Neil Patel

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In the labyrinthine streets of Boston, a narrative unfolded, written by the tenacious spirit of a man named Brad McNamara. Born and bred in a city that embodies both history and innovation, Brad’s journey transcended the ordinary.

This interview delves deeper into the rich tapestry of Brad’s life, tracing the journey through his entrepreneurial endeavors. It starts from the early days in Boston to his groundbreaking ventures with Freight Farms and Morrissey Market.

Morrissey OS has attracted funding from top-tier investors like Impellent Ventures.

In this episode, you will learn:

  • The journey from the vibrant streets of Boston reflects the early seeds of entrepreneurship planted in the dynamic city.
  • Transitioning from a career in media, the pivot towards sustainable agriculture with Freight Farms marked a radical shift in Brad’s life’s trajectory.
  • Freight Farms revolutionized agriculture by introducing turnkey shipping container farms, blending hydroponics and technology for global connectivity.
  • Beyond Freight Farms, Morrissey Market seeks to reshape food commerce, utilizing existing distribution infrastructure to provide fresh, healthy, and whole foods globally.
  • The vision extends beyond commerce, emphasizing the transformative power of food as medicine, aligning with a broader societal shift towards mindful and health-conscious eating.
  • Retrospective advice underscores the importance of people, patience, and strategic focus for aspiring entrepreneurs, encouraging them to internalize invaluable lessons along their journey.
  • The evolutionary odyssey embodies the belief that individual actions can cultivate profound change, contributing to a global movement for a more sustainable and conscious approach to food production and consumption.

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    About Brad McNamara:

    Brad McNamara is a 4x founder and 2x CEO who thrives where bits & bytes meet the physical world. The world has recognized that whole, real, fresh, and perishable food is the answer – we are not going back to the old way.

    This demand requires a massive overhaul of the system to make “food as” possible for everyone, anywhere. With the Morrissey OS, Brad offers white-labeled, on-demand product fulfillment and perishable logistics through its proprietary access to the nation’s freshest wholesale food distributors.

    They serve food relief to nonprofits, food as medicine providers, and retail outlets in need of top-quality perishable food programs.

    As the Founding CEO of Freight Farms, Inc., an ag-tech company on a mission to enable on-site commercial food production anywhere in the world, Brad has built the product, team, and business from zero to a global footprint.

    Prior to founding Freight Farms, Brad was the CEO of Impakt Marketing Solutions, INC., a marketing firm focused on sales-driven marketing programs for large CPG companies like Anheuser Busch, InBev USA, and brands like Converse.

    Prior to that, Brad gained valuable experience and had a ton of fun in the radio industry working with “Matty in the Morning” at KISS 108 in Boston, MA.

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    Connect with Brad McNamara:

    Read the Full Transcription of the Interview:

    Alejandro Cremades: Alrighty hello everyone and welcome to the dealmakerr show. So do we have very exciting founder a founder that has done it multiple times you know we’re gonna be talking about some of the good stuff on building scaling then also how he went from media to food. We’re gonna be talking about some of the good stuff behind. Attic thinking about food as medicine and many other stuff that I think you’re all going to find very inspiring so without farther ado let’s welcome our guest today Brat Mcnamara welcome to the show. So originally born and raised.

    Brad McNamara: Thanks for having me excited to be here.

    Alejandro Cremades: In Boston and also in the suburb so give us our walkthrough memory lane. How was life growing up there.

    Brad McNamara: Ah, growing up in the Boston area was fantastic I like I said born and raised here in Boston I did have the privilege of moving around and going to a number of schools so that shaped a lot of my childhood but ultimately have tried to leave the area and it just keeps pulling me back in. So Boston is now my home.

    Alejandro Cremades: Amazing now Now let’s talk about that you know too I mean how was how was it like being there I know that very early on you were into business. So why was that drive that you got about turning ideas and bringing them to life.

