Couple a passion for social change with a creative business model and you can transform people’s lives for the better. That’s what Shaun Lee did and he hasn’t looked back since.
Lee created Truckin’ Tomato, a mobile food providing service, in 2013. What began as a mobile farmer’s market has since expanded into a local produce and goods delivery service for families and individuals across San Antonio.
The company provides produce, meat, dairy, and other goods to the community, all of which are sourced from Texas farmers and food vendors. As of six months ago, the company is providing wholesale goods to local restaurants including The Cove, Alchemy, and Southerleigh.
“There’s a growing number of restaurants that are interested in telling the story of where their food is coming from to their customers,” he said.
Lee always knew he wanted to help improve the quality of life for people in his community–he spent time as a social worker for the homeless community in St. Louis and a COO at Haven For Hope– but it wasn’t until he received an MBA from the University of Texas at San Antonio that he found a clear career path.
Social entrepreneurism could be a way to address the needs of the community, particularly the need for education about healthy eating and cooking habits.
“I had this growing conviction that businesses can have a lot more positive impact than they are now,” Lee said. “We’re not just passionate about increasing access to healthy, local foods, but helping people understand how to use it.”
Truckin’ Tomato is looking to expand their business space and community reach through a crowdfunding campaign on MassVenture. The funds will be used for much-needed freezer space and making improvements to its warehouse.
“We’re at capacity,” Lee said. “A lot of days as soon as we get stuff in we’re moving it out before we even unpack it because we have such little capacity, and so much that we have to turn around.”
Other improvements include a more efficient assembly line structure to pack food boxes for delivery. The campaign aims to raise $75,000, and those who contribute will be offered a 7.5% overall stake in the company.
Click here to make an investment in the Truckin’ Tomato campaign.
The funds raised from the campaign, Lee said, will also help the business expand its marketing and advertising efforts, which he hopes will increase its clientele and delivery range to residents and restaurants around the greater San Antonio area.
He and Josh Schwencke, chef and Truckin’ Tomato vice president, believe that by reaching more people through their service they’ll in turn be the impetus for a move toward healthier eating and cooking practices in local families.
“The camaraderie of actually teaching your kids, or anyone, how to cook has kind of been lost,” Schwencke said. “With a lot of families now, it’s all about conveniency, and with that comes your saturated fats, and high sugar, high sodium so we’re allowing them to say ‘Okay, I have one less excuse’ and really showing the benefit of that because your family is eating better and you’re teaching your kids how to cook.”
The company has held a crowdfunding campaign before, Lee said, but the idea of having its supporters also hold a stake in the company really struck a chord with him and his team.
“We loved the idea of a crowdfunding campaign to give the people who believe in what were doing and the whole local food ecology an opportunity to really be apart of what we’re doing,” he said.
Down the line, Lee hopes to eventually start providing locally-sourced produce to San Antonio schools, as well as develop a way to make his business more accessible to people from lower socioeconomic groups.
“It’s in our DNA to impact the community at large so we’re still trying to figure out how to do that and with the right partners,” he said.
Lee and his five-person team are working to make social change and business go hand-in-hand. It’s through Truckin’ Tomato, he said, that he’s hoping to achieve that and more.
“I thought maybe the biggest impact I can have on the world is as an employer who treats employees and customers well, and that grows out into the community.”
San Antonio residents can purchase their produce from the Truckin’ Tomato trailer-turned-farmers market when it is in their area or they can place an order online for a box of goods to be delivered at their front door. Customers can make one-time orders or bi-weekly or weekly delivery subscription.
For a list of farms and food vendors Truckin’ Tomato works with, click here.
*Top image: Shaun Lee, founder of Truckin’ Tomato, prepares a box of produce for delivery. Photo by Kathryn Boyd-Batstone