But it hasn’t been easy.
Woldorff has shifted responsibilities several times, beginning with packaging and production assistance, moving to operations management and then to marketing, which he now heads.
In the earlier months after joining the company, Woldorff says there was some turbulence.
“There were risks we had to explore and mitigate,” he says.
For instance, the idea would not have been possible without farmers providing the produce. Through a process of cold calling, emailing, and knocking on doors, the team managed to get sufficient interest by driving home the message that they wanted their product to be accessible and affordable on both the production and consumption ends. When farmers realized how participating would allow them to sell more, thus increasing their own profits, they signed on.
Next came the question of technology. The process of large-scale liquid nitrogen freezing, which allowed the produce to lock in nutrients and texture, required a proper facility.
In the spring of 2015, the team found an ideal location in the Piedmont Food and Agricultural Processing Center (PFAP), a coworking space and food startup incubator in Hillsborough. This institution not only gave Seal the Seasons the requisite equipment and space, but also the guidance and support from a community of people committed to improving the food industry.
Now, in any given week, Seal the Seasons processes about 30,000 pounds of produce provided by their partner farmers at their PFAP facility. Currently, their products include frozen blueberries, mixed berries, broccoli, and spinach. Their two-pound “Berry Blend,” which contains blueberries, blackberries, and strawberries, are priced at $10 a bag.
Next came the question of where to sell. The company secured partnerships with Weaver Street Market, a natural foods grocery store, as well as several other small independent stores. Those sales gave Seal the Seasons proof-of-concept and increased overall enthusiasm.
“I think North Carolina was the perfect place to start something like this because there are such amazing institutions that support innovation,” Woldorff says.
While 2015 was surely a year of learning and growth, 2016 has proven to be very prosperous for Seal the Seasons.
“At first we were addressing skepticism, but now it feels like we’re really earning our chops,” Woldorff says. The company has been able to negotiate price points with their partner grocery stores which guarantee them sufficient margins while also maintaining affordability for customers. For instance, their products at Harris Teeter, Weaver Street Market, and Lowe’s are on sale.
The business’s upcoming plans include rolling out an organic line, expanding product offerings, becoming a certified B-Corp, and eventually expanding to more locations in the United States. This would require further on-the-ground relationship-building with farmers in different communities.
Seal the Seasons has also pledged 20 percent of their profits to food security. In the near future, they plan on partnering with organizations that serve the immediate need of feeding people that don’t have food, such as Feeding America. They also want to work with organizations that change the food system so that people have enough money to buy good food and can have a say in the food system, such as Farmer Foodshare.
“We want to be a company that does both well and good,” Woldorff says. He says that working with Seal the Seasons has proven to be a fulfilling process, where he is able to take the academic lessons from school and apply them to solving real-world problems. He plans to continue working on the team part-time as he finishes his senior year coursework at Duke.