Seedsheet firm growing nationwide

MIDDLEBURY — Two-year-old Middlebury business Seedsheet is redefining local foods: Cam MacKugler, founder and CEO of Seedsheet, wants to put a Vermont farm on the properties of homeowners and apartment dwellers across the nation.
The company builds pre-seeded garden sheets to make gardening easier and more accessible for home gardeners. Seedsheet sources its seeds locally to bring Vermont gardens to windowsills, rooftops and backyards across the nation.
Customers are using the product on windowsills currently from Boston to far-flung Seattle. Since its Kickstarter launch in December 2014, Seedsheet has introduced its own website and partnered with online platforms and local markets across the country. Since it hooked up with home improvement giant Home Depot this past December, Seedsheet has expanded into 46 of the big box stores across the nation.
While some say Vermont is a challenging environment for startup businesses, MacKugler has found the business environment in Middlebury very supportive.
“There’s a wealth of information here that I’ve tried to reach out to as much as possible,” he said.
In the initial stages of the startup, MacKugler worked at the Vermont Center for Emerging Technologies (VCET), a business incubator on Court Street in Middleburythat provides counsel and office space to new startups. Other local businesses, townspeople and Middlebury College faculty have also been essential as MacKugler moved Seedsheet out of the incubator and into its current offices off Pond Lane in the Middlebury Industrial Park.
“Seedsheet is a great example of what we’ve seen in the past few years with Middlebury College students flexing their entrepreneurial efforts in the Middlebury area,” said economics professor Jonathan Isham, the director of the Center for Social Entrepreneurship at Middlebury College.
Seedsheet kicked off by raising startup capital through crowdsourcing, but now that the company has established itself more firmly MacKugler is looking to individual investors to garner more capital for the company.
“We’re still looking for capital to enable us to get the purchase orders from new large accounts for next year as we look to expand,” he said.
The difficulties for startups in Vermont lie in the scarcity of capital in the state. There are only two funds in Vermont, while cities like New York City and Boston are hotbeds for investment and funds. Many of the funds in these cities are even geared specifically to the work Seedsheet is doing — organic, non-GMO food ventures and farming.
Despite these funding hurdles, Vermont is an appealing breeding ground for Seedsheet due to the company’s ties to agriculture and food. Vermont culture is ingrained with a passion for local and organic foods, according to MacKugler, and the robust agricultural industry in the state has provided important resources to the company.
From its offices in Middlebury, Seedsheet has drawn from agriculture experts across Addison County to support the company, especially during its production spikes. As the company’s products are made for the growing season, demand spikes in the months leading up to the spring. It just happens that the winter months when Seedsheet needs to build up an inventory is when demand for farm labor is at its yearly low point.
“Our production lumps actually work pretty well with Addison County employment trends,” said MacKugler. “It’s great that we have so many high quality employees that are coming from this area.”
All components of production at Seedsheet are done by hand. At peak production season, Seedsheet hires up to 15 employees to help with manufacturing, from the physical placement of seeds into the pods to packaging the sheets. During slower points of its production cycle, the employee count drops to three.
As the company continues to expand its product distribution, MacKugler hopes to smooth out the production process through automation. The automated production process would expand the ability for Seedsheet to offer more crops and sizes to different consumers.
In diversifying, MacKugler hopes to give consumers more control over their food.
“We see home gardening as the link between technology and innovation, and it’s great to see more people taking control of their own food supplies through Seedsheet,” said Kelly Player, marketing manager of High Mowing Organic Seeds, the Wolcott company that produces the seeds used in Seedsheet.
Seedsheet is also working on creating a customizable sheet, where customers can design their own garden-sheets online. MacKugler aims to automate the manufacturing process at Seedsheet by late 2017 or early 2018, but plans to introduce customizable sheets by spring 2017.
Even as the company expands, MacKugler plans on sticking to the mission that has gotten Seedsheet to where it is today — keeping the company local.
“Heck no,” MacKugler exclaimed when asked whether Seedsheet had any plans to expand its offices and plant beyond Middlebury. “We’ve been here since the beginning, and we are very proud to be from Vermont.”

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