Interview: Greenease (2014)

The MCN’s Smarth Kharbanda caught up with Vanessa Ferragut, founder of Greenease, in 2014. 

The Greenease website and app is a resource that connects sustainably savvy consumers with restaruants that buy local and/or offer sustainble food options.  

 What problem are you solving?

Today when we buy foods from our local farmers markets or subscribe to a CSA program, we know where our food comes from, but when we dine out, we have no idea where that food comes from. Greenease is a resource for consumers to support restaurants that buy local, and learn about the farm and purveyors providing the food on their plate.

How did you get interested in this problem?

Working as a sustainable event planner over the last 6 years, I was fortunate to work with a number of chefs that educated me on the importance of local foods. Part of “greening” a client event meant minimizing the environmental impact of that meeting or event. One of the greatest footprints happens to be food. I would push for organic foods, but my chefs would say to me “local will always trump organic.” And it was true.

Where are you located?

We started in Washington, DC and have now launched the app in New York City. We are currently working out of a startup accelerator in New York City called Food-x, but we plan to return to DC in the winter of 2015.

Do you have any expansion plans? If so what are they?

Yes, we are planning to expand. On the east coast we have plans to expand to Philadelphia and Chicago. Then we will be expanding to west coast. In west coast we plan to expand to San Francisco and Seattle. They look like the usual suspects for local food, sustainability, etc.

What is your target audience in a city?

Our target audience is the savvy, sustainable consumer who cares about where their food comes from. These are the locavores that patron local farmers markets, the health-conscious consumers looking for gluten-free foods, or hormone-free meats, etc. 

Who are your potential customers?

Our target market of consumers are smart phone users age 25-35 who live in, and around, the DC metro area – and now also in New York City. These are health conscious, locavores, who dine out at least 2-3 times a week and care about the source, and quality, of their food.

What are the major challenges you are facing and how are you solving it?

One of our biggest challenges was finding a developer. We first began with using a company in India who created the website. The experience was frustrating – the time difference, language barriers, expectations, etc. Then I started searching for a developer local to Washington, DC. I realized that since Greenease was all about a product that supported the local living economies, I had to find a technical expert in the area. I was referred to a few developers and finally contracted Craig Daly of The Grand Scheme. Between him and my designer, Sherry San Miguel, we created a beautiful product that is the Greenease app today! Craig has also accompanied me to New York City to work out of the Food-x startup accelerator, and is now a shareholder in Greenease.

Currently we are planning to expand and raising funds for growing and expanding Greenease is our biggest challenge.

How is your idea different from other players in the market?

We have so many competitors in the market like Yelp, Urban Spoon, Clean Plates, etc. Companies like Yelp and Urban Spoons are widely used apps for locating restaurants, and Clean Plates is focused on healthy restaurants. We take it one step further and share our restaurants’ farms and purveyors. We recently incorporated FourSquare reviews and hope to integrate Open Table in 2015. 

How do you engage with the mentors? Has Mentor Capital Network helped you change that?

I stayed in touch with some of the mentors that happen to be in the New York City area when I moved here. Mentor Capital Network’s mentor Greer McPhaden shared with me some of the restaurants in New York that buy local. Mentors at the Mentor Capital Network were really helpful and many were interested about our launch in DC, our progress, etc.