Summer Entrepreneurial Experiences

Author Archive

Doing the Thing You Don’t Want to Do

Wednesday, August 6, 2014 1:40 pm

With the summer winding down and school looming just weeks away, my ability to spend 8-14 hours/day working on Fresh Food Network is about to be cut by a factor of 4. It seems like just weeks ago that I was wrapping up my final exams excited to finally ditch the school work and focus exclusively on FreshFN; and yet, I can honestly say that I’ve accomplished about half of what I set out to do. Yes, I’ve been working about 60-80 hours per week and still have failed to accomplish half of my goals.

Perhaps I was a bit ambitious and set somewhat lofty or unattainable goals, but in all reality, I would say that only accounts for about 25% of the failure.

The real culprit, however, has been my inability to focus. Sure, I’ve “focused” on FreshFN related work and have kept myself extremely busy, but I’ve learned that busyness and productivity don’t have a high correlation. When you have 6000 things to do; it’s easy to keep yourself busy; however, it’s incredibly challenging to prioritize those 6000 things and then execute one at a time.

“Let me just check my email really quick”…becomes sending responses to three customer inquiries.

“I really need to update our social media accounts”…results in spending 2 hours doing various social media related tasks.

I’ve always taken pride in my self-discipline, so why am I having trouble executing what I know needs to get done? Although I’m not procrastinating in the typical sense of goofing off, I’ve allowed myself to slip into the “well let me just do these 6 small things” instead of focusing on the more critical high priority task.

Whether you’re an entrepreneur, a 9-5 employee, or a stay at home parent, we all dread that one task—maybe it’s painting a room in your house, starting that project report, or seriously rethinking your marketing strategy. Want my advice? Shut off everything that isn’t absolutely necessary for your task at hand, take the first step, and continue to put one foot in front of the other.

Why Is It So Damn Hard to Gain Traction?

Wednesday, July 16, 2014 12:56 pm

If you had asked me on May 1st where Fresh Food Network would be in mid-July, I likely would’ve answered in start-up lingo something to the equivalent of “well on our way to the moon.” Well, we aren’t on the moon and as a matter of fact, we’ve barely reached lift off. After opening up our marketplace in late May, we are just now beginning to gain a teeny tiny bit of traction. But why? Why is it so damn hard to build a critical mass of users?

It certainly didn’t help that the temperature rarely surpassed 65 degrees throughout all of May so yeah there wasn’t really anything growing until Mid-June. But still, that means we’ve had a month of great tasting and responsibly produced food available for sale that people simply aren’t buying. So what the hell have I been doing wrong?

John Ruskin, a prominent writer and art critic of the 19th century, once said “It is better to lose your pride with someone you love rather than to lose that someone you love with your useless pride.” In my situation, I’ve been losing customers rather than someone I love. You see, getting a business off the ground (especially a business that requires users to change their food purchasing habits) requires more than a story in the local newspaper or people simply talking about your business; but rather, it requires a passionate group of influential early supporters, people that are willing to share your Facebook posts and incessantly talk about your service from personal experience. So how do you get this group of supporters? Being the prideful young adult that I am, I thought I could single-handedly win over people’s hearts and then word would naturally spread, but apparently, that’s not how it works. As it turns out, the best way to get a group of influential early supporters is to just ask.

When people believe in your cause and respect you as a person, more often than not, they will be happy to lend you a hand. However, very few people are taking time out of their busy day to find causes to support and when they do find one, they don’t know exactly what type of support to lend. As a result, if you never approach and ask directly with a specific course of action, you’ll be on your own and struggling to gain traction.

Organic isn’t perfect

Wednesday, June 25, 2014 11:47 am

Since evolving into a 35 billion dollar industry, the term organic originated in the 1960’s as a petite countercultural movement against the chemical intensive growing practices of agribusiness and war efforts in Southeast Asia (the same corporations-Monsanto and Dow, that manufactured pesticides also made napalm and Agent Orange). Back in these early days, the term was used to describe everything industrial agriculture was not; it was a holistic approach to food production that represented the “natural” way to grow food.

Capture

Walking down the aisles of the grocery store and seeing five different variations and four different brands of each product, that organic seal is incredibly valuable – take chicken for example, it’s not uncommon to see all-natural, free-range, organic, cage-free, vegetarian-fed, etc.. sold by 4 different companies – Tyson, Purdue, Nature’s Promise, store-brand, etc.. but as soon as you see that organic certification, you know that the chicken you’re holding was never given antibiotics and was fed a diet free of ingredients produced with synthetic pesticides. And yet, what you may not know is that organic chicken was most likely raised breast to breast with 30,000 other chickens in a 10,000 square foot concrete building. In essence, organic food is not necessarily humane, sustainable, safe, or healthy.

