Mill City Grows

Class: 2013 Winter Accelerator

Company Description

Mill City Grows is fostering Food Justice in Lowell! We work to create urban food production sites and give Lowell residents the knowledge to grow their own food or purchase locally grown food!


It's been a long and lonely week here holding down the Mill City Grows fort alone.  Luckly, the Sandbox and Accelerator community is full of support and helpful feedback as we enter the home stretch to the final pitch presentation.  On Tuesday mentors Raj, Heather and Annie worked with me to simplify our revenue model, focusing on income from our most developed market and operations, and leaving out some other potential souces that may or may not realize.  We also figured out some neat ways to graphically represent key pieces to our model.  It is truely wonderful to have such diverse and brilliant minds working on bringing Mill City Grows to the next level of operations, as well as how we communicate what we do.

Wednesday night was a great opportunity to practice a piece of the pitch at the Sandbox Innovation Mixer held at the wonderful new UTEC building.  It was exciting to stand up in front of a packed house and tell the story of Mill City Grows, and get to connect with so many people from different backgrounds.  We owe Todd a big thanks for including us, and making the event so smooth and successful.

Thursday I was back at it, practicing the pitch at our last Finalists meeting.  Hard to believe that 12 weeks have come and gone!  I was skeptical at first of the value of practicing with the group - all I wanted to do was hole up with my computer and work on the pitch! - but I now see the light, and am so greatful for the chance to test drive the pitch in front of our smart and savy peers.  Got some great feedback, and now for a weekend of finishing touches and practice, practice, practice!

A little sneak peak of what's to our pitch and in Lowell!

This past week has been tough, we got way too intense at picking apart our entire model... that's what happens when you are stuck inside during a snow storm I guess!  So Tuesday when we practiced our pitch it was rather painful and we had strayed from what we were actually doing.  Thank goodness for our mentors who brought us back to earth!  We skyped with Annie on Monday and then met with Raj & Heather on Wednesday.  This was so so helpful and really got us back on track.  I'm signing off for the week but Francey will be blogging for us in the meantime!


Can you think of anything better to do in a blizzard other than blog blog blog?

Francey and I have been hunkered down during the snow storm trying to get our pitch nailed down as well as working on some branding after a wonderful meeting on Monday with Annie.

Here's the start to our brainstorm.  

Here's what we are trying to do, tease apart our work and develop a simple and effective way to explain our organizations goals and what we will do to reach them.  again we looked to Ted Talks to help with the situation!  Check out this amazing 11 year old boy's talk about our food system:

We are going to keep working on our pitch while we are snowed in!


This week has been all about the pitch!  On tuesday todd fry came in and worked with us on public speaking which was extremely helpful as we learned a lot about the preparation of our pitch, body language, delivery, nerves, and more.  The take away that we felt was the most helpful was that we need to be prepared but not rigid so we shouldn't memorize our pitch but we should practice from an outlines many times.  This is great advice for us as we have been so focused on our goals and the work and have real life practice of pitching our organization, but we haven't taken the time to stand up and practice it aloud to be sure that we are comfortable and fluid.

So here is what we have been doing to inspire... we've been watching ted talks!  Here's one of our favorites: 

In other news this week we had two great guests on Thursday that really got us thinking about our organizational values and how they can help us make decisions quickly and without doubt.  This is extremely important for us to recognize because lately there has been a lot of decision fatigue in the sense that we are constantly having to decide things for the first time and it can be exhausting!  The value statements will really help us by guiding our work.  We wrote a set of values about a year ago but this has prompted us to review them!

Signing off....until next week!

Ok so we haven't been the best at blogging this week! Here are a few things that have happened over the past two weeks....

First off we have been meeting with different organizations and land owners to try and find the appropriate site for the urban community farm.  Meetings have been going well but we still have a lot to follow up with and pursue. The land matrix has been helpful so we have been using that after each visit.  We also began our research of other organizations this week.  We had a great meeting with one of the founding directors of The Food Project this week and talked to her a lot about the finances and growth strategies of a start-up organization.  We also spoke with some folks at Landsake Farm to understand how they balance their mission with programs.  These interviews have started to help us understand how to answer the hard questions about growing and funding an organization such as ours.  We also have created a long long list of other organizations to contact, but right now we are working on getting through the 3-5 we set as our goal.  We are also revising our strategic plan timeline and budgets to fit our needs better.  

Our next steps we need to work on are creating our funding strategy for the urban community farm and researching our customer base.  We have met with a couple of folks but need to have more meetings with other potential customers in the coming weeks.

In other news, our organization is still running.  We are about to kick off our Garden Coordinator Institute (this coming Tuesday!)  which is a leadership program for future garden coordinators.  The enthusiasm has been great!  We have 30 people signed up for the 6 week course and have a waitlist!  OK that is all for now... I've attached the flyer here.... and we'll be uploading photos of the sessions!