A Case Study of a Case Study: Donna Williams of Field Goods

Donna Williams, Field Goods

Donna Williams, Field Goods

Donna Williams launched her subscription food delivery service Field Goods in 2011. The Athens, NY, company brings locally farmed fresh fruits and vegetables to individuals at their workplace and a variety of community pick-up locations (including SVI partner BEAHIVE).

Donna was encouraged to apply to present a Case Study at the inaugural Social Venture Institute / Hudson Valley in 2014 by Mike Oates, then president and CEO of Hudson River Ventures and a Case Study expert panelist.

She told us in a recent interview that she had realized SVI was a space where she could find the type of business advice she was looking for: advice that was rooted in socially conscious values, and that “stepped away from traditional methods of advertising and fundraising.”

Hard-Earned Dividends

In order to present Field Goods at SVI, Donna was forced to detach from the busy, day-to-day operations of the business and think deeply about how she could best communicate her model, her vision, and the strategic challenge for which she was seeking advice.

For Donna that was one of the major benefits of being a Case Study presenter. Had she not had the pressure of the public appearance she may not have taken the time she needed to reflect and envision her next move to develop her business. “It’s like when you clean the house before you have a party, otherwise you wouldn’t do it,” she says.

Donna presenting at the 2014 SVI Hudson Valley

Donna presenting at the 2014 SVI Hudson Valley

During her presentation Donna received enthusiastic feedback from the panelists and her fellow retreat participants. Panelist Raphael Bemporad, principal and chief strategy officer of BBMG, was “really jazzed about it and had some really great ideas about how we might position the company in ways that I hadn’t thought about before.”

She went on to say, “You take what you’re doing for granted and you don’t realize how attractive it might be to other people.” Overall the feedback gave Donna more confidence in her business model — which would ultimately help propel her business forward. 

Shortly after the retreat Donna was awarded both state and federal grants that allowed her to translate the advice into action. She expanded her team and the capacity and customer base of Field Goods, and eventually moved operations from a 4,000 sq ft. rented space to an 18,000 sq. ft. purchased space.

From Presenter to Panelist

This year Donna turns the tables, as she returns to SVI Hudson Valley 2016 to sit on the Case Study panel of experts. She'll join Melissa Gibson, Shawn Pelsinger and Jonathan Rosenthal to provide our presenters expertise and perspective, bringing the cycle full circle. 

She advises Case Study presenters to determine the most critical elements of what they need to communicate and do so in a succinct way, understanding from personal experience how challenging it can be to “step back to tell the story.”

Case Studies are the core of the SVI model, where the greatest learning happens. An entrepreneur presents a specific, strategic business challenge. A panel of experts and retreat participants alike offer advice based on their experience and expertise. It's a powerful way for the entire group to work collectively and gain a wealth of practical ideas to deal with the challenges of running a social enterprise.

The deadline to apply for one of two 2016 Case Study presentations is April 17.