Early on in his life, Cristobal Silva learned the importance of giving back to one’s community.
Growing up on the south side of Chicago, Silva and his brother attended Glenwood Academy — a boarding school founded by Todd Lincoln, son of President Abraham Lincoln. The school was funded through philanthropists and donors, and made it possible for Silva and his peers to receive an education, three meals a day and a place to stay.
“They really hooked me up,” Silva said. “I was really grateful for that.”
Silva saw at a young age what donations and community work could do to change his life, and he’s since made it a mission to implement giving back to the community in everything he does.
After moving to the Kankakee area in 2016 to attend Olivet Nazarene University, Silva started learning more about local businesses and organizations.
After college, he began a social media company that specialized in helping local restaurants create websites that accept online ordering. While creating websites, he came to find that many restaurants were working with delivery services that were charging a 25 percent to 35 percent commission. This furthered his goal of creating something more accessible to smaller restaurants.
In April 2020, Silva launched Local Bites Delivery which, like DoorDash and Uber Eats, delivers local food right to the customer’s door, however, this is without the high commission percentages for restaurants.
“I had my foot in the door with the restaurants and I knew most of them didn’t have a large marketing budget,” said Silva. “I wanted to help out by offering commission-free service to restaurants while still making my business viable.”
While giving restaurants a more affordable option, Silva is also using his business to give back to those in need. Twenty percent of every order is used to purchase food through a food bank, and Local Bites currently works exclusively with Center of Hope in Kankakee.
The food bank buys through the Northern Illinois Food Bank, and the food is about 18 cents per pound. With that, Silva knew a little bit was going to go a long way. An average Local Bites order is about $35 and, for every five deliveries, they help feed a family in need for a whole week.
“I was really concerned about doing the right thing more than making a profit because I’m a firm believer that if you put everyone else before you, then everything else is going to fall into place,” Silva said.
Despite the timing, the company wasn’t directly inspired by the pandemic. However, it did fuel the company’s growth.
Silva noted that the giving back portion was inspired through the pandemic because he knew many were going to be struggling to have enough food on a daily basis, and food banks were now going to need help more than ever.
He also said that inspiration to build this business came from his relationship with God. He recalled learning about Ecclesiastes 11 during his bachelor’s program at ONU.
“It says if you wait for the perfect time, the perfect time will never come,” explained Silva. “I knew I could either focus on the pandemic and do nothing and wait for it to be over, or I could build something special. I chose to build.”
Over the last 11 months, Local Bites has grown to employ 10 drivers and an administrative staff of four. They are currently working to expand into other communities (Local Bites is available in Chicago’s suburbs near Chicago Heights) and have plans to clone the app to be used for community use, such as to buy, sell and trade vegetables and for ride-share services.
“Anything that Local Bites does, or anything that I do, I’m going to make sure we have a charitable contribution to give back to the community,” said Silva.
Available restaurants range from Brickstone Brewing to the new Saucy Crab as well as Niro’s Gyros and Windy Hill Grill. A full list of restaurants can be found at localbites.delivery.