By: Naz Akyol
August 4, 2016
Jonah Rapino is the co-founder and CEO of Glenwood Garden, an online marketplace for artisan-made foods that aims to provide U.S. based non-profits with financial support. 15% of the revenue from every purchase on the e-commerce site goes directly to a charity of the buyer’s choice. In May 2016, Jonah graduated from SEG’s first Food Accelerator program having learned how to engage his customers in the social impact of his venture. He is also embarking on an extensive rebranding of Glenwood Garden that will include a revamped website and a brand-new name.
A couple of years ago, Jonah’s childhood friend asked to use the small plot of land Jonah’s family owned in Toledo, OH to create Glenwood Community Garden, where youth from juvenile detention centers could engage with their community. With Jonah’s father’s support, the project quickly took off and the community garden became a part of a larger network of gardens under the umbrella organization Toledo Grows. As the non-profit grew, considerable amount of time was being spent on fundraising efforts rather than with the youth in the Garden’s mentorship program.
Inspired by Glenwood Garden’s plight, Jonah decided that he wanted to find a way for non-profits to have a consistent source of revenue so that they could focus their efforts on their social mission rather than on fundraising. “I suggested [we] sell stuff from [the] garden for revenue for [the] non-profit,” Jonah explains. Shortly thereafter, Glenwood Garden was launched, with strong ties to the community garden that was its namesake and inspiration. Since it’s launch in February of 2014, the venture has grown rapidly and successfully, combining Jonah’s passion for sustainably produced food with his desire to help non-profits develop revenue streams so that they can keep doing well and doing good.
Although Glenwood Garden was doing very well as an online marketplace, Jonah wanted to improve his business by expanding his customer base and the variety of products displayed on the website. He also wanted to engage his customer’s more actively in the social impact of his venture. With the input of his mentors at the food accelerator program, he decided that he needed to invest in a rebranding. “My coach at SEG was the owner of multiple e-commerce brands, which I am incredibly thankful for since he had plenty of insight and advice for the rebranding,” Jonah recalls.
Perhaps the most drastic change that will come with this rebranding is a name change for the venture. “The name Glenwood Garden doesn’t really make that much sense anymore with the final product we have,” Jonah admits. “I think a lot of people get confused, and there is a chain of retirement homes called Glenwood Gardens, which creates plenty of confusion!”
Another benefit of the food accelerator program for Jonah was that he met other ventures that he developed partnerships with. Currently, Glenwood Garden features two of its fellow cohort members from the program on its online marketplace: you can shop for biscottis from Bellicchi’s Best Biscotti to satisfy your sweet tooth, or spice things up with Mesa Fresca’s chimicchurri sauce. Jonah hopes to continue featuring fellow SEG community members on Glenwood Garden as vendors and he says he wishes to expand to more accelerator program graduates. “SEG is a very supportive community, and it was the other entrepreneurs in my accelerator cohort -lots of single operator ventures with people going through the exact same thing as I was- who empathized with me and gave me the energy to get up in the morning and continue to fight,” he says.
Talent Management & Journalism Intern
Naz Akyol is a senior at Brown University studying International Relations. She is interning under the University Initiative Talent Management program under Brian Sweeney and contributing to the SEG Blog. Originally from Ankara, Turkey, she works as an editor at Brown Political Review on campus. She is interested in learning more about local socially-conscious venture development.