Academic journal article Entrepreneurship: Theory and Practice

La Vida Local: Planting the Seeds for Growing an Organic Food Delivery Business

Academic journal article Entrepreneurship: Theory and Practice

La Vida Local: Planting the Seeds for Growing an Organic Food Delivery Business

Article excerpt

La Vida Local is a small organic food delivery business which was started with an investment of under $1,000. In 2008, less than 2 years after its inception, the company is grossing over $80,000. Profits, however, are minimal. Although Julie LaPorte, the owner/operator, is more interested in facilitating the consumption of organic foods than making money, she is exhausted. She wants to hire an employee to help out, but to do so she needs to find a way to generate more profits and to overcome her own desire to keep tight control over operations.


Julie and her husband, Greg, were discussing how Julie's business had evolved. In the year and a half since its founding in July of 2007, Julie LaPorte's one-person organic food delivery company, La Vida Local, had grown significantly. Although her family had invested less than $1,000, the business grossed over $80,000 in 2008 (see Table 1), and Julie was constantly being approached by new customers and suppliers.

Michiganders living in and around Oakland and Macomb counties ordered organic foods and other items, such as natural body care products, from La Vida Local. Julie purchased the products primarily from organic farmers and producers located in her state, and delivered them once a week. Her company's goals were to help Michigan-based organic farmers achieve greater financial stability and to provide her customers with unparalleled choice of, and access to, locally produced organic foods at the lowest possible price.

The business's expansion required that Julie spend more and more time working, sometimes more than 14 hours a day. Despite the long hours, though, she still felt she could not keep up. Twenty-four hours in a day were simply not enough for her, and she was getting burned out. She remarked, "I was exhausted. I knew something had to change, and soon." One possible solution was to hire help, but she needed to answer several questions first. She wondered if her business could afford to pay someone, and if not, what changes she could make in order for it to be affordable. She also struggled with the idea of allowing someone else to handle the tasks that she had mastered, and worried that an employee might make errors that would hurt the business.


La Vida Local's Origins

Although somewhat of an organic enthusiast since 1997, Julie greatly increased her family's consumption of pesticide-free whole food shortly after the birth of her twins. Throughout their entire lives, her sons have eaten almost nothing else. She suspected her food choices were, in part, responsible for her sons' extremely high scores on benchmark developmental measures of attention span, fine motor skills, and intelligence. When her doctor commented that Julie's hormone levels were among the best she had ever encountered, Julie's beliefs about the benefits of organics strengthened. She became completely convinced that food choices made a difference, as she successfully managed her multiple sclerosis without medicine and with no relapse. She felt that as other consumers became more knowledgeable, they, too, would shift their preferences, eventually causing a radical nationwide increase in demand for organic foods.

As the family's passion for organic food grew, Julie visited different local organic farms on a regular basis. In the process, she began to pick up food for friends and family as a favor, accepting only the cost of the food, saying that it made her feel like "Santa Claus." Eventually though, some people insisted that she take enough money to cover some of her expenses, such as gas, which she did reluctantly. One purchaser, in particular, demanded that Julie charge enough to make a profit to compensate her for her time. The person explained that she simply would not feel comfortable otherwise. After that experience, Julie became more willing to take "extra" from others, eventually listing goods at a price that was slightly above her direct costs. …

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