Luke Saunders, Founder of Farmer’s Fridge
Farmer’s Fridge is an innovative company founded by Luke Saunders. His company creates environmentally friendly and healthy meals that are available in refrigerated kiosks. So, say “goodbye” to fast foods and “hello” to healthy as Luke shares his story on starting his company Farmer’s Fridge.
Location: Chicago, IL
Founded: October 2013
Title/Occupation: Founder of Farmer’s Fridge
Education: Washington University, St. Louis
Favorite quote: “Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goals.” ― Henry Ford
Can you give a brief introduction about your company?
Farmer’s Fridge sells healthy, nutrient-dense meals from automatic refrigerated kiosks. The kiosks are made of reclaimed wood, with touch-screen technology. They are located in the same places you would find fast food—but instead of eating something that weighs you down (literally), our offerings are made daily from fresh, locally sourced, organic ingredients. With the touch of a button, you can get a healthy and delicious meal from one of our kiosks in less than a minute.
Please share how you formed Farmer’s Fridge. What surprised you about the process? Was there anything that was more difficult or easier than you expected in the process.
I founded Farmer’s Fridge with the philosophy that good health starts with what we eat-and that eating healthy shouldn’t be hard. Launching my business was exhilarating and exhausting at once. In the beginning, it was literally me doing everything and trying to make sure that nothing fell through the cracks. The thing that kept me going was all of the positive feedback from my customers. When I was having an off day, a few regulars would still come by to remind me that the product wasn’t the problem. If you aren’t meeting those people, you may want to look at the product, but when you are getting great feedback and things aren’t going the way you want look at your assumptions. We realized that less traffic comes through the food court on nice days, and now we plan accordingly.
What were you doing before your launched your company? What prompted you to take the leap and start your own business?
I graduated from Washington University in St. Louis college in 2009 when the economy was in a spiral and no one was hiring. I went to work for my family’s business, but I knew that was just a placeholder for me. I have always wanted to be my own boss. I was lucky enough to attend a college that had a student entrepreneur program, so I ran a bicycle rental business on campus for three years. My partners and I had to do everything that a real business has to do in order to be successful—create a business plan, develop and cultivate a market, get permits, answer to customers and be on-call 24/7. That small taste of entrepreneurship made me realize that it can often take a long time to get where you want to go. However, if you work extremely hard, and spend less money than you make, it will probably work out
What would you say are the three main ingredients to a successful business?
- See the Market Need and Get Creative: I’m not a health nut, but I do believe you need to be aware of what you eat. I saw there was a dearth of fresh and healthy options out there for people who didn’t have time for a sit-down meal. That’s when the entrepreneur in me kicked in, and Farmer’s Fridge was born.
- Listen to Your Customers: Listen to the market and adapt quickly. You learn a lot and get humble pretty quickly when you are the CEO of yourself. The thing that kept me going was all of the positive feedback from my customers.
- Assembling Your Own Parachute: Entrepreneurship is a lot like skydiving, but with one huge difference. You have to assemble your own parachute on your way down, and the instructions are written on the ground.
What can we look for from your company in the coming years?
I want to be a leading supplier of healthy, convenient, fast food. I would like more people to be closer to a Farmer’s Fridge than the next closest unhealthy option. We’re in the process of opening 19 new locations in Chicago. I am not sure where we will stop, but at this point we have more machines planned to launch in February than I thought would launch in all of 2014.
Random fun fact about yourself
I hate to admit it, but the first thing I learned how to cook was probably Kraft Mac and Cheese. It was actually a decent way to get me interested in cooking, and eventually my mother helped me seek out and prepare more complicated dishes.
How have you handled the marketing/PR for Farmer’s Fridge since you began? Would you advise other entrepreneurs to outsource using a PR company of stay in-house?
If you can afford to hire a PR firm, then I strongly recommend it. Just make sure that you really consider the news value of your business. A PR firm can really help with strategy, writing press releases and reaching out the the media. However, they can’t make anyone cover your business, so if they tell you anything different, run!
How do you keep your menu ideas fresh?
We always look at what is trending online and try to adapt it to be healthy and in the Farmer’s Fridge stile. I also always try to incorporate seasonal items.
Be sure to follow Farmer’s Fridge on their social channel and if you’re in Chicago check them out!