Producers Market: Our Origin Story
The Brands of the Future will be Defined by Integrity
Producers Market: It Began with a Conversation
The venture we now call Producers Market began as a conversation between co-founders Chris Robb and Keith Agoada. Chris has a background in organic retail and consumer packaged goods. Keith worked in supply chain logistics and agriculture entrepreneurship.
Chris and Keith shared concerns of how corporations have forgotten the two most important stakeholders: the farmers and farm workers and the consumers.
Most corporations have neglected the people who create products and steward the land. They have forgotten about the individuals who use the final products. Almost all seemed to focus on profit margins and shareholders. With this mindset, they had lost focus providing service to communities. They had forgotten about what it means to create true value.
The Vision Begins
We began to envision a revolutionary corporation. It would focus on scalability, innovation, and profitability. We imagined serving the communities that the $4 trillion global supply chain had all but forgotten with a 100% commitment.
The advent of farmers markets and CSA (community supported agriculture) models are lovely. We align with them. However, this makes up less than 3-5% of agricultural consumption and doesn’t include fashion, health care products, skin and hair care, and home goods. These products are all created using natural resources.
Understanding New Trends and Modern Consumers
We pondered the concept of loyalty. The new generation, the infamous millennials, were becoming increasingly disengaged from brands and disconnected from corporate marketing strategies. Even the focus on “sustainability” or “green business” felt gimmicky.
We began to study legendary brands like Hershey’s, Dunkin Donuts, Apple, and Nike. We examined patterns and commonality. How do brands remain relevant and valuable, we asked.
What would the next legendary brands would look like in the 21st century? Big corporations were paying marketing firms millions of dollars to learn the current distrust in marketing. Pop culture icons were receiving massive contracts in an attempt to make aging corporate dinosaurs relevant to youthful decision-makers.
We looked for the type of brand we would love to support, and we discovered examples like Patagonia, Alaffia and Mozilla. These brands appeared to remain consistent in their mission of service. The seemed fully aligned with their purpose from their product lines to corporate structure. The answer seemed clear from the beginning.
We ended this multi-year conversation with a simple conclusion: The next great companies will be defined by integrity, authenticity, transparency and service.
The next great brands of these companies will redefine the concept of marketing and transition into storytelling. These brands will reflect company values by providing insight into the company itself and how it treats its employees, the workers who create its products, and the people who consume the products from top to bottom.
Capitalism will cede to groups of people who play the game of capitalism to the highest level, but in a way that aligns to our values as parents, brothers, sisters, children, friends, neighbors, and community members. Our value lies in our commitment to making the world a better place by living each day to improve ourselves, aligning our personal integrity as individuals with our actions as business people. The compartmentalization of wearing a corporate “hat” in the office and then switching to a separate ‘hat’ when we leave will be an illusion of the past.
Our First Partner
Producers Market came together after working with an avocado farming family in Mexico. We built a branding and marketing campaign that celebrated their family and community. With their direct input, we created a brand identity, product packaging, and website for them. We told their story.
Three years into this experience with the Chavez family, we found that this approach works. It works extremely well, in fact.
We did not anticipate that communities on the internet would propel this brand to the top. In many parts of the world, if you google “organic avocados Mexico,” Michoacan Organics is the first result. It comes up before the major avocado conglomerates and retailers.
At this point, we realized that by telling an authentic story we had stumbled upon something special. We had created a brand that embodied our story and as a result, we were able to generate wholesale buyers from leading retailers, distributors and food service providers. By digital standards, we achieved an extremely low customer acquisition cost.
The Process Continues
We started building an internal digital marketing team and acquiring valuable social media assets. We aimed to replicate this success across hundreds of product lines and thousands of producers. It was then we realized that it was time to start thinking as a digital technology company.
Dermot Doherty is our third co-founder and CTO. He is a techie who grew up gardening and loves organic food. While Dermot spends his day in the digital astral plane programming reality for game-changing businesses, he still remains grounded in nature. His connection to the earth is central to his life. Not only that, but he even has a rainbow of organic essential oils, lotions, and copal sitting next to his programming station.
What About the Data?
We explained to Dermot what we had achieved with Michoacan Organics. He didn’t seem too worried about achieving our vision of a scalable marketplace platform.
But Dermot kept asking us, “What about the data?!”
I naively asked, “what data?”
As a database wizard, Dermot spent months educating us on how valuable and unique the data sets were in these agricultural transactions. He convinced us that the data we could capture and analyze was even more important than the sales themselves.
Suddenly, the light switch flipped.
Historically, the agriculture trade model has been defined by a buy-low, sell-high model. The buyer negotiates to always get the lowest price possible. This decreases the quality of the outputs, often at the expense of the environment and community. The buyer and agricultural producer formed a mistrustful, but necessary, association.
By maintaining a focus on data rather than profitability, we know we can positively affect the global agriculture system.
Data holds the key to reducing the more than 30% of total agriculture outputs that get wasted. Also, it holds the key to providing fair financial services to the farmers who ordinarily get left out of the corporate equation. The solution to tracking the authenticity and safety of products also lies within the data.
By capturing billions of dollars of transactions on our marketplace, we could shift the way we grow and consume.
Dermot guided us in the direction of blockchain. He distributed ledgers and smart contracts. We quickly learned how to integrate these tools into app formats.
Since this “Aha” “blue ocean” moment, we’ve grown our team with remarkable individuals. We like to them our cast of characters. Together, we have been bootstrapping to build a global marketplace ecosystem. This ecosystem will empower consumers and farmers around the globe . By shifting the profitability model through storytelling and responsible data use, we will transform the farming experience.
The Producers Market Team
We have team members who are raw vegans and wear hemp clothing. Others love to eat grass-fed beef hamburgers with cheese and wear leather jackets. Regardless of our preferences, we all share the passion to transform the world. We all believe this can be done by empowering farmers and their environment.
Our commitment to our passion shows. As such, we transitioned Producers Market into a “digital asset.” This transition will enable farmers to more easily receive equity in the value chain. Furthermore, it provides consumers with a transparent method to invest in their farmers and supply chain. Additionally, we decided to allot 20% of our total company equity into a reserve. This reserve will be issued to farmers and farm workers who use our apps and participate in the Producers Market platform.
Flexibility is the key to thriving during this time of amazing innovation and transition. We know we must continually adapt to changes as the environment changes.
The one thing that will never change, however, is our commitment to empowering communities.