Interview with Oriana Sarac and Kaytea Petro from Neighborhood Fruit


In Our Back Yards: Neighborhood Fruit Interview by Willi Paul

Is NF trademarked? Can you give us an idea of how much it took to start this up?

Neighborhood Fruit is an LLC registered in the State of California. It took about six months to develop the idea for Neighborhood Fruit, and about six months to build what we have so far (although, we have many exciting surprises planned for the next few months!).

Neighborhood Fruit developed out of a master’s project at Presidio School of Management (http://www.presidiomba.org/). The company name, branding and identity all emerged from an extensive survey and feedback process.

Have you spawned any additional businesses, like jam makers?

During our period of research, we identified jam and pie makers and other low-cost startups as potential growth customers. Since we have only been launched for about 20 days, it is unclear whether these groups are utilizing Neighborhood Fruit.

Neighborhood Fruit was created to make use of the abundant resources already available in our local neighborhoods and to promote greater urban self-reliance. By creating a portal where neighbors can find and share their backyard abundance as well as find trees on public lands, we believe that people will be able to eat better and live in better communities.

How big do you want this to get?

Neighborhood Fruit intends to become a primary nationwide resource for urban food solutions, as well as working to mitigate climate change and contributing to the creation of a socially just society. Toward these goals, we will expand to include vegetables and herbs during 2009. We estimate that there is between 40-200,000,000 pounds of available backyard fruit in America’s cities, a significant portion of which goes to waste every year. If all this fruit was consumed, that would mean a reduction an annual reduction of 3 million pounds in atmospheric carbon released and 237 million gallons of water over the same amount of fruit grown in orchards.

Please elaborate on the underlying values here, start with “trusty fulfillment.”

We believe that the reason why people haven’t been sharing fruit within their communities recently is that the trust is missing. We specifically created Neighborhood Fruit’s Fruitfillment service (a few features are still in development) to facilitate trust between users. We also feel that by branding the site in a fun way, we enable people to open up and trust.

How long with the beta last?

Neighborhood Fruit will remain in Beta for as long as it takes to complete and smooth out the features to make the service work, as well as recruit a critical mass of users. At a minimum, we will be in Beta until August.

Not sure if I saw any reference to organic versus not? Help!?

Organic certification is an expensive and multiple-year process designed to help farmers distinguish their produce on the commercial market; it is so expensive that many small scale farmers cannot afford it. Neighborhood Fruit is a place where people can share their excess produce with members of the community. As such, we don’t expect them to have gone through the organic certification process, but we do encourage sustainable gardening practices through our newsletter and Gardening forum.

Do you see your model morphing into other green businesses?

We envision that five years down the road, Neighborhood Fruit will have spawned several additional corollary ventures (both for-profit and non-profit) in the area of sustainable food, food advocacy, edible urban forests etc.

Is your seeker / grower process too complex? Do you have stats to share?

Since we have only been functioning for about two weeks, it is unclear if/how the service needs to be optimized.

Share 3 things that you learned at PSM and applied to NF. Thanks!

Presidio School of Management was a great place to initially develop Neighborhood Fruit, the company was built on the strong foundation provided by the education at Presidio. First of all, Neighborhood Fruit is a systemic solution; it addresses many problems – urban food access, food security, waste, carbon food mile – in one simple solution. Second, Neighborhood Fruit is rigorous measuring and tracking metrics, both sustainability and fiscally. We believe that this is the key to can creating a credible and accountable company, and solution. Finally, by establishing partnerships with other organizations and stakeholders, we can amplify our, and our partners impact. The result of this will hopefully be a healthier, more sustainable world.

Forage Oakland, a partner, is working on a neighborhood sustainability level. Can you share some nuts and bolts on this relationship?

Forage Oakland’s Asiya Wayud has been collaborating with Neighborhood Fruit since before the company was formed. We have mutually advised and supported one another in our distinct realms: Forage Oakland (hyper-local, art-as-life project), Neighborhood Fruit (nationwide, for-profit-venture).

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“We’re in the information delivery business. What eBay did for the garage sale, we’re doing for backyard fruit exchanges.” BIOS for FOUNDERS :
neighborhoodfruit.com

Kaytea Petro Marketing and Business Development

Kaytea is a native of San Francisco and planted her first Victory Garden while in college (the rabbits won) at UC Santa Cruz. Passionate about social equity and communication, she has spent her career working in and around the field of education. She recently graduated from Presidio School of Management with an MBA in sustainable business, and is excited about Neighborhood Fruit’s ability to create fair access to healthy food for all people. When she’s not working hard, she likes to write and draw comic books and ride her Elektra Coaster 7 over big hills.

Oriana Sarac Technology and Operations

Oriana was born in Sarajevo, and attended university in Prague and Ohio. In her roof garden, she grows catnip for her slightly corpulent feline companion, herbs, figs and peaches; she also hosts a bee hive. As a software engineer, she has worked for large companies such as WaMu, but she preferred smaller operations with local impact like Timbuk2. She graduated from Presidio School of Management with a MBA focus on Sustainability and is excited about leveraging technology to make positive impact on the environment and people. After work, she enjoys cooking, yoga and riding her Bianchi Volpe with saddle bags all over town.

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