While brainstorming how to attack food insecurity, our team explored multiple factors of why food insecurity occurs. Attacking a socio-economic problem through a local market solution made sense as the problem is largely economically factored. Though synthetic biology & education are apart of the solution, practical ideas logistically developed can help reduce the effects of food insecurity created by poverty. We had to pivot after working through the first solution and created Produce Mobile.
Mission & Vision
We want to preface initially with our mission & vision as it has been our guiding star throughout the development of our business plan. Utilizing entrepreneurship as a vehicle for sustainable change just as science is used is a big driver in the thinking behind the entrepreneurship work. John Elkington coined the term Triple Bottom Line which is a "sustainability framework that examines a company’s social, environment, and economic impact" that has echoed as a principle throughout the project.
Attack food insecurity & empower the community through innovative entrepreneurial practice
Create a profit-creating business model that uplifts the community & addresses low accessibility to high nutrition food
Problem & Solution
The problem Produce Mobile seeks to tackle is nutrition deficiency pain caused by food deserts within Tallahassee. Food deserts are areas where fresh food is inaccessible as there are no grocery stores in the urban desert . Since families reside in these neighborhoods and want and need fresh produce, the problem is providing an accessible solution to consuming affordable and accessible fresh food. While government programs such as SNAP and WIC exist and help, nutrition deficiency remains an issue for families.
A citizen living in a food desert has to travel well outside their neighborhood to reach a grocery store stocked with fresh produce while the closest food stores are corner stores, fast food restaurants, and vending machines that do not offer nutritious options for meals. A lack of nutrition can lead to medical issues like obesity and extremely high blood pressure from poor diet practices. Physical effects can range from toothaches to hospitalization whereas mental effects can range from social isolation in children to reduced function in everyday responsibilities.
As a solution, Produce Mobile, a farmer's market on wheels, aims to increase accessibility to fresh food where otherwise it wouldn't be available for a cheap price. Designing and routing the food market truck through popular events so that the produce is accessible as possible & works within current cultural structures to increase impact. Addressing the lack of high nutrition produce creates the opportunity for innovation. Providing a portable market where consumers can access them at their price point will create a win-win for consumers and Produce Mobile works to create impact at a high volume rate as routes can be taken to maximize market size.
Without needing a centralized location, the volume of people impacted positively by the truck is higher than a normal store-front. We can offer high nutrition food to citizens that otherwise would not be able to. Having employees in our truck also provides a comfort level to citizens to buy the produce too. The food truck will be purposed to refrigerate goods and can reside at events, workplaces, campuses, and neighborhoods so that citizens of any socio-economic level can access fresh food and support the mission to fight against food insecurity.
Business Model Canvas
The problem of food insecurity affects about 45 million Americans including 15 million children. The Big Bend of Florida where Florida State resides is one of the largest pockets of food insecurity in America with almost 30% of citizens relying on food assistance from Second Harvest food bank of Feeding America. The organization provides more than 10 million meals to 135 food pantries and other partner programs serving 11 counties in Florida’s Big Bend region.
Census Tract data gives us an idea of how spread out the problem is in Tallahassee alone. There are approximately 8 opportunity zones which means the poverty rate was above 20%, or that the median household income was below 80% of the state or metropolitan area’s median household income. The 8 zones makeup 12.9% of Tallahassee census tracts and largely affect black & brown neighborhoods on the southern side of town. Approximately 48,000 citizens experience different levels of poverty in Tallahassee as the Poverty Rate is 27.1% as of 2017.
Our potential customers are not limited to a space or financial situation as providing access to fresh food is the mission, so expanding out of Tallahassee is likely. Expansion through success could move us to different regions in Tallahassee & beyond into neighboring counties.
One location would be located on the corner of Tharpe Street & Old Bainbridge Road. This location resides in between the Census tract region of 14.02 & 15. Region 14.02 has an under poverty line rate of 72.6% impacting around 500 citizens in that region alone. In the proximity of this intersection, there are two fast food options, two convenience stores, a dollar store, gas station, and thrift store making it a large hub of traffic for acquiring food quickly, but there is not many options for fresh food aside from a vegan food place that is expensive in their pricing. There are also bus stops in which food-insecure citizens may use to transport to work & home.
Region 14.02 is home to approximately 5307 citizens with 3849 under the poverty line. Region 15 houses 4405 citizens with 1225 under the poverty line. Combined regions hold 9711 citizens with 5074 under the poverty line. The surrounding regions make up Frenchtown which is a largely food insecure area within Tallahassee. Many of the regions of Frenchtown are opportunity zones according to the Local Community Census Tracts Region 5, 6, 14, 20, and 21 have extremely high rates of food insecurity affecting thousands of citizens.
