VC wanted FarmboxRx to be a meal kit, bootstrapped the company instead

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Some startups choose to bootstrap from the start, while others find themselves forced to self-fund due to a lack of interest from investors or a business model that doesn’t fit into a traditional VC. FarmBoxRx decided to bootstrap because founder Ashley Tyrner didn’t like the advice she was getting from potential backers.

Turner told TechCrunch’s Found podcast that when she set out to raise money for FarmboxRx, a direct-to-consumer produce box company that aimed to solve food deserts at the time, she found that venture investors Was interested only if she agreed to it. Orient his company toward a hot trend of the moment.

“Every VC we talked to, any of them who were even remotely nice to us at the time, wanted us to be a meal kit,” Turner said. “Our focus was not on this. We didn’t want to jump on the meal kit bandwagon. Looking back now, I’m really glad I never raised any capital and we haven’t raised any capital to date. “You know, most of the meal kits have slowly run out.”

Instead, the company focused on its existing production box-centric model and the supply chain built around that strategy, and built a new revenue stream on top of that.

When it was announced that health plans would be able to offer food as prescription drugs in 2020, FarmboxRx took advantage. The company began working with health plans to offer its boxes as a prevention mechanism to allow health plan customers to use food as medicine. Turner said dealing with the bureaucracy and compliance required to work with government-sponsored healthcare like Medicare and Medicaid was difficult at first, but eventually the company succeeded and now works with about 90 plans.

“It’s been a very tough industry,” Turner said. “I set out to find a plan to work with us and no plan wanted to work with us. But I found one in Pennsylvania, and you know, I owe a lot of my career to the head of product there. He took a risk on us. And then we changed to other plans. We actually work with, you know, the top five big guys that we work with right now.

Working with health plans, the boxes not only provide fresh produce to people with chronic conditions who can benefit from the produce, but they also include prompts and reminders to motivate users to work out. Are. These friendly reminders tell users to do things like get a colonoscopy or eye exam to help keep their health issues from getting worse.

Tyrner said the company has seen strong growth through this model but still has many more health plans to work on. The company has maintained investor interest over the years, while Tyrner remained committed to building the product he wants. Now, Tyrner said the company is finally ready to seek outside funding and scale to the next level.

“So now we’re in a really good position to be able to bring the right investors into the company that can really help us take our next level of growth,” Tyrner said. “You know, we’re a growth-stage company. We are no longer a startup, even in healthcare.”

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