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Meet Turner Wyatt

Today we’d like to introduce you to Turner Wyatt.

Turner, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I am a social entrepreneur from Denver, who mainly works in food sustainability and equity space. I got my start in this work in Boulder where I interned for Boulder Food Rescue while getting my degree in Environmental Studies, Leadership Studies, and Energy Studies from CU Boulder (earlier this year I was grateful to receive the 2019 Outstanding Alumni Award in Sustainability). Boulder Food Rescue is a nonprofit that is focused on creating a more just and sustainable food system by rescuing food that would otherwise go to waste and delivering it to low-income communities. Being from Denver myself, one of my responsibilities as an intern was to help the small group of people in Denver who was getting started on Denver Food Rescue (DFR) in 2012. At first, DFR was just a group of friends, all volunteering their time because they cared about food waste and the health of their neighbors. We didn’t have much, but we had each other. This notion of building “organizations of people” rather than “organizations of things” remains an important principle to me.

After volunteering for DFR for several years (sometimes putting in 40+ hours per week), the community “hired” me as the Executive Director, and we began fundraising to expand our operations. DFR grew significantly over the seven years I worked there. Ultimately, DFR was bound to be an award-winning, community-led organization with a budget of more than $5 million, rescuing millions of dollars’ worth of food each year, and providing it in a dignified way to hundreds of thousands of people.

Through my work at DFR, I was been lucky enough to be involved in the founding and success of several other food businesses and organizations. Bondadosa (www.bondadosa.org) is an award-winning social enterprise that focuses on using technology to increase access to food for the Latino Community. Bondadosa provides affordable grocery delivery of Latino products and uniquely accepts food stamps. Twice Rounds (www.twicerounds.com) is a company focused on decreasing bread waste and providing employment opportunities for youth. We do this by making delicious bagel chips from day-old bagels and hiring youth with barriers to employment. Fresh Food Connect (www.freshfoodconnect.org) is an award-winning technology platform that helps home gardeners solve the ‘zucchini problem,’ by making it super easy to donate their excess produce. I am also proud to have teamed up with Izzio Bakery and The Post Brewing to make Penny Loafer Pale Ale (www.postbrewing.com/beer/penny-loafer/) a beer that is brewed with day-old bread and that provides donations to DFR and Metro Caring with every pint sold.

I have also been lucky enough to work on some policy endeavors. I served on the Denver Sustainable Food Policy for about five years, and also helped pass the Healthy Food for Denver Kids Ordinance in 2018, which will raise $100 million for food for kids in Denver over the next decade.

Has it been a smooth road?
One of the biggest challenges I have faced in my work so far has been the balancing of being “productive” and “community driven.” I believe with a passion that social and environmental problems are best solved by people with lived experience (that’s called being community-driven). But I’m also an eager entrepreneur with lots of ideas on how to help solve problems (productive). My daily task is to not only be creative, but to be humble, listening first to those who have experienced the problem at hand, and co-designing a solution that is deferential to their needs.

Please tell us more about what you do, what you are currently focused on and most proud of.
Now that I am no longer with DFR, I am basically a consultant who helps come up with ideas, fundraise, and find the right people to make them a reality. A couple of examples: I am working with food brands around the country to create the first trade association for “food upcyclers,” businesses who use food that would otherwise have been wasted as an input. The goal is to reduce food waste by turning it into products people will pay for. I am also working in the social impact investing space to create a technology platform that allows coworking spaces and their community members to collectively invest in causes they care about. We want to revolutionize the way coworking businesses and their tenants invest.

A random side project I am working on with my brother, Cam, is called Dirtbag Vans (@dirtbagvans). In the venture, we import 4×4 vans from Japan and sell them in Colorado to people who want to get out and experience the outdoors. We donate money to Conservation Colorado for each van we sell. Not a social enterprise, I know, but it helps support my outdoor lifestyle. I currently live in one of our vans, traveling around the mountains of Colorado. I spend much of my time running, skiing, climbing and riding my bike. It’s all training, as I am preparing to attempt the world record in “most vertical feet skied in 24 hours at an indoor ski area.” Yep!

How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
I am excited about the future of social entrepreneurship. I think as technology continues to advance, social entrepreneurs are going to have even more tools to effectively solve the issues we are dealing with. The challenge will not be creating the solutions themselves, but the degree to which we are able to work together to implement them. I love the Adrian Marie Brown quote, “the world doesn’t need more organizations, it needs more connections.”

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2 Comments

  1. Steven M Wagner

    July 9, 2019 at 10:28 pm

    Great stuff Wyatt, proud to say I know you. Keep up the good works. God Bless.

  2. Susan Briss

    July 10, 2019 at 2:46 am

    Turner, I am very proud of your accomplishments and your clean living lifestyle.

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