    Brad McNamara: Um, I mean I think it’s pretty simple for me I mean as a young ah young person I think it was that first time that I ever put something together and then made a buck doing it whether that was a service or you know my first my first gig ride my bike to the train station and shining shoes. So I think from the moment that I realized that I could be my own boss and I could come up with something and I could make a dollar doing it just felt good and I want to keep doing that.

    Alejandro Cremades: So then in your case you know you literally got started there in high school. You know you started with a printing you know type of gig and and then you haven’t stopped all the way until today I guess say you went to your undergrad there in North Northeastern and you did community community.

    Brad McNamara: So.

    Alejandro Cremades: Communication studies. You know out of all things. So I guess you know how would you say that that shaped a little bit more your perspective you know towards perhaps you know ideas and thinking through problems and solutions. What would you say.

    Brad McNamara: Ah I mean studying communications at Northeastern was interesting the drive to study communications I don’t think was very pointed other than at that point in my life I wasn’t sure what I wanted to be when I grew up but I like the idea of radio and media and so I Said. Want to be on the radio I want to be on a big show. How can I do that and I think studying communications actually at that time was really interesting because it was right at the moment that media was making the full transition from analog to Digital. So I Essentially got to be in studio and in classrooms with. Physical tape and all of the latest sort of pro tools technology software and other pieces that were coming online So It’s a really interesting time to be there to see the old blend with the new and get it and jump off from there.

    Alejandro Cremades: Now Media out of all things you know. Obviously you’ve ended up going into a completely different path but but media why were you so excited about the media environment and you were talking about being on a big show and things like that I guess what got you so excited about it and and more importantly, what do you think that you’ve learned. From that experience to about storytelling and being able to apply storytelling in business.

    Brad McNamara: Yeah I mean the draw to media I guess as a young as a young person is pretty universal. It seems flashy. It seems exciting and then you get into the work of being on a you know a top market morning show where you’re in the studio at three thirty a m and your workday ends at 1 and then you go to class I think the. The biggest learning about media storytelling and how it’s applied to business is in a lot of ways. There’s no one singular way to do it. Everyone tries to put a formula to it. But at the end of the day. It’s an authentic personality story and connection that always resonates. And so everybody I worked with in radio who was any level of successful always had those elements. They really loved what they were doing. They were authentic in the way they delivered the story and the way they told it they didn’t try to manufacture some sort of radio voice or some. You know fake backstory they you know basically told the stories they found funny told the jokes in the way they thought they were funny and and brought their personality to bear.

    Alejandro Cremades: So at what point do you start to rethink your career path and and all of a sudden you realize that maybe you know media is not your calling Perhaps food is your calling.

    Brad McNamara: Um, well if you go back to the moment that I was in terrestrial radio. You know I had a great mentor was one of the top morning hosts in history and in Matt Siegel at Kiss 1 wait in Boston you know historic iconic show and terrestrial radio. Was kind of going away. Satellite radio is coming online. So the the writing was kind of on the wall and truth be told looking forward to getting up at 3 in the morning and grinding away for hours every day. Didn’t seem like that much fun anymore. It wasn’t as glamorous and flashy as it is when you you know you’re 1920 years old and so I started to look around it actually I left the broadcast side of radio and went into more of the marketing side at a different radio group with a few friends of mine and we had started a small marketing company. Out of that space working with cpg brands beer liquor nightlife in the in the region and had a phenomenal run. Yeah again, can’t think of anything better. You’re a young, a young person in in the city running a night lifestyle business with two of your best friends. The business grows like crazy I think we had 6 full time people and 300 contractors across new england you know, operating and pretty quickly after three or four years of running that business I started to have a bit of a epiphany moment where I realized again.

    Brad McNamara: This isn’t what I want to be doing when I’m forty fifty sixty years old. It’s fun right now but it doesn’t really make me feel full if you will and in a lot of ways that’s where my transition to food came in where I had gotten pretty pretty into endurance racing Triathlon specifically. And a lot of the lot of the people I trained with they’re very hardcore and they looked at food as fuel I always joke that I liked beer and pizza a little too much to go to their to their level but I could appreciate it and that’s when I really started out get into where was food grown. How did it get to me. Does that matter and I started to pull the thread of the food system and realized it was dramatically broken in a number of different ways and right around that times when I said you know what I need to change my life I need to transition to something that I could work in for thirty or forty years and never look back and never question again. What am I doing why am I here and for me that was the food system and you know that’s that was really the time that I decided to change course.

