Join 1363 founders getting motivational stories of how other founders started and grew their online businesses

Misfits Market: An Economical Way to Reduce Food Waste


"Respect for food is a respect for life, for who we are and what we do"- Thomas Keller, American chef.

A massive quantity of food waste happens in our homes every day. The amount that occurs on farms is even more shocking. The USDA estimates that about 33% of farm produce (worth $161.6 billion) is wasted. Primarily due to logistical and cosmetic reasons.

In other words, good-to-eat fruits and vegetables are rejected on farms due to their shape, color, or size. Hence, "Ugly produce" gets tossed because it's too unattractive.

Fortunately, in June 2018, the Philadelphia-based startup, Misfits Market, was founded with the mission to make fresh, high-quality food more affordable and accessible to everyone while breaking the cycle of food waste.

Misfits Market is an online groceries delivery business that started out as a subscription-based service for selling ugly, imperfect produce for cheap. The company is just one of several businesses started by 30-year-old Atlanta native Abhi Ramesh.

Let's look at Abhi's exemplary entrepreneurial journey that led him to create a billion-dollar business before he turned 30.

Meet the Founder of Misfits Market

Abhi Ramesh was born in India and moved to the United States with his family. His parents, then in their late 20s, had moved to America for a better life and more opportunities. They settled in suburban Atlanta.

After graduating high school in Marietta— one of Atlanta's largest suburbs— Abhi pursued further studies at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He obtained a B.S. in Economics, a B.A. in International Studies, and the Huntsman Program in International Studies and Business. He also attended the HEC Paris Grande Ecole Program, Exchange, Finance, and General.

Growing up, Abhi spent considerable time in his bedroom dreaming of ways to get rich. On the path to realizing his dream, he spotted his first business opportunity upon discovering Amazon Marketplace. His idea was to sell used high school reading material (books and textbooks) to students looking for a bargain. This was the beginning of his entrepreneurial journey.

A Successful Entrepreneur’s Journey

Abhi bought textbooks from his classmates for $20 to $30 and sold them on Amazon for $80 to $90. From this, he learned how to be scrappy and get something off the ground. But that wasn't the only business he attempted in high school.

His parents encouraged him to study in top colleges. So, Abhi prepared hard and nailed his SAT exams. In the process, he saw the potential for an income stream. So, he and his friends started a SAT tutoring service.

To Abhi, his ventures were his hobbies and a way to earn cash. With each experience, he gained freedom of entrepreneurialism.

In 2012, two years into Wharton, he dropped out for a year. He got heat from his parents and the college administration for doing so.

Abhi relocated to San Francisco and lived in L.A. for a bit. During this time, he worked on multiple startups and raised $25,000 from an incubator to build anything he wanted.

Next, he launched three businesses in quick succession. These included the men's shopping platform TrendBent, a social media eCommerce application called StorTok, and a health care business. But, since all three didn't do well, Abhi realized that getting a company off the ground was more complex than he thought.

Taking Stock of Failures

By now, Abhi felt it was time for real-world experience. So, he finished his degree at Wharton and worked in an asset management company called Apollo in their "opportunistic investing" department.

Abhi lasted ten and a half months at Apollo, where he befriended a colleague who eventually ended up at a prominent V.C. firm. That friend (Edward Lando) later played a significant role in Misfits Market's triumph.

Then, Abhi did some self-realization and decided he needed to take another shot at entrepreneurialism.

In 2014, he moved back to San Francisco and started another company with two other co-founders. It was a month-intensive coding boot camp called Horizons. Their company survived for over two years, graduating around 700 students.

All those experiences were learning experiences. However, Abhi had his most significant light-bulb moment when he and some friends went apple picking one day on a rural Pennsylvania farm.

Misfits Market - An Idea That Emerged from Apple Picking

While picking apples, Abhi noticed a bunch of them had fallen from a tree and were malformed or had some spots on them. The farmer stored the fallen apples in a cooler and later tried selling them to farmers' markets. These were number two and three apples; unfit to be sold to stores. Thousands of such unsold apples were eventually either composted, tossed, or fed to the pigs.

