Founder Profile: Narrative Food

 
Narrative Food on Wefunder

Food that tells a story, delivered to your doorstep

Summary

Food is intrinsic to not only survival, but also the formation of culture, family, and memories. As pre-packaged meals and fast food seem to dominate the food landscape, some believe that we lose connection to our community and environment. Narrative Food was created to help revivify that connection in southern California while also supporting local farmers and families.

We sat down with founder Jennifer Piette to learn what cooking means to her, how her business has changed due to the current pandemic, and where she sees it all going-


Kingscrowd
For those who don’t know, what is the genesis story of narrative foods?
Jennifer

In Europe, where I lived for 25 years before I returned to the US in 2008, people have a very different relationship to food. Food and seasonality are an integral part of the culture. People really enjoy getting together to cook and spend time around the table. Having friends over for dinner didn’t then and does not now have to mean a trip to Whole Foods to buy prepared dishes. Some of my best memories are of preparing food with friends and family: shelling beans, chopping veggies, and then chatting and laughing around the table late into the night. These memories transport you through time. The smell of food cooking in your home when you were a child, moments in your life that were celebrated around a certain meal—these memories stay with you forever, and food is one thing most people can enjoy throughout their lives, creating new memories as they go. 

When I returned to the U.S. in 2008, I collided with a culture of Big Food and convenience, where so much food culture had been abandoned. With that I think our individual health has suffered, our soil health has suffered, and our communities have suffered.

At that time, with the recession striking the country, there were small-scale food makers and growers who were really energized by the food movement — this “Occupy Your Food” energy felt like one of the most uplifting things to come out of the 2008 economic crisis. I plugged into that feeling and decided I wanted to be a part of that. 

I started with a small team: a handful of people that we delivered food to and it just grew from there organically. I had no outside investors but luckily was able to buy a refrigerated van. That was the big startup cost, and we have made it for 10 years with no outside investment. By empowering our customers to use local, organically grown foods made by small scale producers, we are impacting their individual lives, our community, and the health of our soil. These are all connected and vital parts of our day to day lives.

The past few years, with the advent of meal kits and delivery, some of that energy felt like it was waning, and it became more challenging to compete with no marketing budget. This is why we launched our WeFunder this past fall. But then, in March, everything changed. Covid-19 struck and within a few days our business doubled, and then quadrupled, and now we have five times the volume as just 4 weeks ago, and a waiting list of more than 300 families desperate for safe, good food, so they can enjoy cooking and sharing a meal with their family. The NYT covered us, the local radio station called us, and suddenly, we had more customers than we could handle. In the midst of a pandemic, the market is telling us how much our community cares about quality, sustainably-produced food, the growers and makers of the same, the importance of regenerative agriculture, and all of our need for the human connection around it. Covid-19 may pass, but the lessons will not be forgotten that fast.

Kingscrowd
How do you plan on allocating funds raised in this round to scale the business?
Jennifer

When we crafted the language for our Wefunder campaign last fall, we planned to allocate most of the funds to customer acquisition and marketing. Then came the pandemic, business exploded by 500%, and we have a waiting list of more than 300 families, which is growing daily!  Now, instead of using funds to acquire customers, we need to put funds to work enhancing infrastructure and hiring to be able to support our dramatically expanded business!

Kingscrowd
You appear to have done multiple crowdfunding campaigns. what keeps bringing you back to the space?
Jennifer

This is actually our first Reg-CF campaign.

Covid-19 has changed the dynamics of our business substantially since the time we wrote our WeFunder campaign in the fall. It has also changed consumer behavior and preferences in favor of home delivery and minimal hands on food. This plays directly into our business model and we now plan to allocate funds to building out our infrastructure to support our burgeoning growth. Our business is up more than 400% since we began this fundraising campaign in (November?) 2020. We have a waiting list equaling our current customer list which has been increasing by about 5% every single day. I would say that the current valuation, given our huge upsurge in volume since the campaign launched, is very attractively priced.

Kingscrowd
Do you have any competition, and if so, how do you differentiate?
Jennifer

Most of our competitors over the 10 years since we’ve been in business have either folded under stiff big-box competition (think Whole Foods) or they’ve been acquired.  We are the sole surviving direct farm to table provider in our market apart from one state-wide service which serves a different part of the market. There are individual farms doing CSAs, and there are services that will ship your pre-cut pre-portioned ingredients that you can drop in a pan. But with Narrative Food your veggies haven’t been handled by who knows who did that cutting and portioning, or machines that might have done that. We are as direct a source to the makers as you will find anywhere, except maybe your local Certified Farmers Market! We are also a certified B Corp, meaning we are committed to our social and environmental mission, and work hard to improve our standards at all times. We also have a focus on women-owned food makers and growers, and I am a founding signatory of WeTheChange.net, a community of empowered women creating a radically inclusive and richly regenerative global economy.

Kingscrowd
What are the biggest risks associated with your business?
Jennifer

Not meeting the upsurge in demand. And a decline post-covid. Disruptions to food supply such as drought, natural disasters, etc.

Kingscrowd
How is your team uniquely positioned to win out in this market?
Jennifer

Our curating and marketing team brings years of experience with and commitment to the regenerative food system in California, the world’s 5th-largest economy. The network of growers and farmers who support us number in the hundreds, with many relationships developed over the decade we’ve been in business. This translates into insight, access, and the ability to obtain the products our customers want, at fair prices to all. Our production team also has a deep bench with collective experience translating into efficient and cost-effective receiving, packing, and fulfillment.

Kingscrowd
What does your business model look like?
Jennifer

Founded in 2010, Narrative Food curates and home delivers boxes of small batch organic foods — organic produce, pasture-raised meats, wild-caught fish, heirloom grains, baked goods and other prepared foods — delighting customers in 1000 zip codes across SoCal. 

Our boxes are accompanied with recipes designed to bring people together around food, to inspire and delight, telling stories of people, place and culture. 

We also provide optional services such as Home Chef service, and personalized meal planning to support family and individual wellness goals.

Kingscrowd
As you think about the business 5-10 years down the road, what do you see exit opportunities looking like?
Jennifer

We would like to expand to cover the entire West Coast (Oregon and Washington) and to be known as the premier premium food delivery and lifestyle brand in this region, supporting a regional food system made up of small-scale growers and makers who are empowered to develop a truly regenerative food system.

Covid-19 has changed the dynamics of our business substantially. While we cannot predict what specific exit opportunities will look like one thing is for sure: business is up more than 400% since we began this fundraising campaign in (November?) 2020, and we have a waiting list equaling our current customer list which has been increasing by about 5% every single day. The business (the relationship, supply chain, methods, team) we have built over a period of 10 years delivers an essential product and service, so we imagine we will have attractive exit opportunities and concurrently amplify value,  increase margins, and pursue our mission.


We at KingsCrowd are excited to see where Jennifer and her team take the company. Narrative Food is currently raising funds on the Wefunder portal.


28
About: Olivia strobl

Olivia comes to KingsCrowd with a background in venture capital and technology. She spent time at Glasswing Ventures, an AI-focused venture fund in Boston, before joining the KingsCrowd team. There she helped develop machine learning algorithms for the opportunity qualification of preseed and seed-stage startup companies. Prior to her time at Glasswing, Olivia worked in a lab studying the neural correlates of attention. She holds a degree in Neuroscience from Wellesley College.

View Olivia strobl's founders