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Meet Steve Spoerl of Farm Fresh Foodstuffs in Batavia

Today we’d like to introduce you to Steve Spoerl.

Steve, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
It all started back in 2007 when my wife Jennifer and I were dating. We were looking for a part time job to make some extra spending money while still spending time together.

We started working for a friend of our’s selling meats, eggs, and cheese at local farmers markets on Saturdays. In the fall of 2009 Jennifer and I were married and expecting our first child when I got laid off from my corporate sales job. I wanted to get into a new industry while I was still young but all my job offers were commission only. I had always wanted to have my own business, so we decided to go commission only for ourselves and Farm Fresh was born. It has been a journey. The business has changed every year. We started only doing farmers markets, at one time we served 15 farmers markets a week throughout Chicagoland, We developed a website and delivery service to serve our customers that wanted our products in the winter. We attempted and failed at running a brick and mortar store in Geneva, we even tried to start our own farm in Elgin but found renting farm land to be very unstable and not a wise investment of our time or resources. We still dream of having our own farm again someday but have come to the realization that our specialty and niche is in the distribution and marketing of our amazing local items. Today we still serve the Wheaton French Market every Saturday from mid-April through mid Nov and operate our home delivery service through our website www.freeorganicdelivery.com. We operate out of an inspected warehouse and like to describe our business as your old-fashioned mom and pop grocery store without the storefront, we use a delivery truck and website instead. We sell the best local traceable meats dairy and eggs and much more. All of our products are traceable to the local farm or producer, we never private label, and you can pronounce all of our ingredient labels.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
It has not been a smooth road, I don’t think it supposed to be, at least that is what I have learned by studying other entrepreneurs. Trying to operate a business in a state that is not always the friendliest to small business and dealing with regulations designed for the large food distributors and manufactures has always been a challenge. However, every time we fail I am reminded that it is just the “first attempt in learning” and try to be grateful for the opportunity to learn from our mistakes. I mentioned in a previous section that we failed at our retail store, we failed at our farm, we failed at manufacturing our own products, when we first started we contracted with local farmers and produced all of our own products. Thank goodness, the industry has grown up a lot since we started back in 2007 and now there are great local farmers and distributors that can do that for us so we can focus on what we do best, serving our amazing customers by distributing and marketing the very best in local protein!

Farm Fresh Foodstuffs – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
We support small local farmers, producers, and family businesses while serving an amazingly loyal customer base that desires access to the very best local food. What sets us apart from the others I think boils down to 2 things.

#1 we don’t private label, did you ever ask yourself where those “free range organic Amish eggs” from trader so and so come from? They don’t tell you on the label, and if you do any research on the standards in organic meat and egg operations you will find out quickly that terms like organic, Amish, and free range don’t mean a whole lot.

Learning everything that I have during this journey has taught me that I want to know where my food comes from and who is involved with its production. Everything we sell is traceable to the farm and our labels are from the producers of the product, not just someone distributing a commodity product from a commodity system. We are just your local aggregators finding the best local products and making it easy for our customers to get what they want when they want it.

#2 we don’t have contracts. We have a few competitors out there, but most of them have weekly or monthly commitments you have to sign up for. There are also some amazing local CSA’s ran by very honest and quality farmers, but they also have weekly commitments and pick up locations and schedules that do not fit every household’s lifestyle. We offer the convenience of ordering what you want when you want it, just like a retail store. The difference is when you buy from us, you are feeding our kids, not the shareholders of the big box store.

What is “success” or “successful” for you?
I define success as being able to provide for my family while doing what I love. Work is not work when you love what you do. In the beginning, I worked 7 days a week, 120 hours a week, every week for years. Every year it gets a little better and I am able to spend more and more time with my family. We still have some work to do, but I am so grateful for the opportunities the good Lord has given us. No matter what happens with this business in the future, I have decided that our time here was a success. Starting this company taught me the value of hard work, serving others, and how to pick myself up after failing. When this business grows to the point it can run itself without me, leaving a legacy of supporting local agriculture, small farmers, while serving the community I will have achieved all that I set out to.

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