Who They Are:
Michael Reeps, owner of Staunton Fresh, has over ten years’ experience in front-end web development, search engine optimization, web analytics, and internet marketing. “In my professional web career,” Michael says, “I have been involved in several large-scale projects using the internet to connect individuals around a common interest.” This background has positioned him to play a unique role in the local foods network with Staunton Fresh, which serves as an online or virtual “market” to connect local food producers with local customers. Members of Staunton Fresh can browse an online catalog of local foods and farm products during a buying period, and then Staunton Fresh collects the products and brings them to a pickup location in downtown Staunton once per week. Michael says that his interest in local food and local economies motivated him to apply his tech and web skills “in a new online marketplace for local foods: Staunton Fresh.”
Michael says, “I see myself as sort of a reluctant entrepreneur, in the strictest sense of the word. Entrepreneurs are typically associated with financial risk taking in order to bring about a new product or service. I wanted to find a way to start Staunton Fresh with as little risk and capital as possible.” Part of this involves running Staunton Fresh “as a collaboration between a group of small, extant businesses,” even though it is a privately held, for-profit venture. The key players in this collaboration include: Local Food Marketplace, the software used to power the ecommerce; Shenandoah Food, the refrigerated delivery service; and The American Hotel banquet room, the drop-site used for the food pickups are all small businesses with three or fewer employees. “And of course,” Michael adds, “the local producers are almost exclusively small family farms. My philosophy is to use these services in a new way, rather than create an entire process myself from scratch.”
How did you get here?
Michael came to Staunton Fresh after trying some online marketplace software without satisfaction. Using his computer savvy, he “attempted for a time to build something on my own, but found myself out of my league, technically speaking.” After bouncing his idea for Staunton Fresh around with local supporters, including SCCF, Michael found the Local Food Marketplace software platform, which made him feel “like everything else I needed to build this business was already here.” After he competed in the Ignite Staunton series in the fall of 2011, Michael won the $5,000 final grant award in January of 2012. “Since then,” he says, “I have sold 130 memberships, recruited top area producers, executed two end-to-end tests of the system, and have launched the weekly service.”
Staunton Fresh by High Hopes Productions, Inc.
P.O. Box 332
Staunton, VA 24402-0332