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For example, cows are ruminants whose bodies are designed to eat grass and as a result should be raised on pasture. However, large scale organic beef production entails of thousands of cows packed into a concrete building being fed an unnatural health diminishing and environmentally destructive diet of organic silage (fermented corn) (for more information on environmental implications,click here). On the other hand, grass fed beef contains five times as many omega-3 fatty acids, about twice as much CLA (Conjugated Linoleic Acid), and contains less overall fat than grain-fed beef. Omega-3’s lower risk for heart disease, decrease inflammation, and reduce symptoms of ADHD while CLA is associated with reduced body fat and some other beneficial effects[1]. So yes, that organic beef isn’t produced from a cow given antibiotics or was it fed non-organic corn, but I have a feeling you care a little more about the implications of the food you eat.

gr_nutrition1

Source: Smith, G.C. "Dietary supplementation of vitamin E to cattle to improve shelf life and case life of beef for domestic and international markets." Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado 80523-1171

In addition to carrying little legitimacy in terms of being a responsible form of food production, the organic certification is a lengthy and expensive process that many smaller farmers simply can’t afford. In fact, many small-scale farmers vehemently oppose the term and actively choose not to pursue the certification because of its watered down meaning. Melynda Naples is the owner of Deerfield Farm, a dairy farm in Durham, CT, and although she treats her cows like her children, feeds the cows an almost exclusively grass based diet, and makes the extra effort to use sustainable production practices, she chooses not to become certified organic. When asked about this decision, Melynda said, “We don’t need to pay an exorbitant fee eachyear to the government so they can tell us that what we’re doing is good.” In reality, the process of becoming certified organic has become painstakingly frustrating and unmanageably expensive for many responsible small farms that are far more “organic” than their industrial counterparts who can afford to buy the certification.

Happy Kids, Happy Cows at Deerfield Farm

It’s this harsh reality that makes me cringe a little bit when people ask if all of the products on our Fresh Food Network are organic. This is theprecise reason whythe local food movement has gained such popularity-instead of relying on an imperfect term, you have the power to know your farmer and learn firsthand whether or not he/she is abiding by humane, sustainable, and safe standards. Over the course of the summer I’m going to be writing a series of posts that break down what responsible food production looks like for each type of food so you know what to look for and what questions to ask your farmer, stay tuned!

[1]http://www.webmd.com/healthy-aging/omega-3-fatty-acids-fact-sheet

The Passion Within the Entrepreneur

Tuesday, June 3, 2014 6:05 pm

When you grow up in a family in which your sister is getting a PHD in counseling psychology, your brother is on the path to become a therapist, and both of your parents are medical doctors, it would seem natural to pursue a career in medicine. And yet, here I am a business and Spanish double major chasing a dream of launching my own venture. What the hell went wrong with me where I would ditch the safety of becoming a medical professional in favor of the least stable thing there is- entrepreneurship?

Throughout much of my childhood I was fixated on becoming a doctor and while there was no defining moment when I suddenly changed my mind, over time I gradually became fascinated by the world of business. Perhaps I was listening a little too intently to my uncle, a venture capitalist, telling wild success stories of tech entrepreneurs or maybe I was spending too much time dreaming up “the next big invention” with a close friend, Kevin Gawron. In between basketball games at the Wallingford YMCA, we were constantly rattling off ideas for “innovative products” but as sophomores in high school lacking any business knowledge or real world experience, our ideas were little more than dressed up versions of get rich quick schemes. Reflecting back on those years, our intentions were certainly in part motivated by financial reward, but on a deeper level, we were transfixed by the power of creation. The notion that two young people could create a product, service, or institution that would change the very nature of life as we knew it was awe-inspiring; it was fuel for the fire that still burns today.

When I came up with the idea for Fresh Food Network and started investing significant amounts of time, everyone close to me told me that while it may a good “idea”, it was far from a legitimate opportunity. Because unlike an idea, an opportunity has someone behind it that can deliver, someone that has experience and knowhow to build a successful company. And in all reality, they’re unequivocally correct; I’m a 20 year old college student with little real-world experience, no particular expertise, and a very finite amount of resources. So once again, the question remains, why pursue Fresh Food Network?

Among many of the lessons I’ve learned throughout my life, I think about few more often than “If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.”

