How I Built A Successful
Sustainable Online Farmer’s Market
Hi! Who are you and what business did you start?
My name is Demba Lehrer, founder at Farmed Today B.V. We work on creating a more sustainable food system and source healthy food products, as local as possible, with focus on natural ingredients of the highest quality. Currently, our startup has nine employees.
What is your personal story and how did you come up with the idea?
My experience lays in business administration, sustainable supply chains and the HORECA industry. Having a farmer as grandfather and a chef as my father sparked my passion for taste and flavours.
Since I was young, I was fascinated and affected by the food and drinks industry. During my studies at Hotelschool the Hague, I came across fundamental issues within our current food system that affects food production, distribution, waste and logistics. Issues that will limit our supply of sustainable, highly qualitative and good tasting produce, if we don’t act now.
What challenges did you face when creating your product/service?
I created the startup as a student with no experience, no money and no guidance. It was a rollercoaster ride. I faced all the challenges that one could face in this position!
One of the biggest challenges was to establish a working website. First, I thought I would need to hire somebody to do this – and a web designer is expensive if you don’t have any money. So I tried to set it up myself. And step-by-step it all came together.
Every day, I learned new things and after a short while, the entire website was built. It is of most importance to remind yourself that you don’t need anybody else if you want to achieve something.
Who is your target market?
We identified the following customer as our ideal target market: “The conscious foodie”. A conscious foodie is a person with a particular interest in food, who is aware of the impact of food for their surrounding as well as personal health.
The demand-side target market (community) of Farmed Today includes males and females between 25-55 years old and based in the Netherlands. They will have interests in health, fitness and nutrition, sustainable communities, environment protection, organic food and local food movements. The European-wide market size is approximately 81 million (11% of Europe’s population).
How do you market your business and which approaches have been the most successful?
Since you launched, what has worked in not only attracting but retaining customers?
Most important is a high customer satisfaction rate. If your existing customers are not happy, then it is hard to attract new customers, because it will make it harder to scale efficiently. Worry about your existing customers first.
We place a high focus on our community of customers and keep very close contact with them by involving them in business decisions. These decisions include, for example, which products to add next to our platform.
What kind of culture exists in your company, and how did you establish it?
Company culture is very important for us. Our perks and benefits begin with free meals, employee social gatherings, financial bonuses and open presentations by the founder.
Other admirable quirks include free gym passes, a dog-friendly environment, and an office with relaxation areas. Employees are thought to be driven, talented and among the cream of the crop. Our message: Care about your employees and they will care for you!
What software, services or tools do you use within your business?
We mostly work with Shopify for our POS system. I think that Shopify is one of the best platforms for young start-up founders to create their first website.
As for a CRM system, we like to work with Zoho. For our bookkeeping we use Moneybird. We also use Google Drive, Whatsapp and Skype.
What are the most important lessons have you learned on your business journey?
Don’t raise money too early and don’t get a co-founder if you don’t need one.
The biggest mistake I made when launching was not to have a part-time job on the side to support my personal expenses. Instead, I went all in to grow the company, working 90 hours a week.
Looking back I think it would have been smarter to keep a part-time job on the side while building the start-up and then have a smooth crossover from that job over to running the startup full time. This would have eased the pressure on my personal expenses.
What is your favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
The freedom of designing your own work routine and living routine. Also the ability of leading the company in the direction that you want and not having to following a specific strategy which has been created without my input.
The ability to help people and make an impact on the world through our sustainable focus.
What is your LEAST favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
It takes a long time to get adjusted to it. And in the end, the pressure will never go away, but you learn to deal with it. Ultimately, if you give your best then there is no need to become stressed.
What books, podcasts or other resources have inspired and influenced your business journey?
Valuetainment is a great channel for Entrepreneurs who want to scale their business or are just starting up.
Gary Vee can really inspire you whenever you don’t feel motivated to work.
Tai Lopez can give you smart business tips.
Karl Ess can be like a mentor to you.
Where do you see your business 2-3 years from now?
In 3 years time, we would like to have around 30 employees and make 1.000.000€ in yearly revenue.