RealInternships: Sam Gervase

It is hard to believe that we are wrapping up our internship in Seattle. Stockbox Neighborhood Grocers has been an amazing company to work for, and we are so glad that we were able to learn more about it. Stockbox is a mission-driven organization that focuses on bringing fresh and affordable food into urban food deserts, areas that lack access to such nutrition. The Stockbox team specifically targets such communities to place their stores to address the pressing need. Many of the residents within these communities are forced to shop at gas stations or convenience stores, for lack of a better option. Stockbox is working to fill this void in Seattle neighborhoods.

20130808_164636One of the Stockbox’s keys to success is its goal of becoming more than a just local business, but rather an integrated part of the community. In addition to collaborating with the local community centers, Stockbox invites direct feedback from its customers and neighbors. Stockbox’s first store in South Park has an incredibly strong relationship with the surrounding community. Their second store, located in First Hill, will be opening in the next three weeks. After extensive research on the neighborhood, Stockbox decided the community was a perfect fit for their mission. The First Hill community is an interesting collection of people, including a government-subsidized housing complex, three large hospitals, and a high-end retirement community. We were lucky enough to attend community meetings at a number of these different places. Some were highly attended and others were not. One community meeting even required Spanish, Chinese, and Russian translators. Regardless of the demographic makeup of each microcosm within First Hill, the same excitement was seen at all the different meetings about the new store addressing the needs of the diverse community.

During our time working for Stockbox, we took on a number of different projects. One of the most interesting projects was creating a community space within both the South Park and First Hill stores. Since a large part of Stockbox’s mission is to become an integral part of their surrounding neighborhood, it was really exciting for us to be able to work towards this goal. We wrote short descriptions highlighting local organizations, individuals, and suppliers. These stories and pictures are to be rotated through the community space on a monthly basis. The stories focused on notable places, such as the local Community Center, the Frye Art Museum, and Marra Farms, a local urban farm that supplies Stockbox with fresh produce. All of these organizations play a huge role in creating the identity of the community, and we wanted to show customers the strength of Stockbox’s strong connections within the existing neighborhood. Hopefully our project will continue to support these other local mission-driven organizations, while exemplifying Stockbox’s commitment to the neighborhood.

In addition to the community stories, we also decided to create a recipe rack to help customers make healthier food decisions and navigate the store’s inventory with less difficulty. We were able to compile a list of over 80 recipes to be rolled out on a weekly basis. Since Stockbox has limited inventory, customers often struggle to formulate recipes with the available ingredients. Seeing this as an opportunity, we proposed the idea of creating a recipe collection focusing on healthy, fast, and efficient cooking. By choosing familiar recipes with a healthier twist, we hope to create a resource to be utilized by all Stockbox customers. Although the somewhat limited inventory presented a challenge, we were successful in finding many recipes and hope to inspire customers to choose the healthier alternative.20130808_144219The last component of our time at Stockbox was helping with community outreach for a number of different projects. The most exciting and meaningful event we helped execute was South Park’s Annual Night Out Against Crime. Each year, the community creates a putt-putt course to celebrate the community’s creativity, liveliness, and commitment to keeping the neighborhood safe. The amount of creativity and excitement was inspiring. Stockbox actively participated in the neighborhood event by creating a hole in the putt-putt course. Rather than the traditional hole, we helped create a plinko board. The benefits of the plinko board was that all ages were able to participate and each person left the game with a fresh piece or fruit (an apple, banana, or an orange). It was a great opportunity to meet individuals in the community while promoting a healthy living style.

In addition to Night Out Against Crime, we also helped execute the marketing plan for the South Park store’s first anniversary! To celebrate its time in the community, Stockbox will  be giving out free ice cream. We spent time contacting local businesses and organizations in the community to publicize our event. People were extremely easy to work with and were so excited about the event.

20130806_175449Before wrapping up, we wanted to recognize our mentors during our time in Seatle. Carrie and Jacqueline, the co-founders of Stockbox, have been role models for all of us. They have taken an idea and made it a complete reality. While we knew that starting a business requires courage and effort, this internship has really solidified the amount of blood, sweat, and tears that goes into a start-up. While the mission of Stockbox remains intact, Carrie and Jacqueline are counting on the First Hill Store and the opening of a nearby bridge in the South Park Store to fuel the company’s success. Furthermore, It has been so interesting to see their community-based approach to business. They completely cater to their customers, and in return, the company has been able foster great relationships with its community.

Nearing the end of the summer, we could not have had a better experience. We were able to learn so much while giving back to the communities during our time in Hana and Seattle. Through hard work and the guidance of our mentors, we truly believe our projects in both locations have been sustainable. Whether it was planting a Cuban banana tree or working with the Community Center in South Park, our summer was full of excitement and passion. We will finish knowing we had the most enlightening, rewarding, and unexpected summer of our lives. We thank Boston College and the Career Center for their support in making our dream a reality.



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