Subaru + Greensgrow: How the 12 Year Partnership Came TogetherBy Lari Robling |
Their relationship began with a chance meeting as improbable as that in any romantic movie.
Greensgrow Farms, a now thriving urban farm in the Kensington neighborhood of north Philadelphia, was barely a three-year-old start-up in 2001. Mary Seton Corboy, co-founder, was wondering how to make payroll and sustain her dream of bringing food and jobs to this vacant brown zone lot.
Walking down Market Street, she had a chance meeting with someone she knew who worked in the marketing department of Subaru of America, Inc. Corboy mentioned to him that she had applied to the company’s foundation for a grant without success.
At that point in time, Subaru’s marketing department had success pairing up with organizations that promoted activities that Subaru’s customers engaged in. A car company supporting a ski team was a typical sponsorship — a highly regarded sport performed on a terrain where Subaru cars also performed well made an obvious connection.
It took that chance meeting plus some vision at Subaru to connect the dots between farming in an urban environment and their product, but two weeks after that chance meeting, Corboy received a call that Subaru was on board with Greensgrow.
“We were saved by the bell,” said Corboy. “To have corporate sponsorship gave us credibility that we didn’t have before. It was like the captain of the football team had invited me to the prom.”
Just two unconventional companies
Today Corboy travels around the country for Subaru talking to gardening groups, doing demonstrations and supporting urban farming efforts.
“It’s a mutual relationship,” said Corboy. “We’ve tried new things such as offering Subaru owners a deal on our CSA (community supported agriculture) subscriptions. It’s great because it brings new people to us.”
Abana Jacobs, Subaru National Promotion Sponsorship Specialist, has overseen the Greensgrow partnership since 2005. She notes one successful element was the attention that the Subaru Forrester was getting. The vehicle’s natural affinity to gardening helped the partnership flourish.
Greensgrow also receives support from Subaru for its innovative Greensgrow Farm Neighborhood Markets, targeting the low-come food deserts in Camden. A mobile truck travels to various locations selling affording fresh fruits and vegetables as well as providing other assistance.
Any relationship can hit snags and Corboy has reputation for being outspoken. So it has to be asked if that has ever been a problem.
Said Corboy, “They know exactly who I am and have never taken me to task. Greensgrow is an unconventional company and Subaru is an unconventional car company.”
Jacobs only wishes there were more Mary Seton Corboys.
About the Camden program Jacobs said, “It takes someone like a Mary Seton Corboy to do it. My hope is we can find more people to do these startups.”
Jacobs also notes that the script for this happy and productive relationship revolves around the Subaru customers. Gardening, food, the environment, and entrepreneurship are all part of their interests.
Said Jacobs, “We didn’t jump on the bandwagon because is trendy. It’s on our radar because [these interests] are a part of the DNA of our customers.”
The wildly successful Subaru Fall Festival at Greensgrow Farms, is an example. Jacobs admits she can get a little emotional talking about it.
“Five years ago it was 50 people in a greenhouse eating samples out of plastic cups, so it puts a smile on my face to see how it has grown.” Continues Jacobs, “Last year 3,000 attended, with some people coming from New York. It’s become an iconic event in large measure because our customer’s social media.”
This year the festival will be held Saturday, October 6th from 11am to 4pm, rain or shine and is free to the public.blog comments powered by Disqus