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.
It’s estimated that food travels 1,500 miles from farm to plate, and that every 1 kcal of energy we get as food consumes nearly 10 kcal of fossil fuel. Plus all this travel results in significant carbon dioxide emissions, and requires a whole lot of packaging and preservatives to keep food fresh. And, because of other problems with the system — including required minimum purchases from large food service providers — much of this food NEVER gets eaten: businesses, manufacturers and farms spend $74 billion creating and transporting food that ultimately ends up in a landfill. For consumers, this means their food is often loaded with chemicals, and it means money that could be going into their local economies and supporting local job creation is instead going elsewhere in the country, or even across the globe.
Other industries — including home goods and personal care — face similar challenges. It’s not a coincidence that the rise of e-commerce has coincided with with transportation overtaking power plants as the top producer of carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S. for the first time since 1979.
Consumers are becoming more aware of these system downfalls, and more environmentally and health conscious. Recent years have seen a growing wave of consumer demand for local food, expected to reach $20.2 billion by 2019.
Meanwhile, the local entrepreneur community is rapidly growing and fully capable of meeting consumer demand for local goods. In the next five years, 40% of the U.S. workforce will be solo-entrepreneurs, and, in the next seven years, the number of small and personal businesses will increase by more than 7 million.
Smart businesses that regularly source food and beverages, gifts, home goods and personal care items — including retailers, hotels, hospitals, corporate cafeterias, schools/universities, co-working spaces and event planners — see this as an important opportunity to meet the demand of target consumers while creating goodwill in the communities they serve, by sourcing from local suppliers.
So if there's such a huge business opportunity here, why aren't more big businesses sourcing locally more often, and why is there still so much unmet consumer demand? Well, for big businesses and the small local vendors they hypothetically want to source from, finding one another takes a lot of time and labor given a multitude of challenges: Small businesses have limited buyer reach, virtually no negotiating power and unequal access to a network of buyers that's all about "who you know." Big businesses have low visibility into vendor attributes, like whether they've been cleared by the health department, don't have access to verified third-party testimonials and have uncertain expectations about delivery/execution timing. 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 for cities across the country to replace a broken local supply system, fulfill unmet consumer demand, and shift dollars back into local and regional economies through local sourcing.