Social Business Judge Funds Student Plan

Social Business Judge Funds Student Plan

Fresh Oasis to bring produce to low-income neighbourhoods

As Grace Fricks listened to students outlining a business plan to deliver fresh fruits and vegetables to low-income Atlanta neighbourhoods, she knew she came to the right place.

The president and CEO of Access to Capital for Entrepreneurs was serving as judge for the Social Business and Microcredit Forum Oct. 17, a competition that saw 37 student teams from 36 universities across Georgia develop viable plans to solve social problems in their communities.

Access to healthy and nutritious food is a national issue in the United States, but the problem hits even closer to home in Georgia as the state has the second highest childhood obesity rate in the country.

Aundrea, Maxwell and Lauren present Fresh Oasis at the Social Business and Microcredit Forum.

For Grace, whose company provides loans to small businesses, non-profits and companies pursuing environmental objectives, the students couldn’t have picked a better idea, or timing.

“The light bulb just goes off,” Grace tells Axiom News. “We have some money that’s for this kind of initiative and these students have a plan.”

The student’s business proposal is called Fresh Oasis and targets what are called “food deserts.” These are communities, particularly low-income areas, in which residents do not live in close proximity to affordable and healthy food retailers. Using a hybrid truck, Fresh Oasis will park in these communities, allowing residents to walk to the truck and buy their produce, or order it in advance with a bike delivery to their homes.

As the social business competition wrapped up, Fresh Oasis receiving an honourable mention, Grace approached the students to see if they were serious about their idea.

“I said ‘If you really want to implement this, we’d be interested in continuing the conversation with you,'” recalls Grace.

Aundrea Bailey, a graduate student at Andrew Young School of Policy Studies and co-creator of Fresh Oasis, says the opportunity to receive a loan to make Fresh Oasis a reality was “a godsend.”
 
It was her own experience of trying to find an apartment in Atlanta that was in walking distance of a grocery store that prompted the students to view access to nutritious food as a social challenge and create the food truck as a solution.

As she and her classmates Maxwell Bonnie and Lauren Lowery began to suss out the business plan, energy for the idea grew steadily. Aundrea says she had to remind herself that while the business was needed and feasible, it was just a competition.

“We were like this is a great idea and we would love it if we could implement this, but where would we get the money for it?” says Aundrea “We don’t have any assets and we don’t know who would give us the money outside of family, and even then we don’t know how much we’d be able to pull together.”

Aundrea and Lauren met with Grace and two of Access to Capitals’ loan officers three days after the social business competition. Grace says through discussion with the students they’ve walked away with a commitment and next steps. Grace also knows several local foundations supporting initiatives to encourage healthy and active children that might be interested in the plan.

For Grace, connecting the students’ passion with real-world opportunity is gratifying.

“They are familiar with these neighbourhoods that need help, and I think that’s just perfect to be able to be part of putting that together,” she says.

According to co-founder Lauren, the idea doesn’t stop with one food truck. Based on its success, Fresh Oasis will consider a franchise model.

“The best outcome would be that once we have success in Atlanta, to take this from Atlanta to Georgia, to hopefully a national product that can be used or duplicated in other communities,” says Lauren.

If you have feedback on this article, please contact the newsroom at 800-294-0051 or e-mail camille(at)axiomnews.ca.

Comments

The plan is really great! It’s so good to know that students are not only smart people but also they are kind and take care of others. I’m glad that Grace is supporting them. Actually, the plan can really become a national product once it works out in Atlanta. Some people really need help, at least fruits and vegetables. They can’t borrow money or ask for advance because they are in really hard situation. And it’s great that help is available for them and there are people like Grace who are ready to fund such projects and also provide loans for small business owners. 

Writer Bio

Camille Jensen's picture
Camille Jensen

Camille Jensen is an employee share ownership consultant with ESOP Builders, Canada’s largest provider of employee share ownership plans (ESOPs) for small- and medium-sized enterprises.

Prior to joining ESOP Builders, Camille was a generative journalist and team member at Axiom News. She credits her time at Axiom as fundamental to her understanding that business is one of the best opportunities to make a difference in the world.

Camille is a B.C. Partner for Social Impact and volunteer with Okanagan Changemakers.

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