Take a look around the next time you’re at your local grocery store. Have you ever thought about who’s behind ensuring those shelves are constantly stocked? How the produce arrives perfectly ripe for your picking?
Brandon Hill can answer that: his parents, and people like them.
For more than 40 years, his mother and father worked in the grocery industry–both in the corporate sector and eventually as owners of their own grocer brokerage–one of the few Black founders to do so. Like many others in the food distribution business, Hill’s parents experienced the ups and downs of the major economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, namely supply chain disruptions.
Data shows that short supply can cause a 62% loss in finances, which is significant to any business, particularly those with Black owners. Even before country’s COVID-19 prompted shutdown, Black people were challenged with facing down the pervasive racial wealth gap. The pandemic, however exacerbated an already fragile business ecosystem.
Between February and April of 2020, Black business ownership plummeted by more than 40%, which was more than any other racial group.
Hill noticed and took action. “My parents’ business had so much demand, but just so little technology with the retailers, and so much was inefficient,” said Hill. “They said, is there a way you could help build technology that would facilitate business and order flow between us and retailers and manufacturers? That’s what got us started on exploring this problem.”
Alongside his friends that also attended Hill’s alma mater Stanford University, they launched Vori, a deep data-backed platform aimed at helping small and mid-sized grocers gain accessibility to product and predict & mitigate supply chain disruptions.
“Fundamentally, the big thing about Vori is how are we leveling the playing field between these small and medium sized businesses, these food entrepreneurs, these local and regional supermarket chains, and the big guys like Kroger, Walmart and Amazon,” Hill shared with Essence. “There’s nothing wrong with Walmart and Amazon, but they have technology and resources far beyond what most of these family owned and independent grocers have access to. And what we’re doing is building tools to help keep these businesses running, because they’re the ones that kept communities fed during the pandemic.”
Since its launch in 2019, the startup has raised more than $15M in funding and are continuing to expand its team to help broaden its footprint in the supply chain management sector. “We’re hiring right now and have a number of open roles across design, engineering and product management,” Hill shared, explaining that the positions can be viewed on the company’s careers portal.
He also shared that while hiring incredible people from all backgrounds is a key priority for the company, he’s aware that Black talent is often overlooked at many startup firms. “You look at some of these Big Tech companies and there’s always a discrimination issue, but honestly more people have to realize that there’s better places to work out there that value who you are, just the way you are. And you get to help people everyday.”