Azoti values open-minded nature of Columbus consumers

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

Networks are one of the great features of the Columbus Region, says Dave Ranallo, founder and CEO of Azoti, which helps connect small farmers to consumers who are seeking local products for their tables.

Azoti sells subscriptions to consumers for regular delivery of products including produce, meat, cheese, bread and other items that are grown and produced locally. A good portion of their business has been expanding through word of mouth.

"Columbus is the ultimate in two-degrees of separation, which was a great help in finding our first customers," Ranallo says. "The consumers of Columbus are definitely up for trying new things and providing candid, actionable feedback, which is startup gold."

Azoti uses its digital tools for people to sign up for subscriptions of fresh local products. They find customers by connecting with area employers, schools and churches. Being active in the community, networking and having a solid reputation from previous ventures helped the company attract its first customers, Ranallo says.

Azoti operates out of TechColumbus, which has provided the company access to experts and networking.

"Finding strong employees who understand how to execute with a smile has been a pleasant surprise," Ranallo says.

The three-year old company has five employees and relationships with 30 farmers in Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee. Last year it sold 1,200 subscriptions. While most of its business is in the Columbus Region, it is poised to expand to other Ohio cities and to some communities nationwide.

"We are creating new supply chains that are focused on the farmer," Ranallo says. "We bring farmers' markets to employers, but we already know that people will be there to accept food."

While Ranallo credits people in the region to being open to helping a new business succeed, attracting investor dollars presented some difficult challenges.

"Investors' level of risk tolerance and understanding of startup ventures still greatly lags what you would find in larger cities like New York, San Francisco and Dallas," he says.

Continued access to funding and capital costs will be primary factors that impact the success of Azoti in the next five to 10 years. Also critical for this food-centric business is the continued preservation of farmland, he says.

"Right now none of the current situations are making it easier for people to be farmers," Ranallo says. "The average age of farmers is 59, and they can't get labor, and there are no new laborers coming down the pike."

For any new business considering planting roots here, Ranallo recommends tapping into the existing network for their particular sector of business.

"It exists; you just need to do a little digging," he says. "Also, if you're seeking driven, young talent, then you will definitely want to establish yourself here."

The low cost of living and high quality of life in the region helps guarantee the existence of talent, and Ranallo is banking on that for Azoti's future.

"We need to build a resilient team of stakeholders who have a passion for farming, food and fun," he says. "Then we have to empower them to succeed aka servant leadership."

TC Brown is a freelance writer.


1275 Kinnear Rd.

Columbus 43212