Springfield, MO

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Photo provided by LOCAL FOOD CENTER
Photo provided by LOCAL FOOD CENTER

Startup Corner: Omar Galal, Local Food Center

Posted online
Minimally viable product …
We buy produce from local farmers – cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, lettuce, peppers – and we have different processing equipment that can slice dice, wash, flash freeze, grind up for paste and cook for salsa. We buy that produce and we sell it to the customer. Value added is we take that produce and turn it into a salsa. So all the ugly tomatoes, we would turn into a catsup or tomato paste.

Problem solving …
The schools, the grocery stores and institutions like hospitals – the consumer market demands local food. The typical system is to buy it and get it out west or Mexico. We’re creating aggregation points for all the farmers in this area to bring all their food together and make logistics and shipping easier. Previously, they had to go out to different farms and pick up boxes here and there.

Seed money …
We got a Missouri Agricultural Small Business Development Authority grant for $190,000, another private investor and a lot of sweat equity – about $400,000 in all.

Next phase …
We want to get our trust going this year and moving some food and processing some stuff. At the same time, start creating more demand with the consumers and start branding ourselves. If you want produce made in Missouri, you can start looking for our logo.

Our mission is to grow the farmers; we grow the growers. We intend on helping farmers get (good agricultural practices) certified and help with procedures and processes and go over paperwork. We’re kind of the go-between, protecting the farmers’ interest with the buyer. GAP is a lot of paperwork for a farmer – they’re not used to that.

Pivot …
A big pivot early on was with two other partners that wanted to partner and right at the last second they dropped out. Initially we wanted somebody like Farmers Market of the Ozarks to take control and we would provide the resources, but they dropped out. Another group dropped out. Basically we had to take over management ourselves.

Biggest mistake …
Get a more firm contract. I’ve started other businesses and I’ve been lucky enough to get away with doing things without a lawyer. From now on, I’m using a lawyer.

Best advice …
Things move slow, like a flywheel, so a lot of times you can keep pushing and it doesn’t turn. But eventually you put enough energy into it, and the flywheel begins turning on its own.


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