New Cleanweb Tool for Buying Clubs Saves Fuel

Oregon BEST funding helps buying clubs and farmers save fuel, reduce food waste, and find one another

EUGENE, Ore. – Early stage funding from Oregon BEST is helping a cleanweb startup collaborate with programmers at the University of Oregon to speed development of a flexible software tool that helps food buying clubs streamline purchases, reduces retail food waste and transportation costs and makes it easier for farmers to sell directly to buying clubs.

The technology, developed by Manage My Co-op in Eugene, Ore., cuts transportation fuel consumption by enabling cottage industry producers, like farmers, to sell directly to buying clubs, reducing or eliminating the transport of goods to distributors and retailers (many products in grocery stores are shipped long distances to distribution centers, who then ship on to retail outlets). The Manage My Co-op software allows consumers to purchase food that has been shipped directly from farmers to local buying clubs, reducing shopping trips to retail stores and eliminating food waste because all products shipped have been pre-purchased.

Kimmy Gustafson, Cfounder of Manage My Co-opManage My Co-op was launched by Kimmy and Nathan Gustafson in 2013 when Kimmy (pictured, right, with son Link) quit her management job in development to be a stay-at-home mom for their new baby. She wanted to continue buying high quality food, but found that to be challenging without a regular paycheck. So she joined a local food buying club, but within two weeks she knew there had to be a better way.

"It was a nightmare," she said. "With 30 families editing a Google spreadsheet online, there are so many points where things can go wrong. People can overwrite orders or alter spreadsheet formulas by mistake. And it's hard to keep track of who's paid how much, and oftentimes you don't have enough to order full cases."

So the Gustafsons started thinking about a tool that would benefit both buying clubs as well as vendors. When Nathan was laid off from his job in information systems management, he brought his computer expertise to the project, and now a beta version of Manage My Co-op's software is being used by nine buying clubs in Oregon, Michigan, Florida, Texas and Canada.

"We even have a group in New Zealand using it," she said. "And people adore it. Overwhelmingly, the response has been positive, because it's filling a much-needed gap in the market."

Food buying club distribution dayThe software has a simple interface, is mobile and very easy to use, Gustafson said. But on the backend, robust tools help people managing a buying club keep track of member accounts, payments, individual packing slips and more.

"One of the big differentiators in our product is an auto-balancing algorithm that ensures a club's orders qualify for case discounts," Gustafson said.

The auto-balancing feature allows members to place an order for a specific type of food, but add a margin of a little more or a few less. The system then adjusts on the fly to ensure orders add up to full cases.

"Let's say you want only 10 apples, but you're willing to take as many as 13, or as few as eight, the system works with that," she said. "We also have messaging, so you can message other members though the software, which improves communication."

A portion of the $75,000 in funding from Oregon BEST is helping pay for programming by a University of Oregon student developing a vendor module that will allow farmers to quickly locate buying clubs, enter product and pricing information and ensure changes to that information auto-updates across the platform to all clubs using the software. Manage-My-Coop is using some of the funding for development and other expenses.

"There is nothing else like this on the market for vendors," Kimmy Gustafson said. "The support from Oregon BEST has been absolutely essential – critical. Because making our product attractive to vendors opens up a whole other side of the market for us."

Although Manage My Co-op is initially targeting the tool for food buying clubs, Gustafson says the software can be used for all types of buying clubs, which are seeing a resurgence in popularity as people look to save money and participate in social shopping experiences.

"We're pleased to be able to help startups speed a new product to market – in this case, one that will help reduce food waste, save fossil fuels, and benefit farmers," said Ken Vaughn, Director of Commercialization Programs at Oregon BEST. "This project with Manage My Co-op is another example of how cleantech can be applied to a wide range of industries to improve life."

Media Contact: Gregg Kleiner, 541-740-9654  Sources: Ken Vaughn, Oregon BEST, 503-430-4529; Kimmy Gustafson, 541-521-3803

About Oregon BEST
Oregon BEST funds and assists cleantech startups, bringing together Oregon’s significant R&D strengths to support entrepreneurs in the creation of new products and services. As the nexus for clean technology innovation, Oregon BEST builds capability, convenes collaborations and accelerates solutions to environmental challenges that deliver prosperity in all corners of Oregon. More than 250 Oregon BEST Member Faculty and a network of nine Oregon BEST Labs at four partner universities (Oregon State University, Oregon Tech, Portland State University, and University of Oregon) offer research expertise and lab equipment to industry. Oregon BEST competitively awards Early-Stage Investments to collaborations between startup companies and Oregon BEST Member Faculty at partner universities.

About Manage My Co-op
Manage My Co-op, based in Eugene Oregon, develops software for buying clubs that saves time, money, and effort by simplifying group buys.