grow how you going to be able to get this into more small businesses?

JB: Yeah, the the ultimate market for us for the for the locker specifically would be chain restaurants. And if you look you know, look out there alot of chain restaurants are trying to make the transition to what they call off-premise dining which includes curbside drive-thrus as well as you know normal takeout. So that's all that's our I guess target market moving forward but we've we started with the small business just because you know, the pandemic has crushed a lot of these restaurants; restaurants people grew up on have closed a lot of restaurants are just struggling to kind of, you know, continue to trade water will stay afloat. So we kind of started there just to try to help I think started to to help with that transition, you know, the first step is normally just to educate cuz like you said people are stuck in their ways they've been doing this. And this is new tech to check is always met with opposition.

There's so much more and I want you to hear all of it, so take a listen to the rest while you enjoy your cup of coffee.

I love how they all found different avenues into IT. But most importantly how they are using their skills to start this business and did I mention they bootstrapped it themselves?? No backers? Please make sure to follow them on Instagram, and check out their website, if you're a business that is looking for a demo, definitely hit them up! Oh and if you didn't listen to the clip early 2021 they are launching their Kickstarter, please get behind this business!

Have you seen the smart lockers in restaurants yet?

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