From field to fork in Toronto
Paul Sawtell, Artsci'02, connects Toronto chefs and local farmers.
In 2007, Paul Sawtell, Artsci’02, and his partner, Grace Mandarano, found themselves unsatisfied with their corporate sales careers. By chance, they found inspiration in a discussion about the politics of local food – the locavore movement. A business idea was born.
Four years later, 100km Foods is a well-established service in the Toronto region, bringing together Ontario farmers and Toronto chefs. The business makes it possible for chefs to get the freshest possible product because of the 100 km limit – sometimes arriving in their kitchens the same day that it is harvested. By acting as a channel between farmers and chefs, 100km Foods creates sustainable and environmentally responsible access to food.
Paul recalls how the idea developed. He met chefs who expressed interest in products from local farms, but did not have the time to establish relationships with 20 to 30 farmers and coordinate deliveries or pick up the products themselves.
The farmers, similarly, told Paul they wanted to sell to chefs in the city but could not leave their farms.
“It was the glaringly missing piece in this equation that gave us the idea to establish a service whereby chefs could order directly from a group of farmers through a single channel, and farmers could sell to multiple chefs in the city through a single distributor and not have to leave their farm in the process,” Paul explains.
Paul and Grace encountered a number of hurdles in starting the business. “The biggest challenge was establishing a business model with very little precedence,” says Paul.
After working with chefs and farmers to develop a complex model, he adds that “the other major challenge was finding start-up capital.” Considering the performance of the company during the recent global recession, it’s hard to imagine that these hurdles ever existed. In fact, 100km Foods has experienced growth in sales every single year since its first sale in April 2008. Paul’s hope is that the company will do $1million in sales in this fourth year.
The long-term vision is even bigger. “I hope to further establish 100km Foods Inc. as a leading company in the local food movement in Ontario by expanding our service to include public institutions,” says Paul.
He has also started another business venture: Ontario Artisan share Program, a direct-to-consumer food box program featuring local fruits and vegetables, artisan cheeses, and local, sustainably raised meats.
Learn more at www.100kmfoods.com