First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Ana Jakimovska: Thankfully, we have been well. We remained in New York City throughout the pandemic. We miss the old NYC, but the new New York City comes with its own benefits: quieter and less touristy. We feel “safe” here as New Yorkers are disciplined and helpful people.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Wildkale.
Ana Jakimovska: I grew up in Macedonia, where there was no chemical pollution or conventional large-scale corporate farming: all food came from small, local farmers. Having access to fresh produce was never something we had to think about. This concept and appreciation for farm food never left me. As an already busy entrepreneur and mom, I wanted to be able to choose from a variety of farmers, shop for the highest quality food directly from them, and have it delivered to my door. I wanted a farmers market experience, but with convenient home delivery that I could not find elsewhere. This is the beginning of the story of Wildkale.com, the only direct farm to consumer online marketplace, where any household, including my own, can order the freshest food directly from their local farmers and get it delivered overnight to their doorstep.
How does Wildkale innovate?
Ana Jakimovska: Wildkale is an online farmers market and a platform where the consumers get fresh farm food that has traveled a short distance, and the farmer gets paid a full retail price just like at a physical farmers market. We try to stay focused on our core product and mission to provide seamless online farmers market service where small and medium farmers can sell and ship their food directly to consumers. However, we are always working to improve our current platform and make it easier to use. We are also continually upgrading our technology to give our farmers and consumers more options that they are asking for, such as our upcoming CSA “subscribe and save” feature.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Ana Jakimovska: We saw the need to rethink our food system from one reliant on big farms to one that reconnects us with our small farmers back in 2015 when we started working on the platform. The difference today is that the pandemic has forced most consumers to rethink the ways they shop for food and to realize the necessity of eating better and supporting local farmers. The small local farmers are the only ones who quickly pivoted and fed their neighbors during the worst of the pandemic, all while the conventional food production and distribution systems were failing.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Ana Jakimovska: Yes, we did. One was the unexpected growth of the business coupled with national media coverage and, with that, how to manage the growth of the farmer and consumer bases in a balanced way. This is a common problem for most marketplaces but exaggerated by the Covid-19 pandemic.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and Wildkale in the future?
Ana Jakimovska: I almost exclusively eat our farmers’ food – a lot of extraordinarily fresh produce, which helps me stay healthy and energetic. I am also religiously committed to a daily habit of running in the morning.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Ana Jakimovska: Food is perishable, which makes warehousing and delivery very costly and diﬀicult. We are different than our competitors because we are a marketplace where everything is shipped directly from the farm to the home addresses. Usually, our competitors or other farm food box companies have warehouses, buy from a few select farmers, pack and distribute packages themselves, which is an expensive process that benefits a few farmers. On Wildkale, any sustainable farmer can create a farmstand. We are the only farm-to-table service where farmers can ship their food while staying at their farm. It is the only system that can be easily scaled nationally.
Your final thoughts?
Ana Jakimovska: We believe that nothing in food will profoundly affect us than creating an intimate, direct relationship with a local farmer. If you have spent most of your life living in Manhattan or an urban suburb, food that comes directly from farmers provides us with a connection to nature that we would not experience otherwise. This is true especially now during the Covid-19 pandemic, when most of us spend our time tucked away in our apartments and houses, far away from anything reasonably wild and natural.
Even more importantly, and in the words of a recent customer, “creating connections and direct markets between farmers/ranchers and consumers is vital to protecting the USA’s food security.” So support your local farmers in anyway you can!