Are you interested in an idea for a business? Sam Hunt, a student at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay and second-place winner in the UWGB Student Business Idea Competition, says it’s OK if you steal his.
“I was in another competition and was asked how I felt if someone copied my idea,” Hunt said. “My goal is to help people, and if other people want to do the same thing, I’d be all for it.”
Hunt, who competed with fellow student Maria Romfoe, started developing his concept about three years ago. He and his wife, Megan Olson Hunt, were concerned about nutrition and the effect of food on maintaining good health.
“We watched one too many documentaries,” Hunt, a New Zealand native and former professional golfer, quipped.
The result was that he noted a void in the market to provide locally sourced, fully prepared food at an affordable price. For busy consumers, there were two options — find the time to cook at home from scratch or purchase healthy food that has been prepared by a high-end, profit-maximizing business.
Hunt’s solution is to create a self-sustaining nonprofit service named “Eco Food.” It would provide low-cost foods in reusable jars on a weekly basis. Customers would place food orders in advance; ingredients would be sourced locally; food would be prepared in a commercial kitchen, and members would pick up their orders from a central or several hub locations.
“The goal is to use the social business model developed by Fr. Muhammad Yunus to make it as affordable as possible," Hunt said. "Social businesses pay no dividends to private owners — their goal is to be self-sustaining through sales revenue while aiming to maximize the benefit to society by providing a beneficial product at the lowest possible price.”
The benefits include lowering the rates of chronic illnesses such as diabetes through good nutrition and portion control. Hunt says he is aware of people who are living with cancer and are using nutrition to boost their immune systems and help them heal. Yet options for prepared food are limited.
“This would be a big help," Hunt said. "I want to package food in mason jars that can be returned and sanitized.”
A week might initially include something like jars of soup, salads, smoothies and vegetables. He has been busy testing recipes and has a growing recipe box. As the business plan is finalized, there are regulations to meet and financing to be obtained. Having worked at local farmers markets and at Waseda Farms Market in De Pere, he is familiar with the local, organic foods that he plans to use.
“A big part of my job is to promote,” Hunt said. “I want to let consumers know what’s available. The target customer is someone who wants to eat local, healthy food but doesn’t have the time needed to prepare it.”
Companies like HelloFresh and Blue Apron have met that need for some, but Hunt says the cost is limiting and there is too much waste in packaging, making it environmentally unfriendly. In his research, he has found a few similar startups, but they are on the East Coast.
Since he doesn’t consider himself a natural entrepreneur, he said he has been cautious and is learning by doing. He applauds UWGB for inspiring entrepreneurship with the contest.
“This is project-based learning,” Hunt said. “Maria and I gave a 90-second presentation and people would come up to us and say they liked the idea. One of the judges had started a food-related business in Madison and she stayed around to offer advice. Every time we present, there are people who are enthusiastic and offer to help.”
Hunt will spend much of the summer trying to get the business started and hopes to obtain a loan from KIVA, a nonprofit that expands access to capital for entrepreneurs around the world. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tina Dettman-Bielefeldt is co-owner of DB Commercial Real Estate in Green Bay and past district director for SCORE, Wisconsin.