Building the brand of local food in The Big Apple

amy-blanksteinSometimes the help you need is just around the corner, if you know where to look for it. Such was the case when Amy Blankstein, Development Director of Just Food in New York City, realized she needed support for Just Food’s website redesign.

Just Food has promoted the cause of local, healthy food for over 20 years. The nonprofit builds awareness and engages community participation in the local food movement through farmers markets, agricultural groups, cooking and gardening classes, CSAs, and policy advocacy.

Amy wears a lot of hats, like any person working at a small nonprofit. With a background in magazine and book editing, Amy started at Just Food in communications and grant writing, and in the 8 years since has taken on fundraising, donor relations, and the redesign of the company website, just to name a few of her responsibilities.

“It’s very challenging to take on a major website redesign without having in-house expertise,” shares Amy.
Amy was sizing up the challenge before her when she stumbled upon an opportunity from Ashoka Changemakers, a global communityjustfood-nyc of change agents.
At the same time, Benjamin Van Rooy, Business Strategy Director at American Express, was looking for a new way to give back.
Benjamin tells us, “American Express makes a very concentrated effort at philanthropy and volunteering. It’s one of the things that I really love about working there.”

Ben was invited to join a group of American Express employees to help nonprofits on Ashoka Changemakers, who was using MicroMentor as their mentoring platform.

“I was attracted by the opportunity to give back in a way that was more than painting a fence,” shares Benjamin. “It is very satisfying to see the impact that you can have by spending a few months helping someone.”
When Benjamin saw Amy’s request, he thought it was a nice match of skills and interests. He explains, “I have experience leading projects and creating visual products including web pages, and am very passionate about good food and healthy eating – so I was very interested in what Just Food stands for.”

They started the mentoring relationship by asking a lot of questions about Just Food and Amy’s goals. A critical component of the mentoring relationship was the ability for Benjamin to visit the office, meet Amy and her team, and collaborate in person. They brainstormed the key activities that could add real value to Just Food’s business process. Ultimately, Benjamin and Amy determined that a major gap in the project was the voice of the customer. They designed a customer survey to gather evidence for a new direction in website and brand strategy.

For Benjamin, the opportunity to step outside of the for-profit world was refreshing, “This helped me to look at work from a different perspective. A nonprofit has different ways of planning, different constraints, and different resources.”benjamin-van-rooy

The website is still a work in progress, but now Amy has a refined marketing strategy with better defined target audiences and a more strategic approach to crafting, segmenting, and timing communications.

Ben also has been enriched by the experience, “The platform connects professionals and nonprofits that otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity to connect, and makes the process really straightforward. The resources are good as well. It’s a great opportunity to add value to the organization and improve your own skills at the same time.”

Amy tell us, “Having access to mentors is a critical resource – in terms of my own personal career development, and in terms of achieving Just Food’s communications goals. The experience with Ben has been incredibly valuable for us.”