After meeting at a house party while at LSU, Ben Bartage and his business partner, foodie Peru Sharma, vowed to work together. Their different mindsets complemented each other, and Indie Plate—their grocery delivery service that brings farm-fresh foods to local consumers—sprouted up in 2013, as Business Report details in its latest Executive Spotlight feature.
The two were so passionate about the farm-to-table movement and supporting local farms and businesses that they began growing their company organically, even making all of the deliveries themselves. Today, free next-day delivery with no minimum payment is available to consumers in East and West Baton Rouge, Ascension and Livingston parishes, and several restaurants have also come on board.
“We visit each and every farm and vendor that we source from, and we try their products to make sure they meet our quality standards before offering them to our customers,” says Bartage, an attorney by education.
Bartage says he and Sharma came up with the idea for Indie Plate after seeing a need for grocery delivery services in the Capital Region. He says Indie Plate has only “scratched the surface” of the local market’s potential.
“Our marketing and advertising budget is extremely small, which is currently our biggest challenge,” he says. “We know that people love our products and they love the convenience of delivery (no minimum order and no delivery fee). But many people still haven’t heard about Indie Plate, and many of our existing customers simply forget to order.”
Bartage and Sharma pitched their idea for Indie Plate during the SeNSE High Stakes Pitch Night during Baton Rouge Entrepreneurship Week in 2013. The biggest lesson they learned, Bartage says, was to listen to advice from more seasoned business veterans.
“Doing this has allowed us to tweak our business model to be more profitable, while still staying true to our mission and core values,” he says.
What is one thing about your job people don’t know about or expect?
“How truly complex it is to bring in hundreds of (often perishable) products from local vendors and deliver them directly to consumer doorsteps. Also, a lot of people don’t know that we supply several local restaurants with fresh farm-to-table ingredients (Nino’s, Magpie Café, Gouter and the Little Village, just to name a few).”