10 Questions for Local Food Entrepreneur: Cassandria Campbell
This interview originally appeared on Examiner.com.
Fresh Food Generation is dedicated to providing healthy, vibrant, local and delicious food to food-access-challenged Boston. Co-founder Cassandria Campbell and I met through Babson alum Linda McQuillan (B’78) and The Food Project, and Cassandria was one of the entrepreneurs to pitch at the Quick Service Incubator at last year’s Babson Food Day.
Q: What was the seed for what is now Fresh Food Generation?
A: I grew up in Roxbury-Dorchester-Mattapan area. Eating healthy wasn’t easy in these neighborhoods, and so I would have to travel for food. One day, I saw a young, obese man coming out of Popeye’s and my first instinct was to think “Why are his parents letting him go to Popeye’s?” Then I remembered that there wasn’t anything else around except McDonald’s and Burger King. I had the option to go elsewhere. Others don’t. That really weighed on me.
Q: What was the biggest hurdle you had to overcome?
A: Laughs. There are so many! The idea of FFG isn’t something that generally makes sense. We take local food and serve it in low-income areas, so figuring out the math there is key. We consciously decided not to be a non-profit. So coming up with a viable business plan was probably our biggest challenge. It led us to see that catering was going to be the backbone of this company, which then created another set of challenges, but has been a great gift because it got us out into the Greater Boston community, and allows us to sell food to our target neighborhoods at an affordable rate.
Q: How do you define success?
A: Getting food out of the kitchen and into people’s mouths, no matter how we do it: with a tent, at a community event, giving it away, through catering, on a food truck. There are a lot of finances and costs to consider and food trucks are expensive. At the end of the day, no matter what else is going on, what matters is: Are we getting food out and getting it to people.
Q: How do you manage failure?
A: That’s not a word in my vocabulary. I experience challenges and obstacles and things not working out. We’ve had to go back to the drawing board and try another way. But failure is not a word I use.
Q: How do you cope with pressure?
A: We’ve committed to staying healthy and taking care of ourselves. We work long hours and we’re lucky to be doing work we love, but it can get really tiring. When we’re tired, we’re ineffective. Plus, we can’t be a company promoting healthy and not look healthy ourselves. So we take the time to exercise and to sleep. To be a role model for a healthy lifestyle, you have to take care of yourself first.
Q: What are you going to do next?
A: We’re working on getting our food truck on the road. As we’re very much in start-up stage, it’s important not to jump ahead of what we’re able to handle. The next is now.
Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received in the past year?
A: “Focus on the intention not the invention.” Bill Warner who’s an angel at Tech Stars gave us that one. He said a lot of entrepreneurs get caught up in the invention, making something new to serve a purpose. But sometimes the invention doesn’t work out and it’s a problem if the entrepreneur gets too attached to the invention instead of going back to the drawing board to remember the purpose of it all… For us, it’s: We don’t have the food truck right now. How else can we get the food out?
Q: Give us your advice for aspiring food entrepreneurs in 6 words or less.
Q: You win the Oscar equivalent for your industry. When you take the stage, who will you thank and for what?
A: So many people have held our hands through this process and really believed in us from Day One when we were just an idea on paper. I would thank the network of amazing people in the Boston area who have taken time out to give us advice, to review documents, to put us in touch with other people. One of the greatest gifts I’ve gotten over the past two years of this project has been getting to meet some of the most amazing people.
Q: What about Fresh Food Generation most feeds your soul?
A: Something as simple as food is a new experience for a lot of people. We are their first time interacting with food in a way that’s meaningful when they eat something healthy that also tastes really good. That surprises them. And that it’s local. We did one breakfast and the menu said “root-crop hash” and people thought we were going to serve them roots. They thought “who are these caterers they’re bringing in!” Then we brought in this beautiful mix of potatoes and carrots, all different colors. People got to learn what a root crop was. Experiences like that really feed my soul.