Our New Marketplace Overview
The Fresh Connection is teaming up with Provender to create a marketplace for fresh, local foods in New York City. We've created this website to showcase the changes we're proposing, and to help our community of farmers and buyers better understand why we want to create a new process for sales, marketing, invoicing, payment, and logistics.
The Fresh Connection has grown in the last year to a point where we're ready to take the next step as a business; helping our buyers and sellers find more opportunities to connect together and grow the local food movement.
The Fresh Connection has teamed up with a Boston-based company called Provender, who provide a software platform for the local food movement. Provender has agreed to provide the technology to create a more efficient and more streamlined way of connecting our buyers and sellers, and we've outlined the proposal in detail here.
Currently, our buyers receive information on availabilities from emailed spreadsheets and PDFs on a weekly basis, but rarely do these lists get used by all the buyers and sellers effectively. The platform we're proposing will help buyers across NYC order in real-time from their sellers, as well as find new products from sellers they might not be familiar with.
The platform gives buyers the opportunity to order up to a whole season in advance, but also gives a simple weekly schedule for products. Orders can be made by buyers through their own accounts, or by the sellers themselves (especially useful for customers who want to phone in their orders).
The platform allows buyers to pay by credit card or arrange payment terms as necessary.
The platform we're proposing has a simple inventory management system that allows either farms and/or food hubs to manage availabilities directly on the platform.
Products can be uploaded in seconds, and for those who sell fruits and vegetables, the system can upload your inventory from your seed orders directly if you buy from high quality seed companies like Johnny's. Products can be listed in multiple formats and accommodate all kinds of packing arrangements from pounds to bushels to individual units.
The new platform supports farmers having control over the logistics planning for their crops- all the work The Fresh Connection is doing will be easily seen from the portal. Additionally, this new platform will help streamline and integrate logistics and create efficiencies by helping farmers and The Fresh Connection to manage trucking more efficiently.
Features include neighborhood-by-neighborhood delivery planning, easy cut-off times on a per-product basis, and the ability to have certain buyers see special deals or products.
Once on the road, the platform has a simple, clean mobile application that allows the logistics provider to report when deliveries are made, have buyers rate their experience, and track trucks in real time.
invoicing and automated payment
The new platform supports peer-to-peer payments with a simple system of invoices and payments.
The option of both credit card and invoicing terms are available to best determine how buyers and sellers will arrange payment. The platform operates as a merchant bank account and processes transactions on 3 or 7 day cycles. When cheques or credit cards are processed, they are directly deposited into any US-based bank account via ACH.
Invoices are automatically generated by the system and then need to be verified quickly by the seller before payment.
We're spending the next 3 weeks asking for comments and answering questions from our community of growers and sellers. From there, we'll hold a session with the community to talk through how we'll be proceeding.
The Team at Provender
We have two members of the team at Provender who will help you integrate your businesses into the platform quickly and easily. Jay has a background in finance, and was previously part of the founding team of SomethingGUD in Boston. He'll be responsible for helping inventory upload and getting our farms onboard. Vaibhav comes from Flipkart and Amazon and is going to be supervising the project and managing the logistics and operations. You can say hi at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.
Community Questions and Comments
As members of the community at The Fresh Connection start to ask questions, we'll post them here! Click on the header to read answers from the team at The Fresh Connection and Provender.
+ How will pricing work?
You will have the option of setting either the market price for your products, or setting the price you would like to take home. Either way, the system will automatically deduct a percentage fee for services.
+ How and When will sellers get paid?
Sellers are paid on a weekly cycle by direct deposit.
Funds take 48 hours to arrive once we process the weekly payments via direct deposit. We'll request a void cheque from the seller community in order to deposit funds.
+ Who will bear the credit risk, if a buyer does not pay?
Terms between buyers and sellers are not affected by the platform, except in the case where terms exceed 30 days. The Credit Cards of buyers are retained in the system and are charged when invoices exceed 30 days outstanding. This is a manual process and exceptions can be easily made if arranged in advance.
Reminder emails on payment terms can be sent automatically through the system. Invoices can be seen by both buyers and sellers online quickly and easily.
Branding & Competition
+ Will I have direct access to ALL buyers on the platform?
Yes, your products will be accessible to all buyers within The Fresh Connection Delivery area.
+ Will I lose brand awareness in the marketplace?
No, your brand will be represented in the market as a seller, and you are still responsible for managing the sales of products.
+ Can I keep special prices for good buyers?
Yes. The platform supports special pricing for volume buyers and longstanding relationships.
+ Will my products compete with other wholesalers in the marketplace?
Depends on your relationship with the buyer. If you would like to request an exclusivity in the marketplace for a certain product or category of products, just let us know.
+ Will I have control over how my products appear to buyers?
Yes. Photo, description, price and quantity are all yours to set.
Feedback & Troubleshooting
+ Will I receive feedback from buyers on my products?
Yes. After a delivery takes place, buyers can rate the delivery on their mobile device. Each month, you'll receive a report showing what buyers said about your products.
+ If a buyer has a question, will I be able to connect with him/her directly?
Yes. The Platform allows buyers to chat with a member of the team at The Fresh Connection while they shop, and also can contact the sellers on the platform at any time. We love to see buyers and sellers connect and build commmunity!
+ My buyers won't order online, they prefer to call me.
On the platform, you as a seller can make orders on behalf of buyers that have consented to your managing their account. They call, you punch in the order, and your logistics happens just like normal.
+ Does the platform accomodate food hubs?
Yes, both as resellers and as logistics providers- in other words, you can both provide inventory to the platform under your name as a foodhub, and also as a logistics provider.
+ My food hub doesn't handle credit for our farms, can I still participate?
So long as your farms are comfortable with that arrangement and they agree to proceed as the Merchant of Record, there's no problem at all.
+ Can the platform do XYZ things?
If you have questions that are not answered here, you can always write to Jay (email@example.com) or Vaibhav (firstname.lastname@example.org) for a quick and easy answer to your questions.
+ Will I sell more with this new platform?
We don't want to guarantee more sales, becuase no one has a crystal ball. However, the platform is active in 3 other markets, where sales for both farmers and food hubs have increased by up to 40% after the platform's implementation.
+ Small is beautiful. I think this is turning local food into Walmart.
At last, the Elephant in The Room!
We think a lot about how we can grow local food systems without compromising the values that make it great. We are really inspired by the farmer Eliot Coleman, who wrote about appropriately scaled technologies in agriculture. Every day at Provender, we work to build our platform to work for small and medium sized farms and food hubs, and we think that we can make a real difference by helping connect a network of buyers and sellers together.