According to the Department of Agriculture, over twenty three million Americans live
in areas where healthy food is not available to the low income residents. In the rare
circumstances where the stores do sell more healthful choices, the customers cannot
afford it. As the ‘New York Times’ shares, MBA students from Bainbridge decided last
year to do something about this problem. They set out to find a business based solution
which could bring healthier foods to these neighborhoods.
Stockbox Grocers: “Good Food, Where You Live” is Born
What these students came up with is a startup which they named ‘Stockbox Grocers’.
The business takes reclaimed shipping containers, and creates small grocery stores
inside them. Those stores can be set up in the parking lots of the under-privileged
communities. Using the slogan, “Good food, where you live,” the founders of the
startup registered their business as a limited liability corporation in July. They had just
completed their graduate studies one month prior. Now both Carrie Ferrence and
Jacqueline Gjurgevich work full time at Stockbox, not only selling wholesome foods, but
creating community relationships and getting the required permits to operate as well.
The intention of Stockbox, as noted by their company, is to bring access to fresh and
wholesome foods to these communities, and make a profit while doing so. They plan
to offer as much security and dependability as the larger grocery stores without all
the overhead. As Ferrence points out, “We take away the high set-up cost. We take
away the high ongoing operating cost, and we focus on the inventory that moves most
efficiently. Most families, most communities, buy the same five to twenty items, week in
and week out, so they only need to go to a huge grocery store once or twice a month to
get the remaining items.”
Focus on Healthy Perishable Food Rather Than Traditional Convenience Store Choices
With that in mind, Carrie and Jacqueline decided to focus on food items which are
perishable, such as dairy foods, meat, juice, milk, fruits, vegetables, and other such
staples. With such a limited choice of foods, the entire store can fit into a shipping
container and cost much less to operate than a traditional grocery store. With the
portability and cost effectiveness of their plan, Stockbox can bring healthy foods to
neighborhoods where it was not available before. Many of these communities only had
convenience stores nearby, with beer, cigarettes, cookies, chips, crackers, sodas and
candy as their main menu items.
Their efforts are paying off. In May, Stockbox won the second place title at the Business
Plan Competiton at the University of Washington. They were also awarded the prize
for ‘Best Service/Retail’ category, which gave them a total of twelve thousand and five
hundred dollars in cash prizes. They opened a trial store on the 12th of September,
located in the parking lot of the Westhaven Apartments on a Seattle community known
as Delridge. Wholesome foods are pretty much unavailable there.
The last day of the trial run for that store was on November 6. Kids were choosing such
foods as macaroni and cheese, or tomato soup, the ‘Seattle Times’ reports. Soy milk,
frozen corn, and other healthy foods were also being sold. Along with their prize money,
Stockbox was also given twenty thousand dollars of a grant to help with the issue of
bringing healthy foods to these neighborhoods. They are now planning to open several
more locations, and want the first ten to twenty of those stores to be their own. Then
they may begin to franchise their idea. They have already been receiving phone calls
from entrepreneurs in about six different cities who want to franchise Stockbox. Some
of those calls came from Detroit, San Francisco, Washington, and New Orleans.
As to what determines “healthy” food, the owners retain the right to choose for
themselves. ‘Jif’ peanut butter is on the list, as is Mrs Butterworth’s pancake syrup.
They want to sell foods that people actually want, but to offer a more healthy approach
than usual convenience store items. Carrie and Jacqueline hope to open their first
permanent store this spring, and have at least four opened in 2012. Jacqueline shares
their dream, “Stockbox could be everywhere. Every community could have healthy
Angela Kaye Mason is an online researcher, writer, and contributor at entrepreneurweek.com blog network. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Angela on Twitter. Find her on Facebook .
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