    Alejandro Cremades: So then let’s talk about changing course what happened next.

    Brad McNamara: Ah, well I was experimenting playing around in my apartment with hydroponic systems led lights sensors actuators all all these sort sorts of fun gadgets and toys if you will realizing that I could grow food. In so many different configurations in so many different spaces because I’m you know sharing an apartment with 5 or 6 other guys. Not a lot of space. No backyard and that’s when I realized there was something to be had there in the the emerging of the technology. Growing food with e lights controlled environment agriculture what was happening with cloud compute sensors. All of these things were going in the right direction for this to be feasible in the next ten or twelve years was my assumption and so I actually ended up going back to school so I went to Clark University in central mass. And got an Mba in sustainability and a master’s in environmental science and kind of tuned my education around this idea of food systems and controlled environment agriculture.

    Alejandro Cremades: Now in that case then you know like how does that lead you to end up. You know, like bringing to life. You know the idea of fried farms. You know like what was what was the sequence of events that needed to happen. You know for you to really be so clear and and and be like okay I’m going to go at it with this one.

    Brad McNamara: Um, it was a gerry to get to that clarity. So the first thing I did when I started to realize I wanted to build with this emerging technology was just call anybody I knew in the food system who dealt with food dealt with the business of food. And fortunately was able to tap into a pretty good network of food distributors who were at the epicenter of moving lots of perishable food and it really started with could we develop systems that would allow you to grow food in the cities closer to where people are. And the idea initially was could we apply some of this emerging technology to rooftop greenhouse and that very quickly fell short and as I built more and more small scale systems realizing the problem was uniformity and was uniform hardware. To apply recipes and software at scale and so really the epiphany was doing custom builds on rooftops across the country was going to be too slow and too small to really have an impact on the food system could we take these emerging elements of hardware technology. Put them into 1 singular product and then apply software to make it most efficient and allow that knowledge to be shared using that premise then basically went to a parking lot. Got to use ship a container and started to build.

    Alejandro Cremades: So at what point do you realize I think we are into something here.

    Brad McNamara: Ah I think it was 2 moments. It was the first time we built a full scale forty foot ship a container farm seeded it and all of the plants didn’t die. They actually grew to the point where we could eat them and 1 a. Probably when I had one of the distributors who moves you know hundreds of millions of dollars of of leafy greens amongst other food out to the farm and he asked huh can I buy this and I thought okay I’ve turned a corner here.

    Alejandro Cremades: So I guess for the people that are listening. You know to to really get it. What ended up being the business model of fried farms. How are you guys making money.

    Brad McNamara: Ah so free farms we sell hardware software and refillables. So we sell a turnkey farm solution. So it is you know a forty foot shipping container essentially shell that can be shipped. Dropped anywhere in the world. You know they’re in all fifty states I think 40 countries at this point. It’s all connected via what we call farmhand software so that’s the operating system that connects our farmers to us and to each other to share recipes best practices workflows and then there’s a built in. Store essentially for nutrients for seeds for all the inputs that go into your farm.

    Alejandro Cremades: So how is that the process too of when it comes to scale. You know from going to ah parking a lot to you know to where it actually got you know like what does scaling look like what are some of the typical issues and and the ones that you actually encounter encounter in this case.

    Brad McNamara: Ah I’ll say it was a great learning experience because we had all of the scaling issues that come with a standard hardware product a consumer hardware product as well as a software company kind of all rolled into one I think.

    Brad McNamara: The best lesson we learned was to continually build at whatever. So for whatever scale we were at with eyes towards the future and never stop selling that was a big piece for us. Yeah, there was a lot of moments where the the choice was do we invest heavily. In manufacturing and efficiency at this moment in time to try and drive your immediate gross margin on the hardware product but means we won’t be able to sell as many units in the short term and it was always ah it was always a balance to to pull those 2 together.