In local analysis in Leon county, reports found only 45.1% of food stores accepted food stamps. Of the 48 neighborhoods, 37.5% had no food stamp accepting stores. Proportions of food stamp accepting grocery stores were significantly different by neighborhood racial composition and income. Primarily black neighborhoods had no supermarkets. This means 44.9% of food stores did not accept food stamps meaning food insecure citizens are unable to utilize their government-assisted program to its intended purpose and 18 of 48 neighborhoods did not have a food stamp accepting store documenting the need for cheap food other than fast food locations.
Our potential customers are not limited to a space or financial situation as providing access to fresh food is the mission, so expanding to out of Tallahassee is likely. Expansion through success could move us to different regions in Tallahassee & beyond into neighboring counties.
Parents who are without time or money, wishing to feed their kids nutritious meals that do not have time to cook or pay for nutritious meals. Currently shop at fast food on way home from work, purchase microwavable dinners that lack nutritional diversity and important micro/macro nutrition. Low Income, reside in food deserts in Tallahassee. Proud parents who wish to give their kids a healthy and productive upbringing.
Customer Value Analysis
Customer Segment Elaboration
Our customers need energy, free time, and nutrition within their lifestyles. We understand they are used to fast food though want to be healthy & feed nutritious options to their families. Food insecure families balance tight budgets & would eat healthier food if affordable to avoid hospital visits. Our customers save money and provide for their families while being overworked and underpaid.
Value Proposition Elaboration
We offer a way prevent to poor food habits, alleviate systematic poverty effects, and provide nutritious options at similar price & location. We are located on our customers’ path home & sell culturally popular food while helping our customers feel better about their health. Our vending machine model possess low barriers-of-entry at a cheap price point and partner with local organizations.
The current alternatives provide accessibility, low pricing, or nutrition but never all three, and most times nutrition is not an option.
Fast food is quick, easy, and cheap but it is not nutritious. Cheap Fast food locations are present in food deserts at an extremely high rate in close proximity to neighborhoods without grocery stores. Companies like Mcdonald's do not accept EBT leaving less money to other bills food-insecure citizens may have.
Corner stores are close and cheap & do have some fresh produce but not much variety. Their accessibility is centered in food deserts making it easy and the most viable option though only around 45.1% of the food stores available utilize the Food program assistance. They also do not provide a plethora of fresh produce.
Grocery stores are far and have a variety of options and prices but the distance is a limiting factor as food insecure citizens may have to choose between owning a car as their budgets are tight. These factors make groceries an alternative but not a viable one to access fresh produce at.
We have complete advantage over our competition when it comes to value at a low price. The accessibility of our truck design allows for flexibility with locational preferences and can be requested at locations & moved daily. The Grocery Truck supplies fresh and nutritious produce which provides an advantage over corner stores and vending machines which is the other competition for our demographic.
Our pricing will be affordable as the mission is providing nutritious, affordable, and close in proximity. We plan on locating in high traffic locations so that accessibility to our products. The sales transaction process will be quick and personable as we will have people selling and handling all transactions which will make our consumers comfortable while purchasing.
Pestle Analysis is used for identifying market trends within the industry a company is located in. Environmental analysis is important to a company's launch as it is a tool to predict and pre-plan for disruptions we can analyze at the time of launch. PESTLE Analysis analyzes the factors of the market one's company does not have control over so it is important to understand that for a successful business plan.
Upon entering the market, we felt it necessary to evaluate the potential of our company values. SWOT measures our “Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats” as we enter the market with hopes to deliver fresh produce to our target market. We realized there is general support for our market but our biggest worry is market adoption as we are attempting to break consumer habits while handing merchandise needing a very high turnover rate.
Marketing & SalesMarketing
We plan to market our business as a mission-based corporation increasing accessibility to nutritious produce in food deserts. By pursuing our mission of providing nutrition to food-insecure citizens, we wish to work with local stakeholders like Second Harvest, food banks, and local churches as we have identified those stakeholders as holding interest in reducing the rates of food insecurity within Tallahassee. We wish to market through an education-based plan in schools, churches, community centers, and libraries. We think FSU, TCC, and FAMU would work with us to create change as a commitment to bettering the community the stakeholders benefit from which can allow us to reach students who experience food insecurity.
We also plan to utilize coupons to provoke first-time usage such as "half-off", "buy one-get one", and other deals so that we can bring doubting potential consumers to our location. Incentivizing users to shop at our location benefits us by pushing our consumers to escape their comfort zones in going to corner stores and trying fresh produce rather than microwavable foods & other cheap options. We want to provide educational resources regarding ingredients and nutrition so customers know they are buying produce that will benefit them short and long term in health but also create tasty and filling meals.
We plan to map out locations at which there is a need for fresh produce commerce and there is no seller. By identifying and planning out locations, we can market, prepare, pre-sell, and actively find new consumers. Our point-of-sales will be on the side of the truck where we will have an employee speaking to and selling to consumers. Being helpful and kind more at the core of interactions will create a safe and comfortable environment for customers to actively learn about nutrition and different recipes and in turn being excited about fresh produce.
