An Interview with Propel Alumni, Milk Moovement

October 22, 2021

If you are following Propel Alumni, the same way we are, Milk Moovement will definitely be on your radar. Milk Moovement, who completed the Propel Accelerator in May of 2020, developed  a cloud-based system to improve the milk supply chain and have not looked back.

“Basically, we help dairy farmers and co-ops share data better faster. So essentially, they can make better milk products and get their milk products to market faster and then get paid faster along the way through the supply chain,” says Robert Foresythe, co-founder and CEO.

And the impact they are making is significant! Right now, their system has created a 5% reduction in transportation costs, with the goals to further reduce those cost to closer to 15-20% and they have just received a grant from SDTC (Sustainable Development Technology Canada) because there’s a correlated reduction in Greenhouse gas emissions as trucks are running more efficiently to capacity, there are fewer trucks on the road. The other huge savings for companies is in 60% savings in operational costs, which is huge for companies!

Propel Startup Coach, Charlotte Murray checked-in with Robert to learn about his Propel experience and what progress they have made since completing the program. Milk Moovement’s participation in Propel was during the COVID outbreak. While many accelerator’s were working to change their in-person program to an online model, Propel was already running their accelerator virtually. “Kudos to you for having the foresight for knowing a virtual program was valuable. There's less time traveling, so you're able to more efficiently use your time in the program.” 

When Milk Moovement first started with Propel, they wanted to get some accountability in the business and to build a network, but as Robert puts it, “We got that and we got a lot more. We've worked with executive coaches before and that kind of accountability, someone to call BS on your business and call BS on your business decisions, is really important.” 

That accountability by their Propel coach was important, but so was the fact that their coach was accessible and helped them work through their decision-making process for their business. “It was having like experts who've been there before we could run decisions by really any hour of the day.”

When asked about how Propel helped them get to where they are now, Rob explained that while they knew what value they brought to their clients, they almost knew too much. Through their startup coach and one of the Fireside chat speakers, they were able to identify specifically what was real value and what was “nice to have'' - what clients would pay for. Those insights were extremely important now that Milk Moovement is in an aggressive sales mode. 

And the company keeps growing, Since participation in Propel, Milk Moovement has doubled its number of firms, established their first US client and have incorporated in the US. “In a nutshell, I think Propel helped us finesse that sales message and their value proposition. For our Canadian clients, our sales cycle is six to eight months, and that Wisconsin client was 21 days. “I think it was our ability to know who we were and what they were going to get out of it really quickly.”

As far as unexpected outcomes or surprises while taking Milk Moovement through Propel, Rob says that they realized they were overcomplicating the solution. Before Propel, during client meetings, it was obvious that clients just weren’t getting it. “Then we realized, dairy is not notoriously well connected to tech. So, we had to just stop using the tech language - stop talking about all the inner workings and just make a promise, and then deliver on that promise. It was more tied to how their employees spend their time - how many hours a month an employee spends doing something and saying, we'll take that from 12 hours to one hour. It was more putting everything in their terms that we figured out along the way.” 

They’ve also simplified their client onboarding process. “Initially, we built the system based on our web device and our mobile devices in the dairy trucks were built based on Canadian winters. We tested all these devices that could go in a milk truck and withstand, you know, negative 30 degrees, could be left overnight, all this kind of stuff. It was pretty short-sighted, but it worked at a time. During our time with Propel, our Coach started saying things like, well, in Texas, they don't have this problem. Why can't the driver just use this iPhone? This really hit home. Now Milk Moovment isn’t in the hardware business. They no longer have to wait for their devices to arrive from China - Dairy providers use their own phones which has moved their onboarding from three weeks to a day or two. 

Now their focus is on sales. With the product-market fit established in Canada, their goal is bringing on more US clients. Both Robert and co-founder, Jon are moving to Minnesota to do the Techstars Farm to Fork Program. We look forward to following up with Milk Moovement after that!

Robert offered a final thought for companies applying to and participating in Propel, “I think you need to build a network of peers in your region, which I think Propel is good for Atlantic Canadian companies, that are your go-to when it comes to starting a business and building the business  - who do you go to for legal advice and really go to for accounting services and all that stuff. Then I think you do need to build a real industry specific network. You need to then figure out where are my people that are the leaders in my industry around the world? I think you need the combination - the people at home who have your back, and the people somewhere around the world that have your back too.”