Farmgram: from Start-up to Kickstarter

Alexandria Scott

Local is the essence of Farmgram, from the idea to the product. Funding is the only outsourcing Cal Poly students Tessa Salzman, Tyler Thomas and Adrian Godby are using for their business idea.

Farmgram aspires to deliver handcrafted meal boxes of locally grown foods to the doorsteps of San Luis Obispo residents, and online crowd funding has so far proven to be a success in making their idea into a reality, said Salzman, a city and regional planning senior.

“We wanted to work for ourselves after graduation, and we are all really passionate about local food systems in general,” she said. “We want to build the local economy while delivering fresh and local healthy foods that gets farmers more business.”

Basically, Farmgram will coordinate all the local ingredients necessary to make a meal with recipes coming from local chefs, Salzman said. The meal themes are breakfast, juicing and meal-with-friends.

Salzman first pitched a business plan similar to Farmgram at Cal Poly’s Start-Up Weekend in January, and ended up winning two free months at the San Luis Obispo HotHouse, she said. The HotHouse helped Farmgram with business creation essentials such as a business plan, financial advice and marketing strategies.

“We are ruing to find a way to differentiate ourselves and make Farmgram a more specialized service of themed boxes that will help people to cook,” she said. “Our targets are parents and students; we can provide them with recipes and all the local goods.”

As the HotHouse free rent came to an end, the group applied for a spot in the HotHouse summer accelerator program, but didn’t make the cut, she said. Instead the group looked to Kickstarter, a website where entrepreneurs can get donations for projects and for investments, and has received $1,000 a day since Farmgram was posted on May 25. As of Sunday, the company had raised $5,911 and gained 122 backers. The company’s goal is to get $13,000 by July 1, 2013.

“The money will allow us to renovate a van used for delivery, buy reusable canvass boxes and hire somebody to develop our website,” she said. “It’s been so much work outside work. It’s a huge project, but it’s super exciting.”

The group thought Farmgram would thrive on Kickstarter because the business idea is community oriented, said Thomas, an architecture senior. The group’s goal was to increase San Luis Obispo County’s access to all the delicious local food grown here, he said.

“It is important to eat local food because we live in one of the most agriculturally productive areas in the entire world,” Thomas said. “Why would we eat produce that’s grown across the U.S. when it’s grown in our backyards?”

Farmgram will also dedicate a portion of its resources to making local produce more affordable for people with limited food budgets, he said.

“Not only will it help the local economy, but I think people will find that local food tastes better and helps them get more creative in what they are eating,” he said.

Reconnecting people back to their local farmers is especially important as food systems are becoming globalized, architecture senior Godby said.

“People are starting to pay more attention to where food is grown and the whole growing process,” he said. “There is power knowing where your food comes from.”

Starting a business while writing senior projects and architecture theses has proven to be intense for the group, but they all share a deep passion for local food systems, Godby said. And the hard work has gotten a lot of positive feedback online as the group has received several emails asking for Farmgram to start its delivery services in other counties or even countries such as China, Godby said.

“There is something about making the food yourself, there is a quality that enhances it,” he said. “It’s about being a part of a complete process that changes your outlook on food.”