Jennifer Goggin, Farmers Web, Woman Entrepreneur
I was introduced to Jennifer from Reece Pecheco of Shelby.tv. Obviously when some you know makes an introduction you take notice particularly when the first words in the introduction says that the person is passionate about improving our food sources, and generally a great person. I took a look at what Jennifer has built, Farmers Web which is a wholesale management tool and an online marketplace for local farms and buyers. Needless to say it piqued my interest.
Jennifer grew up in Maine, outside of Portland. Her mother was a real estate developer who worked on a variety of green buildings. After the last real estate crash she turned gears and got into solar power. Her father is a lawyer. Growing up Jennifer spent her summers working in local restaurants, her first experience in the food world.
After graduating high school she left Maine for city life and attended Columbia University where she majored in political science. She spent a summer working for Olympia Snowe between her freshman and sophomore year. That experience made her realize that politics was not for her. She switched gears and went into finance. While she was in college she also spent one summer living in Northern Italy to become completely immersed in the language.
Jennifer took a job working for JP Morgan in their analyst program for two years after graduating. She thought that going into banking would give her a broad base to figure out what she wanted to do. She helped hedge funds with their products and it did not excite her but kept at the program. When the two year program ended she left as many do. It was great training and she learned a lot but it wasn't for her.
Instead of jumping into something different over night she got into the WWOOF program and went back to Italy. WWOOF stands for world wide opportunities in organic farming. While she was immersed in her financial job she kept thinking about how do I get into the food industry. She had zero idea how to get there and figured going through this program would be a step in the right direction. She picked a country, Italy, and found herself immersed in farm dirt for a few months.
Jennifer returned to NYC because her life was here before she left and volunteered to work at Just Food. She worked with them on their local fundraiser. While she was there she began to work on a business plan around the farm to chef concepts. She took a deep dive into the operation of Farm to Chef a local food distributor in Washington County. They first began as a consignment model by collecting orders and passing them on to the farmers and then delivering them to the clients. Then they began to buy farm products and resell them to clients from their inventory. Then they were bought by Basis Foods.
Basis Foods was hiring so Jennifer applied for a job there. She figured why reinvent the wheel if they were doing what she believed in. I will work with them and to learn how to do things and how not to do things. At the start it was transparent where the food was coming from but the 35% distribution costs were killing them. Basis went out of business and Jennifer left to start Farmers Web.
They are connecting local farmers with customers such as restaurants, schools and corporate dining rooms. They have built a software system. On the farmers side they help with inventory management and cost processing. Their clients can enter one order into their system and see all the farms that they are working with instead of having to call each farm individually. The orders go out to the farms but through one platform.
They launched in June 2012. They earn revenue from taking a commission from the farm. One of the biggest issues for the farms is payment and they help with that by paying them every two weeks for their wares vs 60 day terms that they get from many of their customers. They have their own trucks to deliver the products into NYC including vegetables, cheese, fruit and meat or they have farmers bring in the wares.
Currently Farmers Web is NY based but they hope to go national rolling out what they are doing in NY in specific locations. The way they are going about it gets rid of the exhorbitant cost of deliveries, they also make the ordering easier for the clients with complete transparency about where the product is coming from and on the other end create a better cash flow for the farmers.
Jennifer is passionate about what she is doing. This is an area that is definitely being reinvented and she is determined to be ahead of the pack. From her experience at Basis she knows what works and what doesn't. She understands the needs of both the farmer and the customer. I will be watching.