TopFeed Launches, Marks Island First

PEI’s first Canada-wide subscription box service shines light on Island food producers.

Does coming home to a box filled with a week’s worth of breakfast goodies or tasty snacks sound like a sweet idea? The founders of TopFeed are counting on it.

Vaughn Murphy and Rafael Aguirre recently launched the first Island-based web subscription service, featuring Island-made edibles delivered to customers across Canada.

TopFeed (topfeed.ca) launched its box service on October 26 with its Snack Box offering, which includes familiar goodies such as Cows’ Chocolate Covered Chips and Jercules’ Beef Jerky. The company will be introducing more box options over the coming months. The Breakfast Box, slated to launch in November 2016, includes bread, eggs, cheese, honey, jam, tea, and muffins.

“The idea came out of StartUp Weekend,” said Murphy, referring to a 54-hour program that brings together techie and non-techie people who want to learn how to create a company by diving right in. Over the course of a StartUp Weekend participants come together to meet, pitch a business idea, and then form teams to pursue the top ideas. Each team works over the weekend to develop their business concept, and present a five-minute business pitch before a panel of judges.

“I knew I was going to pitch, but didn’t know what exactly,” said Murphy. “It was a food and farm themed StartUp Weekend though, so I pitched a marketing platform for local producers.” Aguirre, a techie who had refrained from pitching an idea himself, quickly gravitated to Murphy’s concept and the two formed their own small team.

 

Vaughn Murphy, CEO of TopFeed, pitches the company’s subscription service business for Island food products at Propel ICT’s Local Demo Day on Nov 14th at the StartUp Zone in Charlottetown.

By the end of the weekend Murphy and Aguirre had pivoted from the original concept. In order to differentiate, they presented an online marketplace platform for producers and consumers to meet. “Basically we wanted to be like Amazon, but for fresh, local food,” explained Murphy.

Though the duo did not win the Weekend’s top prize, they received praise from the judges and were motivated to push forward. For several months they pursued the marketplace idea; however, their business model was challenged again once they became residents of PEI’s newly-minted business incubator, the Startup Zone.

“Once we were in the Startup Zone and Propel ICT program, we realized the logistics of our business model were going to be a nightmare,’ said Murphy. “That’s when we moved to a subscription service model.”

Murphy gives high praise to Propel ICT, which offers an intense 12-week program to help guide budding entrepreneurs through the early stages of validating, developing, and launching a startup. “The information we got from the program is invaluable. The people they bring in (for the workshops and mentoring) are just incredible.”

TopFeed’s name  came from the original marketplace concept, where consumers would rate producers and the best would go to the top of the online feed.

Ultimately, what TopFeed offers is a win-win for artisan producers and foodies. For food producers, TopFeed is an additional marketing channel they don’t have to manage. For consumers, the appeal is a curated box of food delivered right to the front door at a competitive price (the contents of the Snack Box, for example, retail for about $5 more if purchased from the individual suppliers).

 

Vaughn Murphy (L) meets with Chris van Ouwerkerk (R) owner of Jercules, to pick up a supply of beef jerky for TopFeed's inaugural Snack Box.

Vaughn Murphy (L) meets with Chris van Ouwerkerk (R) owner of Jercules, to pick up a supply of beef jerky for TopFeed’s inaugural Snack Box.

While the launch of TopFeed marks the culmination of 18 months of hard work and steep learning curves, Murphy and Aguirre are not pausing for a breath. Rather, they are setting their sights on expansion. “I’m heading to Montreal to meet with producers. We want to break out into Quebec,” said Murphy, citing the province’s rich food culture and abundance of local producers as reasons.

“We’ll also be expanding our product line over the coming months to include fresh products from the Island’s primary producers, as well as more value-added products,” he said.

TopFeed will look to lure early adopters with attractive offers. For Charlottetown, this means free delivery. “I’ll be driving around Charlottetown doing the first deliveries in mid-November,” said Murphy. “So, yep, delivery by the CEO as well.”

Shannon Courtney

About Shannon Courtney

When she’s not writing about food, she’s either cooking, eating, talking, or thinking about it. Her food adventures have included milking a Jersey cow in Australia, almost overdosing on maple syrup in Prince Edward County, and studying local food systems in Vermont as part of her Master’s thesis research. Shannon is also a holistic-nutritionist and strongly believes you CAN make friends with salad.

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