Q&A: AMANDA FULLER, ROOTEDNY
full disclosure: amanda fuller, one of the co-founders of rootedny, which coordinates special, behind-the-scenes tours of local farms and food makers in the new york area, and I have been friends for a very long time. we grew up together in connecticut and found ourselves both leaving our "real" jobs in new york around the same time to start our respective businesses. we always enjoy talking with each other about all the ups and downs of being a new and small business owner, and so I thought amanda - a foodie extraordinaire - would be the perfect interviewee for this month's entrepreneur q&a (you know, with thanksgiving feasting coming up and all...). hope you all enjoy the q&a, and for anyone in the nyc area - be sure to check out rootedny and be sure to sign up for one of their upcoming tours!
tell us a bit about yourself and about rooted ny. when / how did your interest in the food industry begin? what does your company do? how did you develop the concept?
I started cooking with my mom at a young age, and she used to take me out to nice restaurants in the city. I bonded with her over those experiences, and I've always felt food has an immense power to bring people together. although I started my career in real estate finance, I hoped to work in the food space one day.
I started the food studies master's program at NYU and left my "real" job at the end of 2013. RootedNY started with entering a business plan competition for fun with a couple friends. in the middle of the competition, Clarissa Delap and I decided we needed to start the business for real!
the basic idea of bringing people from the city out to visit local farms hasn't changed, but we've gotten the opportunity to experiment with different types of tours 9from oysters to bourbon to foraging) and combining options to create a really unique foodie adventure for people.
what have been the greatest challenges you've had to face so far? the most exciting successes?
the constant big challenge for us is timing events to maximize the number of people who can go. it's really disheartening to have an event not sell well, and we've had to cancel a couple due to low sales. however, every time we run an event, it's such an incredible feeling to see people connect with the food and the place. we always have such a good time, and it makes all the rest of the world and the challenges worth it.
what advice can you share with other young or would-be entrepreneurs? is there anything specific you wish you had known before starting your business?
it takes a tremendous amount of endurance to build a business. of course, everyone knows it takes time and doesn't happen over night, but it can be hard to remember that when you're living it every day. there will be more ups and downs in a week than you used to experience in a year.
with thanksgiving right around the corner, do you have any tips or suggestions about ways to incorporate locally produced foods into holiday meals?
if you do one thing differently for the holiday to support local food, buy a local, sustainably raised piece of meat for your table. it takes some research to find a good source locally, but it's worth it. I use Dickson's or Fleisher's in New York for every holiday meat - from turkey for thanksgiving to ham for Christmas to lamb for Easter. once you find a reliable source, you'll go back every holiday.
1. favorite thanksgiving dish: candied sweet potatoes
2. favorite non-holiday (year-round) food: cheese, every single kind!
3. in 10 years, rooted ny will...: have expanded to other cities with new partners or franchisers.
4. city (or town) you've visited with the best local food scene: in the US, I have to hand it to lexington!
5. life motto: when doesn't kill me makes me stronger. although my favorite food-related quote would have to be Julia Child, "people who love to eat are always the best people."
all photos courtesy rootedny.