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It all began as a simple concept to improve food equality.
Hi, my name is Courtney Bell, and I’m the President and Founder of Ungraded Produce. I founded Ungraded as a rising Junior at Duke University, from the desk of my summer internship in Detroit. As internships go, I had a lot of free time to reflect, and I started to take notice of the scarcity of fresh, affordable produce, coupled with the high rate of food insecurity, in Detroit. I knew these problems were also prevalent in my college town of Durham, North Carolina. As someone who has always been a obsessed with plant-based cooking and convincing friends to eat more veggies, I was inspired to find a way to make fresh foods more affordable and accessible to a wider audience. Upon doing some research, I realized there was an opportunity to connect consumers with discounted, high quality ugly produce back in Durham, while also fighting food waste!
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With no prior business experience, I set out to build Ungraded Produce, and launched a trial period on Duke's campus. During the fall semester of my Senior year, I delivered 10 pound bags of ugly produce to 15 subscribers out of the trunk of my car. Ungraded Produce officially launched in Durham after I graduated from Duke in 2017!
Our passion won the prize!
Ungraded is a hands-on operation, and my team is presented with unique challenges every day to test our strength. With support from my peers and mentors, I turned a once-lofty idea into a reality. Our first notable success came when I won the 2017 Duke Startup Challenge along with the $50,000 top prize! And, we recently secured our first major investment! These funds are playing an instrumental role in Ungraded's expansion efforts and give me tremendous confidence to keep moving forward with our mission to improve food access and fight food waste.
Small but mighty.
Today, Ungraded Produce is run by solely by me, my (mostly) female team and Troy, our Operations Manager. We have grown to over 500 subscribers in the North Carolina Triangle, and look forward to serving more customers every day!
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