Taraba Virtuala – Healthy Products Just a Click Away
Taraba Virtuala (Romanian for Virtual Stall) is one of the best known businesses with social impact in Romania. And for good reason. They manage to solve two important problems for two categories of people: farmers and city dwellers who want to make healthier diet choices. Through their platform, Taraba Virtuala brings together these two categories and allows the former to benefit from better options of putting their delicious products on the market.
The company was founded in 2017 by Roxana Bitoleanu and Vlad Retca, who, like all good startup founders out there, saw a problem they could solve with their skills.
“We started building the platform now we call Taraba Virtuală for two reasons. One is a health problem which involved a stricter, plant-based diet. The second is the desire to contribute positively to our society. In the beginning, we were intrigued that we could not find farmers online to buy our food from, even though ecommerce is a growing trend in our country. Our research showed small farmers’ sales depended heavily on retailers or on middle men. This was our tipping point – the realization that we are engineers who have the expertise to build a platform able to connect them directly with clients in big cities.” -explains Roxana.
The fact that the platform is very simple to use is another great advantage.
“You enter the platform and you see the list of farmers based on your location. This means we do not show you farmers who did not choose to deliver in your area. Then, based on their offer and your desires, you pick one farmer and proceed with the checkout. Once you sent the order to the farmer, he/she can see it and accept it by offering you a delivery date, which will be shown in your account (you will also receive a notification about it). When the delivery is made, you meet the farmer in person, as most of them choose to deliver themselves once a week.” – adds Roxana.
The platform attracted attention from the beginning and the first results were soon visible:
“We are very proud to have 150 farmers enrolled in our platform, farmers who sell anything you can eat or drink, produced locally. Through the platform, we have managed to put them in direct contact with clients interested in eating healthier food, locally produced, locally processed. And they are not few at all, as we have successfully delivered more than 5000 orders since we launched in July 2017.The community was excited to have an alternative to the flavorless vegetables they were buying and started to order from the small farmers active on the platform.” – says Roxana.
While eating healthy is great, helping other small entrepreneurs is very rewarding too:
” Taraba Virtuală is also a pioneer in Romania by allowing small farmers to sell directly online to clients. They have the liberty to create their own business rules, which means a minimum order, product pricing, delivery fee. In return, we ask them to comply with a set of terms and conditions mentioned in a contract which they sign before being activated. As a client, you can see their documents so you can have the certainty they are indeed local food producers or processors.” – explains Roxana.
As for future plans, they are very ambitious, as they should be:
“We have the capital city and the surrounding area covered by a large number of farmers, which is where most of the orders come from. We are working towards growing the platform at a national level and our long term goals are to make the platform available even beyond Romanian borders. We plan to increase the level of trust in the platform, so more people can order without worrying about the food being bad, flavorless or containing harmful substances. Products’ traceability is an important aspect to work and improve on when developing such a platform. This is work-in-progress and we will announce when the moment is right the roll out of the newest additions to Taraba Virtuală.” – says Roxana.
As for advice for other young entrepreneurs?
“A social-impact business is different from a regular business, if I may say. Usually, the problem has a higher degree of sensitivity attached. To anyone who wants to start a business, we suggest to have a clear WHY in their minds. Once this is crystal clear, all the inevitable business problems become easier to deal with. The solutions which come to you are clearer and easier to implement, because you’ve fallen in love with solving the problem, not with the solution you are building.” – concludes Roxana