Kellee James founded Mercaris in November 2012 with co-founder, Chris Duesing. Mercaris is a market data service and on-line trading exchange for organic and non-GMO agricultural commodities. Mercaris exists to serve the $35 billion organic food & agriculture sector.
James first saw how different the conventional ag markets could be from the organic market during the Mad Cow disease scare over 10 years ago. She remembers watching conventional cattle prices tank overnight, while demand for organic beef rose substantially. This laid the foundation for Mercaris to become an objective, third-party to track prices for organic and non-GMO storable commodities like soybeans and corn.
In 2013, James was awarded $5,000 as the grand prize winner of our StartRight! Women’s Business Plan Competition, and credits this as giving Mercaris the momentum to continue seeking funding opportunities and earned media.
“Entering this competition was a great decision because early capital came at the right time, and the visibility helped as well. In fact, 95% of our investor capital came after StartRight!” said James.
Watch this clip from New York Times 2014 Food For Tomorrow Conference where James discusses what problem Mercaris solves. In 2015, Mercaris was awarded $100k in the InvestMaryland Challenge, and sales continue to rise. Staff has grown over the past 12 months from two full-time employees to five full-time employees and two contractors.
How has MWBC helped your business?
I have met and referred phenomenal women to MWBC and your StartRight! Women’s Business Plan Competition. MWBC provides a supportive community, and I’m thankful for the help, visibility and early capital my company received as a result.
Advice for women entrepreneurs.
Get out there and try. It can be intimidating, but you have to get out of your comfort zone to achieve success. We have pitched many investors, and discrimination still exists. However, you must keep it moving, and know that the investor/company relationship should be mutually beneficial and supportive.