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Will Pattison has a complex relationship with Iowa right now, but he’s hopeful that a new partnership can turn things around.
On the one hand, Pattison and co-founder Khristine McIntosh are happy to be back where their company, ProduceRun, launched from the Iowa Startup Accelerator after spending their summer (our winter) back home in Australia. The startup has developed close ties with Bass Farms in Mount Vernon.
“It’s been good to be back on a farm,” Pattison said. “I think it will be helpful in what we build, because we can test it with a farmer straight away.”
On the other hand, ProduceRun has a big vision – to connect a nation of local farmers to consumers via an ecommerce, crowdfunding website – and finding the resources to build that technology in Iowa hasn’t been easy.
While he praised the low cost of living, supportive community and talented workforce as good reasons to build in Iowa, Pattison admitted that finding cash has been an issue for the young startup.
“There’s a lot that we could do, and we have a lot of great people I’d like to pay to do good work,” he said. “It makes it pretty difficult to predict, when you’re continuously fundraising, it makes it harder to focus on the business.”
ProduceRun received $25,000 in follow-on funding from Built By Iowa and the Iowa Startup Accelerator after launch day, and used that to rebuild their website. At launch day, ProduceRun demonstrated a WordPress site, but the co-founders knew that technology “wasn’t going to be scalable,” in the long term.
With the key growing season approaching (at least in this hemisphere), the co-founders are excited to start selling their new site to farmers. Whether they produce fruits and vegetables, eggs and dairy, meat, snacks, or drinks, farmers can post what they have to offer and crowdfund their trip into town.
Plus, a new partnership could help put ProduceRun in front of many more farmers. The co-founders are working with Manage My Market, a tool used by farmers market organizers in more than 30 states, to integrate ProduceRun campaigns into local farmers market websites.
This would allow users to pre-order items from the farmers market, and let farmers better estimate how much product to bring.
“It’s going to be pretty exciting,” Pattison said. “If they can pre-sell during the week, they de-risk their trip to the farmers market.
In the meantime, Pattison and McIntosh have been selling t-shirts, growing flowers and doing website consulting while they wait for Iowa’s seasons to slowly change. They have also applied for grants from the USDA and state of Iowa.
“We’re doing everything we can to keep our heads above water,” Pattison said.
But his dreams don’t seem to have sunk at all. While talking about his hopes for ProduceRun, Pattison referenced companies like AirBNB, Rockwell Collins and the site of our interview, Bass Farms.
“There’s a lot of big companies here that started little,” he said. “I look at this farm, and they only started seven years ago – it’s pretty incredible.”