The Local Food Distribution Toolkit

Start small and tweak as your grow. The Toolkit is here to help you get going quickly and scale up. In these pages, you’ll find best practices, tips and resources, and some pitfalls to avoid, based on the knowledge of experienced local food hub operators.

Why Did We Create This?

Local Orbit helps people build profitable businesses and healthier communities by providing technology to help rebuild local food systems. It’s tough to run a business without good technology.

Before technology, however, people need access to shared knowledge and resources in order to create strong businesses that have the capacity to change the way we eat.

We work with - and learn from - dozens of entrepreneurs who are creating local food distribution businesses across North America, and we offer this toolkit to save you time as you start your own business.

How Are You Using These Tools? How Can We Make Them More Useful?

12 + 4 =

Business Model Generation & Budgeting Tools

As you’ve probably figured out, there is no one-size-fits-all franchise model for rebuilding your local food system.  But there are best practices and business planning tools that can guide you toward building your operation in a smart, thoughtful way. We have adapted two excellent business design tools, commonly used by startup companies, to have a local food distribution focus. Whether you’re just getting started or whether you’re looking to grow your operation, these tools are an alternative to lengthy business plans that end up sitting on shelves (or digital folders).  They’re designed to help you plan, assess and evolve.

By providing a flexible framework for mapping your business and the experience of your customers, these tools offer a different lens through which to assess opportunities and solve operational challenges.  They’re designed to help you continually plan, assess and evolve – so you can develop a robust business that has the capacity to change the food system.

Business Model Canvas

Business Model CanvasBefore you begin the Business Model Canvas, read through each area of the blank canvas. Every section prompts you with questions to think about. It might seem overwhelming at first, but it will begin to make sense as you see how all of the sections are connected. At the center of the canvas are your Value Propositions. What makes your business different from all of the other food distributors, and how do you add value for your producers and your buyers? When you have a clear sense of the various ways you offer value, you can begin to piece together other aspects of the canvas like the partners you should work with, the activities you’ll need to be doing, and which customer segments to focus on for business growth and sustainability.

We recommend completing the canvas in an iterative way. Fill in the sections that come easily to you, then repeat the process and make revisions based on how other sections refine your approach. Completing the initial draft of this canvas will make it easier for you to communicate your ideas and receive valuable feedback from your colleagues and mentors.

We suggest printing out the PDF as a poster – printing it out 24″ x 36″ on architectural printers is an affordable option at most copy shops – and then brainstorming with sticky notes. Alternatively, you might laminate it to use with dry erase markers. Seeing the various parts of your business from a new perspective then can help you be more strategic and see how to connect your big vision to everyday operations on the ground.  Make sure to put it on a wall where you and your team can continue to review and update as you learn!

Customer Journey Map

Customer Journey MapYou can fill out the Customer Journey Map in a similarly iterative way. Start with each of the customer segments you identified in the Business Model Canvas. Then break down all of the ways that you interact with each segment into the Pre-Service period before they are customers, the Service period when they are active customers, and the Post-Service period when you are trying to engage them to be customers again. There may be overlap between segments but this will also help you see where specialized services for specific segments may be appropriate to increase your sales.

Also – your “customers” aren’t just buyers.  Consider mapping the journeys of  the producers you work with, your staff, your investors and any partner organizations who are key to your operation.  As you drill down, you’ll find that each of the touch points on the map can lead to discoveries about opportunities, as well as gaps, in your revenue model, your operations processes, your storytelling.

As your business evolves, you’ll find the Customer Journey Map is flexible enough to evolve and help you think through new customer service approaches. This is another tool that we recommend printing out 24″ x 36″ for use with sticky notes or dry erase markers if you laminate it.

Here are a few sites with more tips and examples:

Budgeting Template

Budget ToolLocal Orbit’s Budget Template is a quick way to project your business financials based on common income and expense categories for local food distribution startups. The template is an Excel spreadsheet with three tabs set up to help you see how certain order sizes and sales numbers will play out over the course of a single order, monthly and by year. It’s easy to customize the spreadsheet for your specific business situation, and can give you some quick numbers that can be shared with your business associates.

A Starting Place

These tools are a just starting place. They are only as worthwhile as they are useful in helping you develop your business. If the Business Model Canvas is missing a key question for your operation, add a new section! If the budget doesn’t have the right expense categories for your situation, change it make it more useful for you.  Make them your own tools.  And please let us know how you’re using them, and how they could be more helpful!  We follow our own advice and iterate based on feedback.

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