WUSTL Undergraduate Sells Farmplicity, Startup That Began as Class Project

Company’s success started in Olin’s Hatchery course

Released: 8-May-2014 1:00 PM EDT
Source Newsroom: Washington University in St. Louis
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Newswise — For most rising college seniors, the last weeks of junior year are spent worrying about summer internships and facing the reality of post-college plans.

For Jolijt Tamanaha, her last weeks of junior year at Washington University in St. Louis were spent making a deal to sell a startup she co-founded called Farmplicity — an online marketplace that matches restaurants with local farmers — founded in a course through Olin Business School called The Hatchery.

And it’s that course — and the mentoring received at the university — that Tamanaha, a political science major in Arts & Sciences, credits for allowing her to grow and sell a successful startup while still in school.

“The Hatchery is great because it is structured in a way that provides you with enough guidance that you don’t feel like you’re completely on your own,” Tamanaha said, “but enough freedom that you truly learn through experience.

“The course taught us how to organize our thoughts and how to pitch the business,” she said. “The multiple presentations that we made about Farmplicity were excellent practice for the many times we pitched Farmplicity to judges, potential investors and customers.”

Farmplicity, started in 2013 by Tamanaha with Drew Koch and Andrew Lin, both recent alumni of Olin, currently matches 130 local farmers to more than 100 restaurants. The venture helps smooth the process of ordering locally-grown produce, fruits, meats and other food products.

Sunfarm Food Service, a leader in providing fine produce and dairy products to top restaurants, caterers, hotels and other food services, acquired the startup in early May.

“Our students at Washington University never cease to amaze me,” said Clifford Holekamp, senior lecturer in entrepreneurship, director of Olin’s entrepreneurship platform and a Hatchery professor. “Farmplicity went from Hatchery class, to founding, to growth, to exit — all before the co-founder’s senior year. It’s a very impressive accomplishment.

“I am pleased to see our students make a lasting contribution to the farm-to-table supply chain in St. Louis,” Holekamp said. “With the acquisition by Sunfarm, Farmplicity will have the infrastructure and sustainability to impact the community for years to come.”

The Hatchery, open to both WUSTL undergraduates and graduate students, is one of the university’s capstone entrepreneurship courses. It was one of the first business courses in the country to use multidisciplinary team collaboration, mentoring and coaching to support students as they launch enterprises while in college.

Enrolled students can work on their own social or commercial venture ideas or partner with community entrepreneurs already in development.

Starting Farmplicity “has been an amazing journey that shaped my whole experience at the university,” Tamanaha said. “Without Farmplicity, I wouldn’t have registered for many of the classes I’ve taken or met most of the professors who have helped me.

“School work is a very different experience when you can sit in class and think ‘How would I apply this to my business?’ Through Farmplicity, I interacted with so many local professionals, which taught me to love St. Louis and all of the opportunities in this city.

“Farmplicity has the potential to modernize local food distribution so that small farmers can successfully compete with larger growers, and Sunfarm is the perfect company to turn that potential into results,” Tamanaha said.

“Sunfarm’s proven expertise in delivering food also will create a more efficient and more synchronized Farmplicity for both farmers and chefs,” she said. “And most importantly, Sunfarm shares our values and belief in the importance of building a strong local food movement.”

Now that the acquisition is over, Tamanaha will focus on enjoying her senior year. But the entrepreneurship bug hasn’t left her just yet.

“I have an idea for a new marketing startup that I’m going to work on,” she said.

Entrepreneurship at Washington University in St. Louis

Entrepreneur Magazine has ranked Washington University No. 8 in undergraduate programs and No. 12 in graduate programs. Degrees in entrepreneurship are offered at the undergraduate and graduate level at Olin Business School. A minor degree in entrepreneurship is an option for all WUSTL undergraduates.

The Skandalaris Center for Entrepreneurial Studies hosts two annual business plan competitions that together award nearly $250,000: the Olin Cup for commercial ventures and the YouthBridge Social Enterprise and Innovation Competition for social ventures.

The School of Engineering & Applied Science hosts its Discovery Competition with the goal of promoting new and innovative solutions for real-world problems and allowing students to compete for financial resources that could help turn their ideas into businesses. The winning team is awarded $25,000. Students and alumni regularly participate in the Arch Grants competition in St. Louis.


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