    Alejandro Cremades: So I guess as you guys were growing. You know obviously you needed some money and you raised the capital here. So how much capital do you guys raise for the company today.

    Brad McNamara: And keep growing.

    Brad McNamara: Um, so freight farms we’ve raised red around $50000000 to date.

    Alejandro Cremades: And what was that journey like of of racing money for something so unique like this.

    Brad McNamara: I would say was exceptionally difficult would be the best way to characterize it I mean if you think about it we were raising first institutional money back in 2013 for freight Farms was at a time When. Ag Tech wasn’t a thing there weren’t ag tech focused funds I mean we were even we would even joke around the office. What should we call? what we’re doing so we just would mash words together and come up with Ag tech. But I think the the difficulty at the time. Actually made for a better business and we were able to raise capital from Great Investors. You know some great angels and seed funds early. You know, raised our series a with Spark Capital You know a great you know firm in the in the tech space and have been able to secure great investors I think the the emerging element of the segment. Lent itself to what I consider Great venture investors who are seeking you know the risk profile of if this Works. It could really be a game changer and so you know it was harder to find those investors we certainly weren’t going to catch a a wave of investors who are. Yeah, had fomo of missing this thing but when we did secure investors. They saw our vision for a global connected food system and said Wow when that works that’s going to be important and that’s going to be big.

    Alejandro Cremades: And then what was that like of educating them because I mean obviously when you guys got started here in 2012 actic was not as you know hyped as maybe it is today and and and and maybe the amount of money or the educated investors that you have today.

    Brad McNamara: The.

    Alejandro Cremades: Didn’t have that at that point So what was that process to of educating them getting them to understand things and getting them to be comfortable with making an investment.

    Brad McNamara: I mean I think I think you hit the nail on the head. It was an education process and part of it was engaging the right investor at the right time so that they were interested enough to want to learn and then we weren’t going to close around. We weren’t going to secure an investor. In 3 or 3 meetings that became very clear very evident and so just had to run a slightly different process of you know, engage early build relationship over a long period of time and be ready to have some after a while what felt like frustrating conversations for us. Terms of having to sit down with ah an investor maybe their whole team. A number of partners and explain to them. Yes, you can grow plants indoors. You have to remember 16013 timeframe. There was still a technical debate as to whether you could grow plants using led lights which is now just common knowledge. We were we were sitting in boardrooms with ah with partners explaining to them the science behind yes, you can in fact, grow edible plants using led lights.

    Alejandro Cremades: So for you back in 2020 that’s when you started to wonder you know, maybe there’s something else. You know that that I could be doing you know here at that point you had already built the rocket ship you had raised you know tons of money and.

    Brad McNamara: If.

    Alejandro Cremades: People will tell you why would you? Why would you turn page and not keep going. You know what? what happened you know that that was that trigger for you to to really think hey maybe it’s time to to to to go on to a new chapter as a founder in building something from nothing.

    Brad McNamara: Yeah I mean I think it comes back to that decision I had made in 13010 where I said you know I need to change course where am I gonna focus my life basically till I’m done working or I die whichever comes first. And it was around the food system and building freight farms gave me a really unique perspective into where food has grown. How business is developed around food where it goes and how it gets to the end consumer the end eater and more and more I realized ag tech controlled environment. Agriculture is a an essential part of the solution. You know for future proofing our food system. You know getting food where it needs to be but there was a massive food system that was just broken in so many different ways. And a big piece of that for me was distribution and so you know I was fortunate I’ll say to be able to put a great team around me at freeforms. So I had the option you know in 2020 to say okay you this is doing exactly what I had hoped it had done. Yeah, kind of out kicked my coverage and and and gone beyond. You know some of my expectations from back in 2010 when we started to create the idea and I started to look at the rest of the food system and I went back to some of those earliest kind of believers in the distribution space. So.

