Cureate organized multiple #madeinBaltimore Vendor Fairs to connect big and small business.
Across industries, our current supply system is broken — food and beverage serving as a prime example.
Without getting into the miles food travels from farm to plate and the resulting carbon emissions, packaging and preservatives, here’s how our current food supply system operates: Large food service providers require purchase minimums, meaning much of the food they sell never gets eaten; businesses, manufacturers and farms spend $74 billion a year creating and transporting food that ends up in a landfill. And increasing consolidation in the food service industry means fewer regional providers and therefore fewer opportunities for local businesses.
Additionally, the availability of quality food within certain communities, particularly the underserved, is being sacrificed by procurement models that singularly value low prices, and that execute exceedingly long-term contracts, preventing new competitors from entering the process.
All of this equates to a system in which money that could be going into local economies and supporting local job creation instead goes elsewhere.
Across industries, including home goods and personal care, this trend is the same. Nationally, 75 percent of the more than $70 billion spent each year on economic development directly subsidizes large businesses, leaving out locally-owned operations – even though small businesses are a proven engine of our local economies: For every $100 spent at a local business, approximately $67 stays in the community, verses $32 for a big box store.
Meanwhile, consumers are becoming more aware of these system downfalls. Recent years have seen a growing wave of consumer demand for local food, expected to reach $20 billion by 2019.
While selling directly to consumers – online, at farmer’s markets, etc. – is one way small business are working to meet demand, doing so at scale requires the involvement of large businesses and institutions (“buyers”). Smart buyers see this as an opportunity to benefit consumers and create goodwill in the communities they serve, by sourcing from local vendors. And, with procurement budgets in the millions, a tiny fraction of an institution’s spend – we’re talking less than 1 percent – can propel a small business in a huge way.
But, even for the savviest buyers and vendors, our supply system poses significant challenges.
For buyers and the local vendors they’d like to source from, finding one another takes a lot of time and labor. Vendors have little negotiating power and unequal access to a buyer network that's all about "who you know." Buyers have limited information about vendors, like whether they've been cleared by the health department or are able to fulfill orders on time. They also have to purchase from multiple local vendors for multiple products, since a vendor that bakes bread is likely not the same vendor that makes jam to go with that bread - not an efficient or scalable solution.
That’s why we built Cureate, a movement to replace our broken supply system, fulfill unmet consumer demand and shift dollars back into local economies through local sourcing.
We’ve built a suite of products and services for big and small businesses, and the cities they serve, to work together and create the foundation of a new local supply system. We CONNECT small and large businesses through our centralized local procurement platform; EMPOWER entrepreneurs to navigate the challenges associated with starting and growing a business; and work with cities to BUILD the foundational infrastructure to support small businesses and strengthen local economies.
Our vision is for all cities and regions nationwide to adopt new systems that best serve big and small businesses, institutions, consumers and local economies.