Inspiration: Working With Foodtree

Last week I was away on a three day retreat on Saltspring Island with the team I work with at Foodtree. It was an amazing, inspiring, and transformative experience and I really wanted to acknowledge this by writing about it here.

As you may know I was working full time as an artist for more than a year and in March I decided it was time to look for a part time job to support myself. I wrote a blog post about what I was looking for, put it out into the world through social media channels, and back came an opportunity to work with Foodtree.

Foodtree is an internet startup based out of Gastown in Vancouver. The basic concept of what we do is connect people with where their food comes from through web and mobile applications. Our goal is complete transparency in the food system, and our company motto is, “Know More. Eat Better.” The company was founded by Anthony Nicalo and Derek Shanahan, two awesome people who want to make a difference in the world and it all starts with food.

I’ve been working with Foodtree on a part-time basis since mid-April with the title of “Community Techknowledgartist” and responsibilities of supporting Derek as Community Manager. After the initial thrill and excitement about the job wore off I began struggling with what I was doing there and felt unsure about what I had to offer the company.


You see, Anthony is the kind of team leader/employer who gives you a role but leaves it up to you to define it, and that’s not an easy thing to do. There is no time for hand holding in a startup because it’s a fast paced environment, and it’s the responsibility of every person there to move the mission forward. You’re no longer an “employee” but a member of a team. I’ve never ever worked in an environment where I felt so empowered to perform the function I was hired to do. Or at least now I do after our retreat on Saltspring Island.

The retreat came just at the right time after a crazy couple of months of rebranding the company, refining the company’s mission, launching an iphone app, and new people joining Foodtree. I think we all left for Saltspring feeling uncertain about what we were in for, and came back from a very memorable experience that helped bring us closer together.

We spent the three days at Foxglove Farm with a group of facilitators who helped guide us through the process of clarifying the mission and developing our team. It was the first opportunity I’ve had to really get to know everyone and I couldn’t be more impressed by the intelligent, articulate, and amazing group of people I get to work with at Foodtree. The experience taught me that I belong there and that I do have many strengths/skills/ideas to offer our organization. This makes me happy.

Hazelnut grove

The retreat was a huge investment of time, energy, and money by Anthony and Derek in the group of people they’ve brought together.

I’ve never experienced that level of investment from an employer. It demonstrates how much our team leaders value and regard the individual members of our group, and the importance of the role each plays in moving forward with our mission at Foodtree.

I’m very grateful to both Anthony and Derek for including me in the further development of Foodtree. It definitely feels like being a part of something special.

6 thoughts on “Inspiration: Working With Foodtree

  1. Rachael says:

    Yes, both photos are from that bike trip in Agassiz. I felt they went well with the writing on many levels.

  2. Rachael says:

    Thanks Kai. I’m going to enjoy it for as long as it lasts. I hope you find somewhere awesome to work too.

  3. Na'ama says:

    Rachael, I never really read blogs as you may guess… but under the encouragement of the “community people” to get the hang of this, I started to follow Foodtree’s more often, and also you. This is a beautiful post; thank you. I am happy having the chance to play footsie with you 3 days a week… You’re awesome.

  4. Rachael says:

    Thanks Na’ama. I think you’re awesome too. Your comment about the footsie made me laugh.

    I can recommend a few blogs if you’re interested. I mostly follow art and design blogs though.

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