This weekend, hundreds of entrepreneurs, farmers, investors and consultants will gather to learn from one another, collaborate and explore ways to finance a better food system at Food + Enterprise.
Incubated at Food Book Fair in 2013 and organized by the Northeast Foodshed Finance Alliance and Slow Money NYC, this three day conference features mentor sessions, workshops, panels and discussions with food luminaries and culminates in the Food + Enterprise Pitch Competition on Sunday, March 1.
Were running a series of interviews with the event’s organizers and speakers leading up to the event. And today, we’re excited to share our Q&A Jennifer Goggin, brand building workshop leader and co-founder of FarmersWeb, an online marketplace connecting buyers with local farms and producers.
Jennifer sees Food + Enterprise as an ideal meeting ground for farmers and restaurants. “With its wide range of attendees and the spirit of collaboration that it fosters, [it] is the perfect place for the two sides to connect with one another, as well as learn about the technical tools that can help them with their business,” she says. Have a gander at our interview below to learn more about her goals for the weekend, why she believes investors should be excited about financing the good food ecosystem and FarmersWeb’s new subscription model.
Are you a good food innovator who’s passionate about catalyzing a better food future? Sign up today, and as a member of the FTC community get $50 off tickets with code “FTC” here. Or, snag your spot for just Friday for $49 bucks with the code GETFUNDED. Tickets are very limited, so snag your spot now.
Jennifer Goggin: One of my co-founders and I previously worked together at a local food distributor based in New York City. The company had a hard time making the distribution side work economically, but we saw there was tremendous interest from both sides in working together: chefs were eager to source from local farms, and farmers were excited to sell to chefs and other wholesale large buyers. However, other than meeting at a farmers’ market or giving up a large percentage of the sale to a distributor, there was no way for them to connect and transact directly even if the farm already had a truck or driver. Ultimately, we decided to build a product to let that initial connection happen and to let the two sides work together more efficiently. FarmersWeb grew and morphed from there.
JG: I’ll be running the Brand Building workshop on Friday alongside the very inspiring Danny Abelson of The Abelson Co. I have both selfless and selfish goals for this event. First, I hope to provide some helpful and practical guidance for burgeoning food entrepreneurs looking to break into the market and expand sales. But I also am looking to be inspired by all the other amazing workshops and panels happening, as well as by the other attendees. I really enjoy learning about new aspects of the industry that I didn’t know about before and the innovative ideas, products and business models that are constantly emerging. It’s almost impossible to keep up!
JG: We need to talk about the market opportunities (which are HUGE) and how changes happening in the entire food system mean that not all food companies will be high-risk, low-margin. Investors and financiers need to hear that over and over again and get excited about investing in a piece of that potential.
JG: Each side of our user base faces different challenges. Our farms often have trouble marketing to the right buyers and keeping those buyers up to date on what the farms have available for sale. The buyers just don’t have the time to find farms outside of the ones they may see in the farmers’ markets or to maintain relationships with multiple small vendors.
Food+Enterprise, with its wide range of attendees and the spirit of collaboration that it fosters, is the perfect place for the two sides to connect with one another as well as learn about the technical tools that can help them with their business, like FarmersWeb and others.
JG: The subscription model, or what we’re calling Pro Accounts, includes all the features of the current FarmersWeb marketplace: publicizing availability lists and sending those lists to buyers, organizing delivery routes; and managing sales and payments. The key difference is that the Pro Accounts are geared towards farms looking to manage any and all of their current (and new) buyers on one platform. The Pro Accounts provide more flexibility for farms to work with their buyers in whatever manner they need, whether that means giving trusted buyers terms so they can pay offline or setting volume discounts for certain buyers in the system.
The other key difference is the fee structure: Pro Accounts offer a flat monthly fee rather than a commission, so existing buyer relationships aren’t affected by a commission fee and increasing sales doesn’t lead to a larger fee.
Farmers already have enough to worry about; what needs their attention most is their land and their livestock. They shouldn’t have to spend hours in an office or lose sales or revenue because their orders and invoices weren’t organized. Technology can easily manage that for them. Other types of businesses have software geared towards them to make their businesses run more efficiently, but for the most part, small farms are stuck with a combination of email, excel and paper invoices. We hope that releasing this new product will help make small and medium sized farms into efficient, scalable businesses and lead to more local sourcing overall.
JG: Work on something you truly believe in—the food and tech industry is so young that much of what we all do right now will determine how the future looks. Make sure that future is one you would like to live in.