“I have a lot of goals toward the mission of greater access to better food. That moves us to try to get into more schools, more hospitals, more stores, basically wherever our products aren’t and low-quality, energy intensive products are.”
Joe Bossen, who received the 2014 Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award by the Vermont Small Business Administration, discovered a way to combine his interests in local food and sustainable business at Green Mountain College.
His first serious go as an entrepreneur was during his time as a student at GMC. While studying full-time, he founded Prudent Fuels, a small community-based co-op structured as a 501(c)3 non-profit.
“I was trying to figure out a way to pay my bills while living a life that manifested some of my values. Food and energy became very consistent themes, and then I realized about a year or two after graduating that I could accomplish everything I wanted to on the energy front by focusing on creating a greater array and improved access to local foods.”
Prudent Fuels never took off, but Joe kept developing new ideas for business ventures that combined his entrepreneurial instincts with a strong social conscience. While working for Greg Cox at Boardman Hill Farm in West Rutland, Vt., Joe gave the idea of creating a bean burger enterprise some serious thought.
“I didn’t see anyone else putting together products that sincerely addressed dietary concerns, nutrition, and durable communities, or help put our carbon-intensive lifestyles in check,” he says.
In the winter of 2010, Joe arrived at the Rutland Farmer’s Market with about 20 varieties of bean burgers. The market served as a platform for people to tell him what they were looking for and what burger they liked the best. It also helped him develop relationships with local growers.
Joe now sources his beans, vinegars, vegetables salts, and herbs from a number of farms in New England, but the primary market is Vermont.
Vermont Bean Crafters is now five years old, and Joe says part of him can’t believe how quickly the business has grown, but there is another part of him that realizes that it’s not quite enough.
“I have a lot of goals toward the mission of greater access to better food. That moves us to try to get into more schools, more hospitals, more stores, basically wherever our products aren’t and low-quality, energy intensive products are,” says Joe.
Vermont Bean Crafters is now distributed through Black River Produce, which has over 2,000 wholesale customers throughout the northeast.