Seeds of Success
What started as a solution to an issue Ashley-Marie (LAW 3rd Year) and Gyasi Sutherland faced when they moved to the South Side of Chicago has turned into something much more—both in scope and in its potential to impact many others.
Once the couple settled into their new home, they realized there was little access to the fresh, healthy, culturally relevant food they desired. And while their fix was to grow their own organic produce, they recognized this was not an issue that they faced alone; through their own research, they would later learn that 40 percent of South Side residents have little to no access to fresh and nutritious foods.
Recognizing the opportunity to serve a need, the couple sprouted an idea: to start an urban farming business, which they call HEIRs Farm. After taking the top prize at Illinois Institute of Technology’s student-run business plan competition, Pitch@IllinoisTech, in June, they’re well on their way to advancing their business.
In addition to the $30,000 prize that Ashley-Marie and Gyasi won through the Pitch competition, they have also received mentorship and other assistance through the Ed Kaplan Family Institute for Innovation and Tech Entrepreneurship’s startup accelerator.
HEIRs Farm is now focused on building its business to grow African diaspora produce with the intent to sell it to consumers via doorstep delivery and to wholesalers in the neighborhoods on the South Side. Starting with its original community garden, HEIRS Farm aims to grow its operation through a microgreens pilot and, ultimately, an aquaponic operation that it will build.