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Janelle Maiocco, CEO of Farmstr, won first place at the NWEN First Look Forum Tuesday afternoon at the HUB Seattle.

When Janelle Maiocco worked as a trained chef in Europe, she became intrigued with the idea of sourcing food directly from its source. The grub was fresh and local, while costs were low.

So naturally, when she returned to the States, Maiocco wanted to keep up that all-natural practice — except it wasn’t exactly easy.

farmster12“It was very difficult to find farmers,” recalled Maiocco, a food industry vet and accomplished food blogger. “But they really wanted customers, and customers liked to pay less for their food. You had supply and you had demand, yet nothing putting the two together.”

And thus Farmstr was born in Seattle eight months ago to create a bridge between farmers and buyers. The idea was good enough to win first place at NWEN’s First Look Forum on Tuesday.

As Maiocoo describes it, Farmstr is essentially a Craigslist for local, fresh food. It’s fairly simple: Buyers go to the website looking for organic goods, and farmers sell what they have.

By eliminating the layers in a typical food distribution channel and saying goodbye to costs involved with inventory, warehouse, aggregation, repacking, insurance and transportation, farmers can actually sell fresh, local, organic food on the cheap.

farmstr2“Farmstr has Whole Foods quality foods for Safeway prices,” Maiocoo told us.

Farmstr, which was founded by Maiocoo and co-founder Chad Gray, employs five and is bootstrapped for the timebeing. By winning first place on Tuesday, the company received a ticket to Keiretsu Forum’s “Building a Fundable Company,” and waived application fees to Zino, Alliance of Angels and PSVC.

Two other finalists also received the same waived application fees (descriptions are from the companies):

  • OFunnel: OFunnel discovers business relationships across your network as they happen. It’s like Google Alerts for professional relationships.
  • Spryly: Spryly delivers a never-before-seen mobile marketing and communications solution enabling businesses to reach consumers directly through their smartphones with richly formatted content that can be easily personalized updated and shared.

nwenfirstlookforumAnd here are the rest of the companies that pitched Tuesday:

  • Discuss.IO: Discuss.IO is an on-demand market research service that combines video conferencing and crowdsourcing to quickly deliver insights for brands, agencies and SMBs of all budgets.
  • MileLogr: Radically simplified expense management by mining existing calendar, email, phone and location data to eliminate data entry and automate expense reporting.
  • Owl Helmets: Owl Helmets makes bicycle riding safer and more enjoyable by providing riders a state-of-the-art cycling helmet with an integrated rearview mirror.
  • Priya Life: Empowering studios and instructors with direct sales to their students.
  • Textile-Based Delivery (Nufabrx): We have created a new way to administer medications, vitamins and cosmeceuticals. Our approach embeds medications into any fabric, which releases actives into the skin on contact — yet not into the wash during laundering of the fabric. Our first product, the Nufabrx pillowcase, is made of bamboo and infused with clinically proven natural remedies to treat acne.
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