Abhi felt it was a pity that all this waste happens on such a small farm. He imagined the situation on a much larger scale on larger farms across the nation.

At this point, he conceived his idea. So he moved to Philadelphia permanently, where he'd spent a better part of his life, and found a USDA list of 50 organic farms in the region. He then called each to talk to as many farmers as possible.

He spent the next few months building connections with a handful of farmers. The goal was to get them to sell their number two or three produce dirt cheap.

Meanwhile, he built a pre-order page on Shopify to see if there was a demand for ugly organic produce.

His past entrepreneurial experiences gave him a good sense of what would resonate as a value proposition. Thus, his idea was to buy something that wasn't valued on the supply side and sell it at a lower price point to consumers. Hence, transferring the value to them.

Building An Online Grocery Juggernaut

According to the farmers Abhi interviewed, around 20% to 40% of their produce (veggies and fruits) wasn't fit to enter grocery stores or farmers' markets. Hearing this, Abhi sensed a significant opportunity and great demand!

He built relationships with a dozen farmers for a potential supply source. That's how Misfits Market was born.

The beginning was a modest one.

Abhi spent $150 on a logo and $1,000 on ads to get things started. Soon after, he used around $100,000 to $150,000 across his credit card limits for paid advertising. His close friend, Edward Lando, an angel investor, supplied a critical cash inflow to help him pay his credit card debt and buy inventory.

Abhi kept overheads low by renting everything needed. He rented a 700-square-foot storage facility, fridge, and delivery trucks. Furthermore, he found his initial few workers through Craigslist to box the orders.

One month after casually picking apples with friends, Abhi sold his first box. After that, his company went from delivering 15 boxes daily to about 200 boxes by the end of 2018.

The Imperfect Produce Delivery Business Model

Misfits Market started out delivering "ugly" veggies and fruits directly to its consumers, with pricing between 20% to 50% cheaper than retail grocery store prices. They've grown to include bakery, meat, seafood, deli, dairy, and pantry items.

To date, the company has distributed almost 13 million orders and rescued more than 230 million pounds of food. This is food that would've otherwise gone to waste.

The company has been experiencing record-breaking growth in all lower 48 states across categories — including household items, beauty, and health products.

Misfits Market offers low pricing owing to the cost savings it experiences due to no middlemen in the supply chain. The Misfits Market journey is relatively straightforward. Items from farms and food producers are stored in the company's distribution centers, and from there, they're delivered directly to consumers.

Because no middlemen are involved, inflation impacts the company less. Ultimately, the benefits from the substantial cost savings are passed on to the consumers.

Funding Rounds

In June 2019, Green Oaks Capital invested $2 million in the first round of funding. Overall, $16.5 was raised in this initial round. Following the round, Abhi invested in the physical operations, customer service, fulfillment center, marketing, and every other aspect of the business.

Misfits Market's customer base doubled every week. In under a year, the company moved into a 10,000-square-foot warehouse.

Their goal was to multiply and serve as many zip codes (and people) as possible.

In July 2020, the company raised $85 million through a Series B round led by Valor Equity Partners. By March 2021, Misfits Market was five times larger, with a $1.1 billion valuation, partly thanks to the pandemic-induced demand.

A month later, in April 2021, Misfits Market received its $200 million Series C funding led by Accel and D1 Capital Partners. In September of the same year, a further $225 million was raised through a Series C round led by SoftBank's Vision Fund.

The company has raised more than $525 million in funding to date, with a valuation of $2 billion.

The Road Ahead for Misfits Market

The future looks promising for Misfits Market. The company plans to use its new capital for nationwide expansion. Also in the pipeline is increasing the variety of items to become a complete online grocery.

In April 2022, Misfits launched Odds & Ends, the company's first-ever private label. The label includes pantry staples such as coffee and snacks like nuts, dried fruit, and dark chocolate-covered mini pretzels. Likewise, there are plans to launch wine and other products.

With Misfits Market, you'll always have certain advantages. The biggest of which include getting quality at a value and convenient access.

If you’re into ending waste and inefficiency, Misfits Market is your go-to online grocer!