This summer, the Dingman Center will be conducting interviews with the ten student startups who are participating in the Terp Startup summer accelerator phase of our Fearless Founders program. Participating student entrepreneurs received a stipend up to $5,000 that would enable them to work exclusively on their startups over eight weeks in the summer.
Citizens of Earth
Founder and CEO: Michael Sheehan ’18, Business Management major with a specialization in Entrepreneurship
DC: Tell us about your startup. What problem are you solving and for whom?
Sheehan: Citizens of Earth has founded a mission to find solutions for sustainable living. Research has proven that our single largest use of land, water and fossil fuels comes from the production, distribution and processing of food. This is a major concern for social and environmental sustainability. As an organization, we provide a solution to improve food sustainability by increasing local and natural food production. Local and naturally grown food reduces waste and pollution associated with industrial food production. We offer a service to install and maintain edible gardens and landscapes. The purpose of our business model is to provide a chemical-free, eco-friendly, and high-quality food supply to homes and community centers. If every home produced seasonal fruit and vegetables we would all begin to live a healthier, happier and more harmonious lifestyle.
DC: How did you first come up with your idea?
Sheehan: I studied the history of food and it led me to understand we need to evolve food production to include local and natural production. Over the past 150-200 years, we began utilizing industrial strategies to cultivate larger areas of land using the integration of machines, chemicals, and computers to better grow food. Although our precision and control of food production have become more efficient, these methods do not support natural ecosystems. However, an alternative strategy for food production is being studied and has shown promising results. The strategy of growing food by mimicking the natural patterns of ecosystems proves to be an effective way of growing food—specifically fruits, nuts, berries and vegetables. Through research, it made sense that this style of food production was most effective on a small-scale, so we began to test and research models for creating home gardens and landscapes using this method of mimicking ecosystems. That is how we created the idea of servicing homeowners and community centers with edible gardens and landscapes.
DC: What are some major milestones you’ve achieved so far?
Sheehan: We have created three models for home food production: a forest garden model, a vegetable garden model and a fruit orchard model. From these gardens, we have sold over $3000 worth of food to our local community members.
DC: What drives you to keep going?
Sheehan: The feeling of being in a garden is special. When you see an unused space transform into a food-producing ecosystem that feeling is very satisfying. Providing that special feeling to homeowners is what keeps us going.
DC: How do you feel about working in a cohort with fellow student entrepreneurs?
Sheehan: The Terp Startup cohort has been a great experience. Working with like-minded individuals who are passionate about providing something valuable and needed in our community has been a big motivation. The program has provided the tools and resources to innovate and collaborate together, fostering creativity and critical feedback. I am very grateful for the opportunity to work in the cohort.
DC: What are you hoping to achieve during Terp Startup this summer?
Sheehan: I have three goals I have set out to complete:
- We’re producing a digital and 3D printed model to showcase our garden models to new customers. This will provide us with a next level experience for prospective customers.
- We’re creating a growth plan for expansion of the business. This growth model will allow us to create a lean business and understand which areas of our service will provide the most value for customers and support the growth of our services.
- By the end of this summer I hope to have 8 prospective clients for receiving installation of a home garden or landscape.