After talking to Justin Greer of Feeding Florida, vegetables such as potatoes, squash, collard greens are low waste items that their communities take in & turnover in large volume making them perfect items to sell as we target the same communities. We plan to preslice & prepare our produce to be cooking-ready to reduce time food prepping would take for our potential consumers as customer experience is integral to assure quality experiences.
It is important for the buying action to be easy and enjoyable to maximize our consumers' experiences since Our pricing method is influenced by our mission. One of creating an affordable method for citizens to obtain nutrition while also maintaining a profitable business to sustain and expand to other locations. To increase accessibility, we also will offer pre-sales online & over the phone that can be reserved and picked up as our mapping will be public information and consumers will know where our services are at most times.
Financial ProjectionsPricing Points
With our mission in mind, we wish to compete with Walmart in the pricing of produce. We also chose the produce after speaking to Justin Greer, Food Resource Manager at America's Second Harvest of the Big Bend, which he utilized food waste statistics & social preferences to help influence our decisions in produce we would start selling.
- Idahoe Baking Potatoes @ $3.47 per 5 pounds
- Sweet Potatoes @ $2.65 per 3 pounds
- Squash @ $1.48 per 1 pound
- Collard Greens @ $2.17 per 1 pound
- Spanish Onions @ $2.48 per 3 pounds
- Tomatoes @ $1.78 per 1 pound
Consumer Size Projecting
After researching Census Data Tracts for opportunity zones in Tallahassee, we identified eight opportunity zones which are zones requiring economic development. These zones are used by Second Harvest to identify locations of need. To map out the best possible route to maximize impact we analyzed the population sizes. After, adding them together I utilized the Diffusion of Innovation Theory to identify 16% of the population as early adopters of an innovative product. With that in mind I project a consumer may buy groceries twice a month. With those calculations in mind I created a projected consumer population to test finances. Although we can not know the rate of adoption from the community, I believe the Diffusion of Innovation Theory is a reasonable unit to base projections from.
Timeline1. Identify Funding Sources
After consulting Marc McNees, an experienced social entrepreneur currently teaching at Florida State University, we felt the best route to fund our company would be through Governmental institutions & Angel Investors . Since Produce Mobile is primarily concerned with the mission of feeding citizens and less about high margin profits, venture capitalists and bank support seems like an unlikely route to take.
After initial funding we would seek partnership with larger corporations to sponsor missions and work as a foundation for companies to donate to within corporate food drive events. Companies such as Publix already work with Second Harvest so working as a vehicle of change can be another philanthropy project a company undergoes to increase their standing in the community.
1. Reach out to similar companies
We spoke with Chapman Produce to source fresh produce locally for our vending machine. We found prices at bulk prices to place into our business model. We then spoke to Second Harvest about their partners & are continuing conversation to see how they can assist.
2. Source local produce companies
After speaking to Chapman Produce, we conceptualized and quantified the costs into the business model to understand what profits are required for the company to function appropriately.
3. Identify costing models
Speaking with Second Harvest allowed us to understand how to utilize Census data to locate where we can create the most change & where the food truck would be most in-need. One example would be the corner of Old Bainbridge Road and Tharpe Street has the ideal locations for us to benefit the community while being located at the customer demographic’s space.
4. Locate Vending Machine locations
After learning about the local partners in the community, the next step would be to speak to churches within the immediate area to advertise the food truck to potential consumers in the areas.
5. Communicate with potential Key Partners
After learning about the local partners in the community, my next step would be to speak to either the church or thrift store within the immediate area mentioned to locate the vending machine or speak to one of the two food marts as the vending machine would offer a value to the food mart by providing fresh produce bringing consumers to their location. Partner with Florida government & Feeding Florida to utilize SNAP/FAB .
6. Acquire necessary Patenting & Licensing
After the logistics are sorted out & we find reason to move forwards, understanding & possessing the permission to sell produce & work within Tallahassee would be our last steps before launch
7 Marketing & Launch Food Truck
As we have gained stakeholders through research, we would work with those who have educated our decision making through the iGEM process. Community input should create community output on our end so integration and collaboration is essential to our success as a start-up.
ThreatsCustomer Adoption Fears
The customer segment we are targeting is very accustomed to the habits and convenience of fast & cheap food that does not need to be cooked. Although providing fresh produce is the mission of government organizations and ours, there is a risk in not knowing the sales of produce as opposed to corner store products as the consumer will have that choice.
Our financing model must account for spoilage as we can not determine our turnover rate until sales are starting. The rate of spoilage is difficult to quantify so it is a risk though it is a risk we must take to undergo operations. Selling delicious & fresh food is essential to our mission as a company so we need to take precaution before selling to consumers and be aware of the dates we receive and distribute food at.
Vehicles can be prone to break so unplanned expenses may occur during the operations process. Preparing and budgeting for the costs involved in maintaining the food truck will prepare us for these issues.
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