Meet Trevor Clatterbuck, founder of Fresh Fork Market
, a provider of farm-fresh foods.
What is Fresh Fork Market?
Fresh Fork Market is a farm buying club, similar to a CSA. Our customers, or members, subscribe to a weekly farm-fresh grab bag from June 6 through November 3. Each week during this 22-week season, the members receive a mixed bag of produce, meats, cheeses, and more. We select the contents of the bag so that we help you build a meal plan for the week. We offer three different sized packages, priced at $25, $40, and $50 per week. Each week during the season the members pickup their bag from the back of our refrigerated box trucks. We offer omnivore, vegetarian, and vegan dietary plans.
We work with approximately 90 family farms within a 75-mile radius of Cleveland. In 2011, we had 360 different items, including organic and/or sustainable fruits and vegetables, pasture raised beef, pork, and poultry, farmstead cheeses, and artisan products such as preserves and baked goods.
How did you come to be an entrepreneur?
I was in the right place at the right time. As an undergraduate junior at CWRU
, I entered into a business concept challenge called the Entrepreneurship Education Consortium
(EEC). I was paired up with four other really bright guys. At the competition, we were dining out in downtown Cleveland at a restaurant advertising local foods in August. We asked our waitress what was local -- more out of interest for the waitress than the food -- and discovered that the restaurant didn’t have any local foods on the menu that night.
We pitched an idea that was essentially an Amazon-like marketplace customized to perishable, local distribution. Nine months later Fresh Fork Market was born and we had our first deliveries in June 2008. Since then, my focus has changed from restaurants to families, but the core concept of sourcing only from local farmers and only the best, most fresh ingredients has remained true.
Why did you start your business?
There was a clear need for the service and an apparent economic opportunity for me.
What was the biggest surprise in starting your business?
(laughing) That we weren’t millionaires in year two. Business school pro formas are for the birds.
Where did you find your first employee?
My first full time employee was actually a customer.
What are some of the advantages to doing business in Cleveland?
Affordable real estate and roadway access. Being in the distribution business, there are a few things that effect the efficiency of your operation. First, your building can cost you a lot. In Cleveland, warehouse space is affordable and supports young operations. Second, we rarely have to worry about traffic or congestion on the highways to make our deliveries. If access were more restricted it would certainly limit my sales potential.
On the flip side, the potholes do tear up the front of my trucks. I’ve lost count of sets of steer tires and bushings I’ve put on the front of my delivery trucks thanks to city potholes.
What advice would you give to someone starting a company here?
Don’t try to raise money first. Find customers first, make some sales, and modify your business plan based on the response of those customers (and more importantly, those who won’t buy) to your service. I spent my first 18 months chasing capital because that is the business-school start-up model and what the entrepreneur organizations wanted you to do. All I have to show for it is debt on business models that didn’t work.
Can you share a funny or amazing entrepreneurial experience with our readers?
My most successful, and current, business model was literally launched on a shoestring and with the blink of an eye. In May 2009, my business was down, I lost my last business partner, and the business model needed to be changed. I created the farm buying club model that is Fresh Fork Market today. The service was set to launch on May 29, 2009. On May 28 I drove to Columbus, convinced a dealership to sell me a used, refrigerated box truck (and finance it), and drove it back from Columbus and picked up the food on the way back. The next day was the first delivery to a group of about 40 customers. In 2012, just three years later, I’ll service approximately 2,500 customers per week.