    Brad McNamara: As I said earlier one of the validating moments for freightforms is and a you know hards scrabble distributor that moves hundreds of millions of dollars worth a perishable food kind of said to me this is important can I buy one of these and I went back to those exact same people and just started to ask a lot of questions and match that to. Successes and failures I had seen in food over the previous 10 years and the realization I came to was that food business is getting to scale specifically those around grocery perishables were not had not failed from a perspective of. Create a great brand figure out customer acquisition and get customers through the door where things fell apart was as they reach scale. There’s a certain physical element of the rubber needs to meet the road because you need to get fresh, high quality, high quality perishable foods to people with economics that makes sense. And that’s where that’s the brick wall that I saw a lot of companies run into you marry that with a lot of the sort of social issues that were emerging you know food insecurity food access. You know the emerging movement around food is medicine of replacing you know chemical-laden. Calorie dense process food with fresh food towards a health and I realized okay that problem is only going to be exacerbated and I just became more and more enthralled so long story short I started to spend a lot of time at these distributors who were sitting on.

    Brad McNamara: Hundreds of millions if not billions of dollars of stated the art infrastructure these warehouses with multiple temperature zones with the ability to source warehouse select pickpack highly perishable, fresh product at a rate in a volume that I had never seen before and. They had massive underutilized capacity. So I’m spending time at these warehouses and I realize if you show up at 11 am the place is like a ghost town because they buzz like a beehive from 3 am m to 10 a m because their industry works those hours similar to the radio hours. But after that. There’s a few people standing around and you’ve got all this inventory. You’ve got all this warehousing you’ve got all these trucks you’ve got all this automation that is just not being used so I started to ask the question if I built a technology layer that created access to all of this great infrastructure to run fulfillment was that would that be possible. And so dove headlong recruited my co-founder a woman who is a powerhouse she had run a food distributor for about 17 years from the time it was a $15000000 operation to right around 200000000 when she joined me and we kind of went off to the races of can we. Be the fulfillment be the backbone and the back end for this movement of fresh perishable food specific in food as medicine.

    Alejandro Cremades: So so so double click on food being medicine. You know, Obviously there’s more consciousness around this now right than it was before So you’re kind of like riding this wave of consciousness you know around this. But.

    Brad McNamara: Um.

    Alejandro Cremades: Ah, walk us, you know through that you know through that thinking through through food being medicine. What are you seeing and why is this so important.

    Brad McNamara: Um, food is medicine. It’s a relatively new term but the the conventional wisdom goes back as long as long as we can all remember you know they the the saying I grew up with of you are what you eat kind of thing. It’s very simple and it’s it’s.

    Brad McNamara: It’s kind of it’s kind of lost its meeting as the food system has been more industrialized but food as medicine is really just the culmination of the healthcare system. Finally realizing that 50% of americans are now being treated for some sort of. Food related chronic disease and it’s costing the economy the healthcare system everyone money and productivity to the tune of trillions of dollars and so that realization happened a few years back and finally after enough research. Validating the fact that okay, when you change people’s diet who have diabetes hypertension some of these other chronic diseases when you simply alter their diet towards something more healthy something more whole something fresh and perishable on a consistent basis. The. Cost to keep them alive to give them care to improve their quality of life goes down dramatically and so as soon as the research started to come online and and get validated multiple times. It was only a matter of time before everybody was going to get on get on board with. Okay, you you truly are what you eat.

    Alejandro Cremades: So so in this business too. You guys have raised some money. Ah and I want to ask you now because he was the second time around you know on on really getting outside capital. What did you do differently when he came to raising the money. Ah from the people that you did and. And how did you go about making an an effective process rather than throwing a spaghetti on the wall as I’m sure that you did you know initially.

