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Subaru & Greensgrow: How the Partnership Came Together
07Subaru_LG_8.BW_Hor_R1The relationship began with a chance meeting as improbable as that in any romantic movie. Greensgrow was barely a three-year-old start-up in 2001. Mary Seton Corboy, co-founder, was wondering how to make payroll and sustain her dream of bringing food and jobs to this vacant brown zone lot.

Walking down Market Street, she had a chance meeting with someone she knew who worked in the marketing department of Subaru of America, Inc. and mentioned to him that she had applied to the company’s foundation for a grant without success. At that point in time, Subaru’s marketing department had success pairing up with organizations that promoted activities that Subaru’s customers engaged in. A car company supporting a ski team was a typical sponsorship — a highly regarded sport performed on a terrain where Subaru cars also performed well made an obvious connection.

It took that chance meeting plus some vision at Subaru to connect the dots between farming in an urban environment and their product, but two weeks after that chance meeting, Corboy received a call that Subaru was on board with Greensgrow, “We were saved by the bell. To have corporate sponsorship gave us credibility that we didn’t have before. It was like the captain of the football team had invited me to the prom.”

Two unconventional companies
Corboy traveled around the country for Subaru talking to gardening groups, doing demonstrations and supporting urban farming efforts. “It’s a mutual relationship. We’ve tried new things such as offering Subaru owners a deal on our Farm Share subscriptions. It’s great because it brings new people to us.”

Abana Jacobs, Subaru National Promotion Sponsorship Specialist, has overseen the Greensgrow partnership since 2005. She notes one successful element was the attention that the Subaru Forrester was getting. The vehicle’s natural affinity to gardening helped the partnership flourish.

Jacobs only wishes there were more Mary Seton Corboys. My hope is we can find more people to do these startups.” Jacobs also notes that the script for this happy and productive relationship revolves around the Subaru customers. Gardening, food, the environment, and entrepreneurship are all part of their interests. “We didn’t jump on the bandwagon because it is trendy. It’s on our radar because [these interests] are a part of the DNA of our customers.”

The wildly successful Subaru Fall Festival at Greensgrow Farms, is an example. Jacobs admits she can get a little emotional talking about it. “Ten years ago it was 50 people in a greenhouse eating samples out of plastic cups, so it puts a smile on my face to see how it has grown. Last year 3,000 attended, with some people coming from New York. It’s become an iconic event in large measure because our customer’s social media.”

–Adapted from a previous article by Lari Robling from Generocity.org, 2012

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