Student vies for global entrepreneurship award
Last year, junior Jolijt Tamanaha founded Farmplicity, an online marketplace that connects local farmers to St. Louis chefs and restaurants, with two Washington University graduates as a part of the local food movement that aims to encourage the consumption of locally produced food. Tamanaha is now in the running for the Entrepreneurs’ Organization’s Global Student Entrepreneur Awards (GSEA).
After winning locally, and then at a regional competition in Ohio, she is now a finalist for the competition, competing in the global round against 30 other student entrepreneurs on Nov. 20.
“I get a lot of energy just from being a part of this because it’s so exciting and scary at the same time,” she said. “Just meeting people who are interested enough in what you’re doing to talk to you and give you advice is exhilarating.”
Tamanaha, along with Spencer Quinn from Brigham Young University, both competed against four other regional finalists in their area to advance to the final level.
“Tamanaha and Quinn are perfect examples of how acting on a problem that you’re passionate about can lead not only to a valuable solution but also a profitable business—and you don’t have to wait until you’re 40 to get started,” Adam Robinson, Global GSEA Sub-Committee Chair, said in a press release.
Through Tamanaha’s experience working at Ibby’s Bistro for two years, she noted that the restaurant would have to call separate markets to get all of their products. Her interest in the local food movement was sparked when she saw the documentary “American Meat,” a film that chronicles the increasing industrialization of America’s meat industry.
“I’d definitely say that my inspiration [for Farmplicity] came from a combination of my experiences at Ibby’s and watching ‘American Meat,’” Tamanaha said. “When I was a kitchen intern at Ibby’s, I started to realize how difficult it was to get these local things, but I didn’t really understand the extent of it until I watched ‘American Meat’ because it shows you the stories of these farmers and you recognize there’s so much more behind local food than what’s obvious.”
Tamanaha’s business idea developed through her participation in The Hatchery, an entrepreneurship class offered through the Skandalaris Center for Entrepreneurial Studies in which students create a business plan for their entrepreneurial idea. By the end of the class, Tamanaha had come up with Farmplicity.
The development process began in January of 2013. Throughout the process, Tamanaha used her connections from The Hatchery, and by the end of April she and her co-founders Drew Coach and Andrew Lin had launched their site.
Currently, Farmplicity has more than 70 restaurants and 80 farmers signed up to the program, including 3 Girls and a Tractor, Leafy Greens Farm and Local Harvest Cafe.
Chief Technology Officer of Farmplicity and Olin Business School graduate Andrew Lin said the idea for Farmplicity resonated with him.
“[I believe] there’s a disconnect between where food comes from versus the food on your plate, and Farmplicity is bridging that gap,” Lin said.
Tamanaha has hopes to expand throughout the Midwest, although right now the company’s reach doesn’t go beyond 150 miles from St. Louis.
“We just started trying to raise our first round of investment,” she said. “Once we get some investors we’ll be able to scale into different cities, hopefully into the middle of the country.”
Jolijt Tamanaha has written several pieces for Student Life.
Editor’s note: This article originally stated that Farmplicity was founded in January of 2012 and listed Pastaria as a participant in the program. It has been corrected to reflect that the marketplace was founded in January of 2013 and that Pastaria is not a customer. Student Life apologizes for the error.