Wisconsin Company Grows by Fulfilling a Local Need

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Heather Hilleren found out that a woman could become a valuable middleman. Perhaps that makes her “middle woman” in Madison, Wisconsin. Whatever you call her professionally, it is certainly a business success. She accomplished this by pursuing a solution to a local need.

Madison is the center of action for locally grown agricultural products. It has the largest outdoor farmer’s market in the US. There are hundreds of organic farms near Madison. But Heather was surprised to learn that the natural foods store where she worked was gradually stocking less local produce while demand was rising. She realized that the problem was the ordering process.

Ordering produce from a regional distributor is a simple procedure conducted online. But ordering locally required a purchaser to examine various price sheets from all the local farmers. It was a process that consumed an entire day.

These circumstances prompted Heather to start LocalDirt.com, a web-based application. Subscribers to the service are connected to information about the products of local farmers. This streamlines purchasing of locally grown products by grocers, restaurants, schools, hospitals, and anyone in the general public.

Heather found that starting a business around her idea involved as much work as any new enterprise. She obtained financial aid in the form of grants from the National Science Foundation. There was also support from the University of Wisconsin Extension’s Agricultural Innovation Center as well as from a local development group.

Heather met with farmers around the state about her new service. It seems that everyone was eager to see the solution that she proposed. This provided evidence that she was on the right track with starting a business around her idea.

LocalDirt.com was founded to serve Madison only. Like any number of successful local companies, Heather’s business simply deploys technology to solve a middleman problem involving products in popular demand.

The company is able to expand with only a small staff. It turns out that Heather discovered her website can also be the middleman in other US regions.