Mi Huerto Web SpA designed a systemic solution to solving the problem of exclusion of local, small producers from the formal market economy and by building a true local economy. Productive and consumptive communities who communicate with the end to match supply and demand perfectly should characterize this economy.
Name: Mi Huerto Web SpA
Location: Valdivia, Chile
Product/Service Offering: Sales platform for future agricultural produce of small-scale farmers with innovative logistics concept
Co-founder Interviewed: Stéphane Gartner
Other Key Management Team Members: Founder, Diego Gonzalez Carvallo
This article is part of our Business Startup Spotlight series featuring entrepreneurs and their companies. We hope that these founders’ interviews will inspire and motivate you as you undertake your own entrepreneurial journey.
Tell us a little about yourself with a focus on what motivates you.
I am a 29-year-old who was born in Germany. I have French and Dutch nationalities and grew up trilingual. My mother was born in Kinshasa, Kongo. She and my father grew up in Italy during parts of their late childhood.
I have an international background. This background, together with the ability of speaking five languages, has nourished my passion to learn new countries and to compare and experience culture. Curiosity drives me every day and has led me to visit 60+ countries and live in seven countries. I aspire to use my background and skills to be a bridge for innovation and experiences between industrialized and less developed countries.
When did you establish your company and where did the idea originate?
The company was formally established on July 3, 2015. The idea originated four years ago and was inspired by the experiences of my partner, Diego Gonzalez, who worked in the forestry sector. When a forestry company organizes a huge area for harvesting trees, it does not usually consider synergies, which can be created with other stakeholders for developing the territory as a holistic entity. We implemented a community project for a mining company and experienced first hand that the biggest challenge for farmers is to sell their products.
Hence we designed a solution to solving the problem of exclusion of local producers from the formal market economy and by building a true local economy. Productive and consumptive communities who communicate with the end to match supply and demand perfectly should characterize this economy. This should also send financial transaction benefits to the ones who deserve it.
What need or needs does your company seek to fill for its customers?
- Freshness: Superb taste and nutritional values of our vegetables and fruit are guaranteed by freshness of delivery no more than six hours after harvest.
- Prices: Our prices are highly competitive, usually 30-60% lower than in the Chilean supermarkets.
- Convenience: Delivery at locations on routine route of customers enhances customer experience.
- Transparency: Full transparency about production methods and application of agro chemistry enhances consumer confidence.
- Emotions: Purchases make costumers feel like heroes because they know exactly which farmer receives the lion’s share of the money that they have paid (74%). They are part of a movement, which serves a higher purpose by addressing social and environmental challenges in a systematic way and which facilitates the transition to an organic agriculture.
- Freshness/price: MHW provides access to fresh products of superior quality at market competitive and stable prices.
- Formalized sales: We sell exclusively with receipts, which include VAT that restaurants can reclaim from fiscal authorities. Absence of receipts is a common challenge.
- Customization: By selling future harvest, we enable chefs to customize the supply according to their specific needs. This can include gourmet products, but also the adaptation of aspects such as size or maturity of products.
- Differentiation from competitors: Through a membership model, restaurants can access ample marketing material about the farmers and their products. It enables them to offer added value aspects to their clients such as fair trade, inclusive development, local production and lower carbon footprint, sustainability, traceability and transparency, and supporting the creation of organic agriculture.
What is the one thing that sets your company apart from its competitors?
Freshness with a compelling history.
What was the biggest challenge you faced while getting your company up and running, and how did you overcome it?
Attracting investment is a particular challenge for a (non-high tech) social enterprise. We mitigate this by selling CSR projects. It provides Mi Huerto Web SpA with the working capital, which we need to establish ourselves in a territory. In other words, to organize the farmers and create the material which is needed to present them and their production online. Companies can be associated with the innovation and high economic ideas of MHW. The purchasing power of their employees are made available to absorb local agricultural production, and that proves to local farmers that the presence of the company is positive. Their investment creates a financially sustainable project, which will exist well beyond the lifetime of conventional CSR projects, constantly benefitting the relations of the company with surrounding communities.
Are there resources you have utilized that other founders might find compelling or useful?
See above, may work better for social enterprises. The key is to frame your impact in such a way that it fits the company’s interest and CSR strategy.
What steps have you taken to secure funding for your company and what, if anything, would you do differently if you had to start over?
Mi Huerto Web SpA sold CSR projects as explained earlier. We participate in acceleration programs such as Fledge. A partner who injected much-needed working capital was incorporated. Mi Huerto Web SpA asked family for an investment. We try to catch the attention of impact investors by participating in high profile events such as ‘World Food Innovation Summit’ in Milan or ‘Premios Latinoamérica Verde.
There are no regrets; nothing would be done differently. My partner and I are fully dedicated, have invested our own fortune, and have gone all in.
What challenges, if any, are you grappling with?
Working with less working capital than what would be ideal to develop both sides of the market simultaneously (supply and demand side). It is cumbersome and takes time to gain the trust of farmers to embrace change. Changing customer behavior to plan ahead and buy food off the Internet.
What is the most helpful tip or “hack” you’ve ever learned, stumbled across, or been given?
Listen and adapt to your costumers. Incentives do not convince.
Is there anything else you would like to share about your company?
Better than philanthropy: MHW is a for profit company, which creates shared value. Its social mission transcends all aspects of its business operations and is an integral part of its value proposition to costumers.
Mi Huerto Web SpA connects small-scale farmers to the formal market economy with an online sales channel. Our platform allows consumers to meet farmers online, invest in square meters of their future production, and receive the harvest as a reward. We create short value chains of confidence, empower marginalized, and drastically reduce food waste while delivering best quality and service for our customers.
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