Founder Story: G. Scott Brown
G. Scott Brown and Dré Slaman founded Farm to Fit 10 years ago. Today, we sat down with G to learn more about his experience running Farm to Fit.
What were you doing before founding Farm to Fit?
Before coming to Portland Dré [Slaman, Farm to Fit co-founder] and I were living in LA. We were in LA for almost seven years pursuing acting and directing, after getting our MFA's in Acting at Northern Illinois University. It was a challenging and fun life but, ultimately, after we got married, we decided to move to Portland. I had wanted to move to Portland since completing my undergraduate degree at the Evergreen State College in '96, but life had another plan. Instead, I moved back to Louisville for a hot minute, then Chicago for a few years, then to San Francisco, back to Illinois for Grad School, then to LA with finally landing here in 2010.
At first, I thought we were going to start a theatre company, but we quickly realized how many theatre companies already existed -- and we didn't want to compete for the limited amount of theatre goers that Portland offered. We pivoted and decided to search for occupations where we were not living hand to mouth and were still be able to do theatre whenever the opportunity arose. Entrepreneurship and "being the boss" seemed the best way to live true to those new goals.
How did you get the idea to start Farm to Fit?
My friend Mae Pike had started a business similar to ours, called Home Cuisine in Louisville KY. My mom was an avid customer and I was curious because the diet that always worked the best for me was calorie restricted, portion controlled meals. Over the years my mom was a customer, she would casually plant a seed here and there by asking "why don't you start something like Home Cuisine?". After moving to Portland, I was looking to become a customer of a company like it -- there was nothing. This led Dré and me to casually start talking about starting something like Home Cuisine, but with more of a Portland ethos. Several months later, I went home for our annual Kentucky Derby trip. Dré and I went to the track with a couple of friends, including Mae. Towards the middle of the day I remember asking her, "how would you feel if we started something similar to your business?" I really didn't want to be a copy cat or step on anybody's toes. She responded with, "As long as you don't expand to this side of the Mississippi, go for it!"
What were the first steps of starting the business?
We came up with the idea in May 2011, and basically spent the next 5 months writing a business plan, coming up with a name, acquiring funding, finding a lawyer, searching for a chef, a kitchen, and interviewing PR and marketing firms. We hired Chris Israel, the chef and owner of Gruner at the time, to consult and create our first 25 recipes. Then we hired Kevin Sandri, owner of Garden State Food Cart, to run our kitchen and boom we started running.
Now you have several menu types, such as paleo and Whole 30. What has that journey been like?
It looks as if we were following fads, but really we just listened to our customers. The first dietary craze we encountered ten years ago, was gluten-free. And we had to decide whether or not we were going to accommodate it. Now, gluten-free is standard, but it is funny how in the beginning people acted as if it was a cultural revolution. After the gluten intolerance craze, it was low-carb (again), then Paleo, then Whole30 and, finally, Plant Based. Somewhere in there low sodium became the loudest battling cry. We explored no/low sodium meal plans but, suddenly, our food was not delicious. I read books on the "salt myth" and came up talking points where we stood but, what it always comes down to is "deliciousness." We are conscious of our sodium but we will not sacrifice it for delicious food. I am very bullish on that.
What are you most excited about for the future of Farm to Fit?
Covid has changed how people eat or it, at least, accelerated the changes that were beginning to take place. It excites me to continue to be at the cutting edge of serving people delicious heathy food. I am always looking and strategizing new ways of bringing our food to new customers. I can't say I am exactly sure what that will be yet, but we're definitely expanding our foot print North. I feel excited to bring our healthy, delicious food into more and more communities in a multiple of different formats!