Interview with Marcia Woods, ‏CEO & Founder at FreshSpoke

The #freshspoke app gives local food buyers a direct purchase & delivery pipeline to farmers and micro-producers in their local area.
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FreshSpoke?

FreshSpoke is a marketplace platform that connects wholesale buyers with local food producers and simplifies the order, payment and delivery system for both buyer and seller. 

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FreshSpoke gives local food producers a set of simple yet powerful tools to create a shop, take wholesale orders and schedule delivery on our marketplace platform. Wholesale buyers including restaurants, retailers and institutions can tap into this marketplace to browse and buy, arrange delivery and track the progress of their orders - all from the palm of their hand. FreshSpoke's shared delivery system takes advantage of excess capacity giving commercial drivers that travel our roads daily - starting with our own producers - the ability to make extra cash delivering local food. 

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The market gap in our local food systems fuelled the creation of FreshSpoke. CEO and Co-founder, Marcia Woods, is active in the local food movement and it is her deep connection to food and farming that is the motivating force behind FreshSpoke.  Rounding out the founding team and leading our technology development is a software engineer and CTO, Henry Quach.

Marcia recognized that there was a persistent market gap in our food system, despite considerable growth in year-round availability of local food; and a rising demand for traceable, local, sustainably grown foods. However, distribution and traceability challenges were creating wholesale market access barriers for most local food producers.  

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Features?

FreshSpoke’s was released in September 2016 as a website and includes online ordering, payment and producer self-delivery. The iOS and Android versions are now available on iTunes and Google Play. FreshSpoke currently has over 150 local food producers and 140+ buyers on the platform. 

Presently on our platform, producers can: 

• Set up a shop in our marketplace in 20 minutes.


• Publish & manage products.


• Promote accreditations & production management practices.


• Process orders & track sales.


• Handle customer communication & disputes.


• Easily manage pick-ups and/or deliveries.


• Improve cash flow with bi-monthly payments directly to their bank account. 

• Sign up to make extra cash by delivering for other producers who don't.


• Add a ‘white label’ version of FreshSpoke to a producer’s own web site. 

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Using the web or mobile app, Wholesale Buyers can:


• Source products according to preferences.


• Place & track secure product orders.


• Get real time order notifications.


• Schedule pickup or delivery.


• Communicate directly with producers.


• Rate & review products and sellers.


• Get product offers and updates from favorite sellers. 

In the fall of 2017, FreshSpoke is releasing our consumer app called Local Food Champion. Local Food Champion is powered by FreshSpoke, a cool wholesale marketplace platform that’s improving consumers’ access to fresh, local food. 

The restaurants, retailers, and institutions that you see on the Local Food Champion procure from food producers on FreshSpoke. Local Food Champion leverages the procurement activity of these purveyors, enabling you to plug into the supply chain, and get accurate real time information about the authenticity and origin of the foods available.  

In 2018, FreshSpoke will consolidate deliveries of our micro-hubs during off peak traffic times. Micro-hubs are smart food lockers that give urban and institutional buying clusters 24/7 access to local food.

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How does your FreshSpoke help producers? 

FreshSpoke’s scalable marketplace offers local food producers marketing, distribution and traceability all on one easy to use platform that is revolutionizing the food system. By connecting a growing crowd of wholesale buyers directly with local food producers, FreshSpoke drives down costs and saves time and resources for buyer and seller. The addition of shared delivery enables FreshSpoke to scale the platform to encompass producers from North America region by region, attaining greater efficiency and reducing delivery costs. 

FreshSpoke leverages the data and process built into the FreshDispatch system to include Europe’s gold standard of traceability. In doing so, local food producers are prepared and compliant with impending federal food safety track and trace regulations, giving them the ability to compete on par with imports.  

By seamlessly addressing distribution and traceability, FreshDispatch relieves producers of both burdens while driving an ever-increasing demand for local food products. The producer is, therefore, able to dedicate more time and resources to expanding production, which translates to economic prosperity for the producer and jobs for rural communities.

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With Amazon buying Wholesale Food and aggressively going after the food market, how does it affect you?

There are many grocery giants in the marketplace; Amazon is one of them. Aggregating small and midsized producers would be extremely challenging for companies like Amazon since they operate on economies of scale. However, we see large platforms like this as fertile grounds for collaboration, as we simply are interested in seeing the engine that facilitates the transactions between local food producers and buyers. If it were good for the local food ecosystem for FreshSpoke to collaborate with other food platforms like Amazon, we would do it.

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Your App is only available in Ontario. Are there plans to expand across Canada?



FreshSpoke is a ubiquitous three-sided marketplace platform, designed to scale but first, you must have all three sides working together so we will continue to build the Ontario Market for the balance of 2017 so we can fine tune our technology. Then, we start scaling to select regions in Canada and the U.S in 2018.

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Other information about FreshSpoke….

FreshSpoke strengthens the connection between rural food producing regions and urban centers through promotion, education and simplifying access to local food. According to the Canada’s Food Price Report for 2017 published by Dalhousie University, Canadians can expect to pay 35 percent more for food in 2017, an increase of as much as $420 for an average family. This is due to our dependence on US sources as opposed to locally produced, which was not considered in this study. By improving the traceability and distribution efficiency of local food, our dependence on imports is reduced, resulting in improved food security as well as greater investment in and prosperity for local food producers and rural communities. 

FreshSpoke improves the accessibility, quality, and freshness of foods available to the 65% of Canadian consumers who prefer sustainably grown, local food. FreshSpoke's big data collaboration gathers vital information on the distribution of local food as well as supply and demand. This will provide all stakeholders in the local food ecosystem from the producer to policy maker with valuable insights that lead to more informed policy and decision making.

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FreshSpoke’s innovative shared approach to local food delivery not only reduces delivery costs and increases income for producers, it also minimizes environmental impact. By improving efficiency through capacity matching, fewer vehicles are required, thus reducing carbon outputs as well as the stress on public infrastructure.

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FreshSpoke is increasing public confidence in local food products through traceability that will reduce the time it takes to remove unsafe food products from the market. In addition, wholesale buyers and their customers have the certainty of the local authenticity of the product. There are many farmers and growers with aspirations to take advantage of food trends by expanding or diversifying through food processing. FreshSpoke provides a ready-made market of wholesale customers motivated to buy new and innovative products. FreshSpoke is improving transparency and food literacy among consumers through wholesale buyers while collecting valuable data whose insights can be used throughout the food ecosystem.

freshspoke.com | facebook.com/freshspoke

The app is available at:
itunes.apple.com/us/app/freshspoke/id1176899662?mt=8
play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.freshspoke&hl=en