Fresh Food Network isn’t something I’ve created because I thought it would be the quickest way to a million dollars, but rather, it’s an extension of what I believe in. Supporting global progress and local community development through responsible food production and healthy lifestyle choices is who I am. To me, Fresh Food Network represents the ultimate opportunity; it’s a chance to create, to build something from nothing centered on the things I love. I knew this would be the biggest regret of my life if Ididn’t do it.While I may be completely unqualified to make Fresh Food Network the success that I envision, if nothing else, I have passion; I’m driven beyond measure to learn, to figure it out, and to bend my back to make it work.

Why Fresh Food Network?

Sunday, May 25, 2014 10:44 pm
Four months old weighing in at 20 lb. Food isn't new for me.
Four months old weighing in at 20 lb. Food isn’t new for me.

For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Jake Teitelbaum, I’m ambitious, I love food (as you can clearly tell from the picture above), and I’m also the founder of Fresh Food Network. With only 20 years to my name, I’m a college student chasing my passion that is the result of some damn good parenting. You see, for me, processed foods didn’t exist until I was about 10-I can vividly remember visiting a friend’s house and being offered an unidentifiable foreign object, fluff. Instead of the complex system of labels we see in the grocery store today (organic, all natural, etc…), my mother had two amazingly straightforward labels: crap and not crap. As you can imagine, fluff and its processed relatives belonged under the crap department and were strictly forbidden from our household under penalty of intense “what the hell are you eating” stares and immediate disposal. On the contrary, instead of vilifying the vegetable as a tasteless but mandatory element of a diet, my mother cleverly incorporated vegetables into every meal. To some extent, my siblings and I were spoiled-we had healthy meals prepared for us day in and day out, and as I’ve grown older, I’ve realized that was exactly my mother’s goal. As a pediatrician, she was well aware thatthe single most important decision an individual makes each and every day with respect to his physical well-being is the food he eats. Whether I knew it or not, food was dominating my life in the best way possible.

My brother Eric taking advantage of an exception to the processed food rule with Newman's Own Rice Cakes
(My siblings–Sarah on left and Eric on right) Eric taking advantage of an exception to the processed food rule with Newman’s Own Rice Cakes during a picnic at Lyman’s Orchards

Around my 13th birthday the notion of food as an inconspicuous but prominent actor in my life evaporated along with my preconceived ideas of where our food came from. Sure our family had a small garden and I understood that food at the grocery store originated from a farm, but for me, all farms were created equal. Having grown up in the pristine cow-town of Durham, Connecticut, I simply transposed the beautiful rolling hills and green grass that I saw within my town onto every farm in America. During a trip into the city to visit my older sister, a motherly figure and recent vegetarian convert, my sheltered interpretation of our food system was shattered.

Sarah & I
Sarah has been looking out for me for a long time.

Recounting bits and pieces of some piece of investigative journalism, my sister Sarah blew my mind with horrific stories of slaughterhouse practices and gruesome tales of inhumanity. In all honesty, the news was so staggering that I had trouble believing it; and as a result, I took some initiative of my own and purchasedSlaughterhouse The Shocking Story of Greed, Neglect, And Inhumane Treatment Inside the U.S. Meat Industry. Intrigued and captivated by this seemingly hidden and unexplored aspect of food, something that I was beginning to recognize as a fundamental element of my life, I sped through the book and even took the liberty of trying to convince some of my friend’s parents to stop buying their meat at Walmart. I couldn’t fathom why something that had such a profoundly negative impact on the quality of life of humans, animals, and the planet as a whole, hadn’t been abolished.

For the next 7 years I continued to explore this seemingly neglected topic of where our food was coming from and the more I learned, the more disheartened I became. And then, like a beacon in a world of CAFOs, corruption, and monoculture, I began to uncover what millions had already discovered as a viable alternative, the local food system. The benefits for eating locally are immense (feel free to check them outhere) and there are plenty of sensational farms, restaurants, and other food businesses throughout each and every community, but for my family and many others, obtaining this awesome high quality food has been frustratingly inconvenient. Farmers markets and CSAs are marvelous, but what happens when everyone in your family is simply too busy to make it to the market or swing by the farm and pick up the weekly CSA share? If our family wants to celebrate a special occasion or simply spend some quality time together outside of the house, how can we be sure that the restaurant we are going to sources its ingredients from responsible farms within our community instead of some distant industrial farm loading our food with dangerous pesticides or jam-packing 20,000-30,000 chickens into a pathogen ridden 10,000 square foot concrete building?

So why Fresh Food Network? Food is part of who I am both in a very physical sense (as it is for all of us) and as a defining element of who I am as an individual. I firmly believe thatobtaining the best food in the world (which is likely just miles from your house) should be as easy as checking your email or opening your front door and I’m dedicated to making this a reality.

 

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