By Anna Lardinois, Startup Storyteller
Jalen Greenlee, a University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh business student, found inspiration in the COVID lockdown.
Passionate about healthy eating, Greenlee grew frustrated with food delivery options during the time when people were encouraged to remain at home. It was easy to get pizza or burgers delivered, but he found it a challenge to get an assortment of fresh, high-quality produce delivered to his door.
To address that challenge, Greenlee launched Flora, a food delivery company with a focus on healthy foods, in November 2020. Flora ships fruits, vegetables, individually-packaged sliced fruit cups, granola, and nuts to homes in southeastern Wisconsin. Flora primarily serves the same market as local Community Supported Agriculture food delivery programs, but does not require a subscription, making it a more flexible option for its customers.
Wisconsin’s short growing season is not an obstacle for Flora. The company is tapping into different distribution chains to keep its boxes filled with fresh produce.
“There are a lot of (produce) wholesalers around the city of Milwaukee,” Greenlee said. “We partner with grocery stores around southeastern Wisconsin and then in the spring and summer months, we tap in with local farmers for the vegetable needs.”
The CEO is keenly aware that many of those who need access to home-delivered fresh produce cannot afford this service. In the future, Greenlee hopes to use Flora’s influence to combat food deserts by working to make his products available to those in need. Through government grants and local donations, Flora aims to provide free food in neighborhoods where fresh produce is difficult to access, due to the lack of grocery stores.
Currently, Flora’s highest concentration of customers reside in Milwaukee’s North Shore suburbs. The CEO’s plans for expansion may change that demographic. Greenlee stated he plans to expand Flora’s shipping region into neighboring Midwestern states in 2023.
This aggressive plan for growth requires capital. Greenlee is focused on raising a pre-seed funding round, and he is not limiting any pathways to gaining capital. The new company is actively pitching to local angel investors, venture capital groups and equity-focused startup accelerators to raise funds.
Regardless of where Greenlee finds funding, he pledges Flora will “definitely always (be) headquartered in Wisconsin. I’m very passionate about the entrepreneurship community here and the tech community and really want to be a part of that movement and help it.”
To keep pace with his growth in the absence of capital, Flora currently uses contract workers, rather than employees, to pack and deliver shipments. The company finds its gig workers using the app Sydetasker. The startup company, launched by fellow Oshkosh Titan Colin Milligan, connects workers with short-term job assignments.
“Our whole mission is to make it easier for people to access healthier foods,” said Greenlee. To watch Flora work toward that goal, connect with the company here.