From Zero to $100,000 in Sales: Don Shares The Fast Paced Story of His NYC Based Farm Finest Foods
- Don started his business in his parents basement and quickly expanded to a robust farm serving the local community
- Last year he reached $100,000 in sales
- Don’s approach to business helped the farm increase sales by 50% during COVID-19
What's The Name of Your Farm and where are you based?
Finest Foods, located at 1028 Park Ave, Huntington, NY, 11743
Share a bit more about the story - how everything started, how difficult was in the beginning and what happened then, how did you find your first customers?
I started in a small corner of my parents basement with three racks. I used local farmers markets to learn how to market my products, speak with customers, and obtain my first weekly home delivery customers. I also was selling to local juice bars and health food stores by walking in and telling them about my products.
When i outgrew the small basement space, I moved into an old rundown deli nearby which I fixed up and used as my urban farm space until I outgrew that at 10 racks.
I moved into my current farm in Feb 2019 and have been able to expand even more in this new beautiful farm space.
I was constantly looking for a profitable crop to start with without much up-front investment. One day I crossed on Nate Dodson's MicrogreensFarmer.com and his YouTube channel.
As I was starting my business, I was also learning a lot about health. I knew that microgreens were part of the “living foods” group, which are among some of the healthiest on the planet. Microgreens seemed like the perfect crop to start growing.
A lot of videos recommended selling to chefs, but I was more passionate about helping people improve their health, so my business model changed pioneering my home-delivery subscription service.
Once I had learned how to grow microgreens, I focused on four key varieties: Pea, Sunflower, Radish, and Broccoli.
I started out by tabling at various farmers markets. This helped me get the word out about my company in my local community, and I began building a list of potential customers for my weekly subscription service.
In no time, I had a decent customer base including some local health-food stores and juice bars. My business was off and running with little monetary investment.
I moved out of the basement and into an old run-down deli in less than a year from launching the business. I had 3 racks for growing and a fourth for germination, with plenty of space to expand.
I focused on growing my subscription service and creating the most efficient methods of running my new farm.
I began hiring my first round of employees, while also developing a new product called the sampler box, which cost $20 and qualified my customers for free delivery. It was a nice option for people because it contained a little of everything – a variety of flavors and a variety of nutrients.
As people are new to microgreens, this was an easy go-to option that took all the thinking out of the purchase. It quickly became the top seller.
At this point, I was growing on ten racks and the farm was running very smoothly. I was even able to take a trip to Colorado for a few days which hasn’t been possible since moving into my next (and current) farm.
It took about another year to grow out of the deli, find, and move into my new grow space. This was an exciting transition because my business was established, and the new space was such a vast upgrade to the deli.
I now had a large building that had nice aesthetics and high ceilings. There was room for over 24 racks, and I was able to design it very efficiently. My farm is now located on a main road rather than a side-street, which has created more visibility, translating to more awareness and walk-in traffic.
I moved into the new farm in February 2019 and it took the whole year to finish making upgrades and adjust to the space. I had a client-base of over 60 weekly customers, which was covering both my business and personal expenses. Though I didn’t focus much on sales, new customers signed up throughout the year and I earned over $100,000 in sales throughout 2019.
I was able to stop attending farmers markets which meant that all revenue was coming strictly from my subscription service. Now that my microgreens business was established and successful, I wanted to focus more on my big-picture goals and start setting myself up to achieve them in the future. These goals included inventing a new sprouting device, creating a software for microgreens farmers, and the launch of my personal brand, Donny Greens.
Over the past few years, I have been able to slowly move my side-projects forward. I have invented and filed two patents on a sprouter, which I am very proud of, and we will soon be entering into the manufacturing phase. I have also been working on the software for microgreen farmers with a friend from high school who is a programmer. This software is based on the excel spreadsheet I created to run my business and will be of great value to microgreens farmers across the world when it is ready to (hopefully) be released sometime in 2020. I have launched my YouTube channel and the Donny Greens brand is growing. My goal is to provide as much value to the microgreens community as possible so that we can get more people eating these wonderful plants.
You can visit my YouTube channel here
I realized I can only grow so much food locally at my urban farm. I decided that my main goal as an entrepreneur is to leave the greatest positive impact I can on our planet and on mankind. By creating educational content, powerful software, and new products, my efforts and impact will be multiplied, resulting in more successful microgreens businesses and more people improving their health with living foods.
You can read the full version of Don's story on DonnyGreens.com.
What's the most exciting story you've experienced while running the farm?
Every day is exciting. My businesses are expanding rapidly and it’s the best time in history to be an entrepreneur. There was this time where I was in my farm at a time I wouldn’t normally be and one of the hoses came loose and water was going everywhere as I ran over and shut off the water. If I hadn’t been there, the whole place would have flooded!
What types of microgreens and other produce you are currently growing?
- Microgreen Mix
I also grow wheat grass and barley grass.
What makes your produce different?
Living foods (sprouts, microgreens, and wheatgrass) are among the healthiest and most nutrient-dense foods on the planet. They are harvested the day before they are delivered, ensuring freshness and nutritional quality.
My business model is set up as a weekly subscription service where customers get free delivery on order $20 and above. I pioneered this home delivery subscription business model and was the first to do it in the microgreens industry, as far as I know.
What type of clients do you currently serve?
Mostly home deliveries, direct to consumer, but I also sell to various health food stores.
So far my list of health food store includes:
- Makinajian Farm
- Organically yours
- Rising Tide
- Harbor Harvest
What's Finest Foods’ Mission?
Our mission is to improve the health and sustainability of our local community by supplying organic & non-GMO produce containing concentrated nutrition.
Sadly, a lot of smaller farms and ones that started just recently are struggling to survive due to the huge drop in sales this spring.
Based on your experience, what would you suggest farms in a similar position think about?
Diversify your customer base. COVID has my sales UP over 50%.
By focusing on only restaurants, you will be crushed in a time like this. Because I focus on direct to consumer, it makes my business resilient. You never want to have all your “sprouts" in one basket or have a business model that puts you at the mercy of someone else. That is a huge vulnerability. I have a direct relationship with my customers who are the FOUNDATION of my business.
Any other customers I choose to sell to, maybe for higher profit margins like restaurants and bars, is just additional but not needed to keep my business running.
Follow Finest Foods on their social media profiles:
Donny contributed to the writing of a book by Clive Woods called MICROGREENS: The Insiders Secrets to Growing Gourmet Greens & Building a Wildly Successful Microgreen Business.