Buying fresh food shouldn’t be a luxury, but in some zip codes it is. Megan Bell is on a quest to change this disturbing reality and help families get the nutrition they need through making produce attainable.
By Megan Seckman | Photo by Kylene White | Location: Rainbow Blossom
It all started with a magazine article about food deserts in West Louisville.
Growing up in the Newburg neighborhood, access to organic and local produce was always out of reach for Megan. Her options were limited to the processed kind and formed much of her early dietary habits, so the article struck a nerve.
Fast-forward to motherhood, Megan and her physical-therapist-marathon-running-health-conscious husband Brandon Bell made it a priority in their family home to serve fresh organic foods to their three children. As a stay-at-home mother, Megan shopped and prepared healthy meals, and dreamed of ways to give back to these food deserts. She wanted other families to have the gift of a kitchen stocked with a rainbow of produce, a cornucopia of organic dry goods in the pantry, and a freezer filled with local farm-raised protein options. She wanted to give just that, options.
Then, a bit of divine timing happened. She enrolled in the University of Louisville’s Launch It Louisville program in 2019 and came up with a business plan for a mobile grocery store, The Next Door Market, that would provide healthy food options to your door. She also interned with several grocery franchises (Whole Foods, Rainbow Blossom, and Kroger) in 2020 to learn the business…just before the world went into pandemic lock-down. Supply chains came to a halt, droves of customers filed in to grocery stores with bare shelves, and many customers feared entering the crowded public space of a big box grocery store. They wanted options. This tragic and unique set of societal circumstances created the perfect opportunity for Megan to launch her mobile grocery, and customers from high-end neighborhoods of Louisville flocked to her online grocery services.
This boost of business from a higher-end market is exactly what Megan needed to get her business off the ground, but did not achieve the original goal of providing fresh foods to the West End. So, like the tireless entrepreneur she is, Megan decided to revise her business model. Partnering with nonprofits such as The Louisville Urban League, the Family Scholar House, Volunteers of America, and even WHAS, Megan was able to host community events that brought in fresh produce options for sale. This growth mindset is what Megan prides her grocery’s success on.
“I believe this business model has been successful because I am consistent, I continue to build partnerships and mentorships, and I’m not afraid to grow and expand my horizons,” Megan says.
She has since moved her operation to Florence, Kentucky, where she will soon open her first brick-and-mortar store. The mobile grocery continues to serve clients within 50 miles in any direction of Florence, she has launched a shipment service, and her collaborated food events continue to bring in clients from underserved areas of Louisville. Megan has learned to work with her own distributors (and hopes to one day become an in-house distributor like Kroger) as a way to keep the cost of high quality food within reach to her now very diverse clientele.
But her consistency is what sets her apart from other big named grocery chains. She continues to believe in her original mission, that smaller grocery stores with delivery service will help swaths of our population gain access to healthy foods.
“I’m a hands-on business owner. When you have questions, you will most likely talk to me. There aren’t many groceries where you can call in and talk to the owner.