January 29, 2012
How does the Stockbox Grocers work and what was the inspiration behind its creation?
Stockbox Grocers eases the disproportionate economic and health burden for families living in urban food deserts. We innovate on the espresso stand to serve micro-communities with stores that are safe and inviting for female shoppers and that provide food education, fresh produce, and grocery staples where they’re needed most – within walking distance.
Stockbox started as an MBA project in Fall 2010. Our inspiration was really the mobile produce markets that we had seen in other communities. But, we wanted to make them permanent and reliable resources for food in a community. A business plan competition that Spring provided us with the validation that our business fulfilled a real need and was also a feasible and innovative business idea that generated excitement and momentum from local government, non-profits, and community members. When we decided to open a prototype store, it became immediately evident that our supporters were willing to back up their commitment by contributing their time and financial support.
How is Stockbox Grocers in a unique position to tackle the problem of food deserts in underserved communities?
Stockbox directly addresses the limitations of our competitors in order to go where the grocery stores can’t and stock the food that convenience stores won't. Our reduced set-up and operating costs allow us to put a bigger focus on fresh and healthy food; our parking lot placement enables us to open practically anywhere; our replicable design allows us to scale quickly throughout urban communities; and our approach builds off of previous models, such as mobile markets and corner store initiatives.
We match this innovative design with integrated partnerships in our community, to ensure that our work addresses systemic issues.
How have you been able to merge commerce with sustainable business practices?
Stockbox will have the most impact at scale, with the potential to place 30-40 stores within Seattle. We receive requests weekly from cities across the country asking for Stockbox to launch in their community, so we have viable growth options once our first stores are proven to be financially viable. And we will measure the impact of these stores through a triple-bottom line approach.
PEOPLE: Each store serves 150-200 customers per day, creates 3.5 full-time jobs with benefits, and invests 1% of profit directly back into the community.
PLANET: Stockbox delivers shipping containers from the landfill and reduces customer transportation costs. We also reduce our food transportation footprint by supporting local farms.
PROFIT: Stockbox measures our financial contribution via our gross annual sales, net profit margin, and ability to connect local farms to larger supply markets.
What's the future of Stockbox Grocers? Where do you think you'll have the biggest impact?
We are working to open our first permanent store in spring 2012, with an additional store later in the year. In 2013-2014, we aim to take Stockbox to scale in Seattle with an additional 3-5 stores per year. In this phase, we will build our own food hub, to support our network of stores and other small grocers and convenience stores. While our initial focus is on responding to the needs of low-income communities in Seattle, we feel there is potential to open Stockboxes throughout most urban environments – even in more affluent neighborhoods, where it is still necessary to drive a larger, more centralized store. As gas prices continue to rise and consumer demand continues to grow for more local products and services, Stockbox seeks to fill an important gap in our relationship with food.
Why does a program like yours matter to the consumer?
Customers were blown away by Stockbox, because the store provided a large variety of affordable and fresh food; inventory responded to their requests; and we provided a safe alternative to existing mini-marts. With future stores, we will hire staff from the community and provide them with training to ensure they can manage inventory and help customers prepare meals. And we will put an even bigger focus on customer engagement and food education.
In upcoming issues, we will continue to feature interviews with companies that are taking innovative steps toward the creation of sustainable products and services. If you are interested in telling us more about what your company is doing please contact Allison Bloom at firstname.lastname@example.org.