I can’t say that there are any particular things I wish someone told me when I first started. I have been giving and finding free items for years, and I also have a background in software development. The process of building Joyo has so far corresponded to my expectations for the project.
It has been estimated that each year, more than 100 billion pounds of food is wasted in the United States. That equates to more than 160 billion dollars worth of food thrown away each year. At the same time, in many parts of the United States, there is a crisis caused by people having limited access to healthy & affordable food options. The waste of food is not only a waste of money and bad for the environment, but it is also making vulnerable populations even more vulnerable.
Authority Magazine started a new series called “How Restaurants, Grocery Stores, Supermarkets, Hospitality Companies and Food Companies Are Helping To Eliminate Food Waste.” In this interview series, we are talking to leaders and principals of Restaurants, Grocery Stores, Supermarkets, Hospitality Companies, Food Companies, and any business or nonprofit that is helping to eliminate food waste, about the initiatives they are taking to eliminate or reduce food waste.
As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Stan Markuze, Co-Founder of Joyo.
Stan Markuze is a serial entrepreneur living in San Francisco, California. For years, Stan observed people discarding usable items on the streets of San Francisco where they would often get damaged or thrown away. After selling his latest company, Stan teamed up with several environmentally minded friends to create Joyo, a simple app that addresses the problem of overconsumption and waste.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Since I was a kid, I was always starting businesses to solve problems and take advantage of opportunities that I observed around me. I sold mistletoe during the holidays, repaired electronic gadgets, and later fixed up cars. I always hated to see usable and repairable things end up in the trash bin. When I graduated from college, I fixed up foreclosed homes and later started a marketplace for recycling used auto parts. Having sold that business, I decided to start a fun and simple consumer-facing app that people could use to give and get free items in their local communities.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began at your company or organization?
We launched the first version of Joyo in June of 2021 and my co-founders and I were the first ones to give away items on the marketplace. The most interesting part of the experience has been meeting people from the neighborhood who love the app and have come multiple times to pick up items from us. We have gotten to know their stories and we have shared ours. We have also had one gentleman post himself on the app — I think he was looking to make new friends!
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
When we first launched Joyo, I happened to be moving and I posted an Ikea sofa for free. A couple from Oakland contacted me about the sofa and asked if it would fit in their station wagon. I optimistically assumed that it would, and that was a big mistake. It took over an hour and required all sort of tools to deconstruct the sofa so that it would fit in the vehicle. In the end, it turned out alright, but it was much harder than I had imagined.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
I would define leadership as the ability to motivate others to work towards a single cause. A leader’s role is to inspire others to work together to execute a plan or mission.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
There is a Russian quote that says “he who looks will always find.” It means roughly the same thing as “where there’s a will there’s a way.” This quote has motivated me to keep moving forward in the face of challenges and adversity — particularly with new entrepreneurial ventures.
OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. Let’s begin with a basic definition of terms so that all of us are on the same page. What exactly are we talking about when we refer to food waste?
To me, food waste occurs when one person throws away food that another person needs. For example, a caterer throws away the leftovers from an event while a family in the same city goes hungry.
Can you help articulate a few of the main causes of food waste?
I think food is wasted because there is not an efficient way to connect those who have extra food with those who need the food. It’s a problem of efficient communication among very different segments of society.
What are a few of the obstacles that companies and organizations face when it comes to distributing extra or excess food? What can be done to overcome those barriers?
Most companies and organizations that find themselves with surplus food are not experts in identifying the people who need the food, or in building the tools to identify those people. This challenge can be solved through an efficient platform that connects those who have the food with those who need it. Of course, there must also be institutional buy-in that motivates the companies and organizations (as well as employees) to actively use the platform.
Can you describe a few of the ways that you or your organization are helping to reduce food waste?
Joyo helps reduce food waste by connecting those who have surplus food with those who need it. The givers experience the satisfaction of not wasting the food while those in need do not go hungry.
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help address the root of this problem?
Businesses of all sizes can focus on food waste even though it does not directly increase their profits. Politicians can make it easier for businesses to give away food from a regulatory standpoint and can even mandate certain waste reduction strategies. Today, certain regulatory hurdles interfere with the distribution of free food, sometimes causing the food to be discarded.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
At this point, I can’t say that there are any particular things I wish someone told me when I first started. I have been giving and finding free items for years, and I also have a background in software development. The process of building Joyo has so far corresponded to my expectations for the project.
Are there other leaders or organizations who have done good work to address food waste? Can you tell us what they have done? What specifically impresses you about their work? Perhaps we can reach out to them to include them in this series.
I am impressed by the efforts of large-scale food banks and soup kitchens, such as the SF-Marin food bank and Glide Memorial Church. The SF-Marin food bank collects irregular and unwanted produce from California farms and re-packages the produce for distribution to families in need. This produce, which has been deemed commercially unviable due to cosmetic defects, tastes the same as the produce that we buy at the grocery store. Thanks to the food bank, this produce ends up in the hands of those who need it instead of the landfill.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I would like to see a reduction in waste of both perishable and durable products. Our culture has evolved to a state where we are constantly purchasing new products and shamelessly throwing away items that are perfectly usable. This relates to food items, clothing, furniture, and electronics. I would like for people to think twice before throwing items in the trash, and to ask themselves if those items could be re-purposed or if they could be helpful to someone in need.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
I would love to meet Bill Gates, who has deployed tremendous resources through his charitable foundation. I would be interested to hear how he thinks about the world’s most pressing challenges and how he chooses to deploy his tremendous resources to address those challenges. Most non-profits are financially constrained and have limited resources to achieve their missions. The Gates Foundation is a remarkable exception to the norm.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Readers can simply download the Joyo app (https://www.joyoapp.co) and can give and get items for free in their local communities.
This was very meaningful, thank you so much, and we wish you only continued success.