    Brad McNamara: Um, yeah I mean I think 1 fact being ah being ah, a multitime founder I had a dramatically different more well-developed network of capital allocators to bounce ideas off of and to bring in early. So I think the biggest difference is that I had the confidence this time around to talk to investors who invest at the earliest stages and explain to them what I was thinking what I was building essential essentially building the relationship over time and you know not being. I would say you know shy or even timid about the fact that I was building something new I wasn’t sure exactly what it was yet but I was really excited about the opportunity so that might have been the biggest difference this time around and I think the other side of it is. Just being clear on my ethos of the market I was building for and how I was going to build it so the the biggest difference is when I was building freight farms I wasn’t very clear about how I saw the end game. How I saw the end market. You know, not not talking about exit strategy at the earliest yes or a precede stage. But. Where do I see the world evolving based on this concept and then how do I plan to build the technology that will make that reality true and so this time around I was able to be just much much more explicit of how I saw the world evolving and the technology I believe needed to be built.

    Brad McNamara: To facilitate that reality.

    Alejandro Cremades: So I guess imagine now you know when we’re talking about people in in investors and and building the business I want to talk about vision because that’s a big one. So if I was to give you the opportunity of going to sleep tonight Brad and you had this snooze of a lifetime and you wake up in a world where the vision.

    Brad McNamara: Yeah.

    Alejandro Cremades: Of Moreicey Market being fully realized what does that world look like.

    Brad McNamara: The realization of the vision for me is for Morrissey market to be the back end of perishable food commerce. So yes, food is medicine fulfilling produce produce prescription. Fulfilling medically tailored groceries but also ushering in an entire new generation of food commerce entrepreneurs. You know an entire fresh food platform where you know the same way shopify and fulfilled by Amazon was able to do this for your durable goods. A. A platform and backend that enables that sort of creativity around fresh healthy whole foods.

    Alejandro Cremades: So Now we’re obviously talking about the future here but I want to talk about the past but doing so with a lens of reflection imagine if I was to put you into a time machine and I brought you back. You know maybe to 2012 to that moment where you were thinking about maybe like. Doing something of your own and and really making it happen and you had the opportunity of having a chat with how younger Brad and being able to give that younger Brad one piece of a device before launching a business. What would that be and why you know what? you know now.

    Brad McNamara: I think if I was able to sit down Brad circa 2012 I would first and foremost sit myself down say have a seat stop moving around take a breath and a bit of the advice would be to internalize. Internalize the best advice you’re about to get and then happily dispel or ignore the others and that would be all the things that you can’t couldn’t have possibly experienced so a lot of that had to do with people and trying to do it all. So. 1 thing you know I heard at nauseum when I was you know a young a young founder is you know it’s all about the people it’s all about the people and I think I gave it lip service that I was hearing that and internalizing and it took a lot It took a few too med too much real-world scard tissue for me to internalize it. And realize you know the people you’re building with or what’s going to make the difference between you know, being able to get a product out which like I’ll say is relatively straightforward being able to like iterate to product market fit which is a process but you can do it but building a great company is going to come down to the people. And the other piece that I would say to myself circuit 2012 is do it all but not today so pick the things to do today that are most important and then push everything else out of the way because when I was a young founder. It’s almost like you’re playing a game and.

    Brad McNamara: When you first get to that next level of the game. Everything feels so fast you’re trying to do everything you learned all at once and let the game slow down a little bit and then make the make the next best move you can that day just keep doing that with great people and you know even if you Fail. You’re going to feel like a success.

    Alejandro Cremades: I Love it So Brad for the people that are super inspired I will love to reach out and say hi. What is the best way for them to do so.

    Brad McNamara: Ah, best way I mean I’m on Linkedin so Brad Mcnamara probably a bearded guy with a morrissey market hat on is is kind of my standard profile pick reach out always happy to to chat with anybody I mean at this point you know, really.

    Brad McNamara: Looking at and engaging with those that are fighting the good fight and food is medicine. So those that are connecting patients doctors dieticians and are looking to get them. You know the highest quality fresh fruit produce medically tailored groceries in an economic way.

    Alejandro Cremades: Amazing! Well hey brat thank you so much for being on the deal maker show today. It has been an honor to have you with us.

    Brad McNamara: It’s my pleasure. Thank you.

    *****

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