June 27, 2019

By: Scott Sadler, Founder and President, Boardwalk Capital Management


Today’s companies echo the refrain that “sustainable business is good business” (or something like that.)  But eight or nine years ago, that wasn’t necessarily the case.  

Most businesses at that time had yet to openly embrace sustainability, and the investing public surely didn’t uniformly believe that such activities were a good use of corporate funds.  Even today, investors still don’t all buy into the story.  But, as they say, “that’s what makes a market.”  (You’ll never get everyone to agree on anything.)   

As an indicator of how far sustainability was from the mainstream in 2010, only 20% of the S&P500 reported on sustainability factors.  It was still a confusing topic for many, and the term was still rather ill-defined in the public eye. 

As the owner of a new company focused on sustainable investing, I knew we had a challenge.  We wanted to tell the story that sustainability is about running a better company, and that including these factors in an investment process was logical and (importantly) didn’t undermine financial returns.  But as a startup, our credibility was a little on the light side.  

So, we teamed up with the Green Chamber of the South, where I was a board member, to create a new kind of sustainability conference.  We enlisted the help of Atlanta’s (and the region’s) companies and created a conference where the investing and business public could hear this truth about corporate sustainability directly from the decision makers.  Where my company lacked credibility, the region’s corporate giants had it in spades.   

Of course, we weren’t sure what we’d hear from those companies.  Would they even want to participate? And would they tell the same story that we were telling?  It turns out that we need not have worried.

We called that conference “Sustainability Interactive” (SI) and joked that it was like speed dating with a room full of CSOs (Chief Sustainability Officers.)  Indeed, attendees moved from table to table to hear sustainability officers tell their stories.  Incorporating a cocktail reception in the mix helped drive free flowing conversations and networking.

 In retrospect, the conference was well timed.  To quote one attendee from the solar industry, it signaled “a sea change” in business attitudes in the Southeast.  Companies told a story about Return-on-Investment (ROI). Yes, their sustainability programs were an investment – with a payback period and an expected return.  This wasn’t about hugging trees. It was about reducing costs, building more resiliency and reducing risks. (And thank goodness that’s what we heard…) 

On November 4, Sustainability Interactive will be back again, in its seventh edition.  And the conversation around the event is completely different. Sustainability is a “given” among companies large and small.  And while few companies published a sustainability report in 2010, 86% of the S&P500 does so today. Customers, shareholders and employees alike are engaged and are choosing to vote with their time and their dollars for companies whose principles and actions sync with their own.

From my perspective, companies have evolved greatly over this period, but perhaps not as much as their messaging has.  With a more receptive audience among customers and investors, what was once rather hidden moved to the front. Yes, they are doing more.  But they’re also saying more. 

So, SI-7 will be about companies doing more, and yes, telling us about it.  The conference will focus on business playing a role in addressing what ails our world.  We’ll be using the UN Sustainable Development Goals as a template and learning how companies in the Southeast are addressing these needs.  We’re looking forward to another lively evening. Visit www.greencs.org for more info.


Atlanta-based Boardwalk Capital Management is an independent Registered Investment Advisor specializing in Sustainable and Responsible Investing. Their principals have decades of combined financial experience, providing counsel to individuals and institutions all over the country. They offer both proprietary investment solutions, and premier third-party managed strategies, in order to meet the unique needs of each client. Certain principles transcend investment styles.  Boardwalk Capital Management firmly believes in the value of asset diversification, tax efficient management and full transparency. Learn more at https://www.boardwalkcm.com/. 

The Green Chamber of the South aims to bring together businesses and organizations across the Southeast to promote the growth, innovation and success of sustainability. Discover more at https://greencs.org/. 

The Georgia Social Impact Collaborative (GSIC) provides resources to connect, educate and inspire stakeholders for the purpose of accelerating the development of Georgia’s impact investing ecosystem. Recently, GSIC announced the launch of the Georgia Social Impact Map (the “Map”), an interactive platform designed to connect and educate stakeholders interested in accelerating impact investing for social outcomes. Intended as a resource for communities around the state, the Map connects new forms of capital to sustaining and scaling solutions to social challenges. GSIC also provides workshops and programming for training specific groups of stakeholders on ways to leverage impact investing to achieve their impact goals.

Profile Summary:

  • Entrepreneur Name: Erin Croom
  • Venture Name: Small Bites Adventure Club
  • Impact Focus Area(s): Health & Wellness, Food
  • Business Stage (Ideation, Startup, Early, Later, Mature): Startup
  • Year Venture Established: 2018
  • Business Type: For-Profit Social Enterprise
  • Headquarters: Atlanta, Georgia

The Issue

Social entrepreneurship is about solving problems. Tell us about the challenge you are focused on addressing and why it is critical that we make progress.

“Nine out of ten U.S. children aren’t eating the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables. Many children go days without eating a single vegetable. This is critical because we know that young children with poor eating habits are on the road to continued poor nutrition into adulthood, making them susceptible to health-related diseases (e.g. obesity, heart disease, hypertension, cancer).

Teaching children about healthy eating should be fun, effective and easy for educators– and that is what Small Bites Adventure Club is focused on doing.

The mission of Small Bites Adventure Club is to help children discover, love and eat their vegetables. Our product, Taste Test Box, is a subscription farm-to-table cooking kit delivered directly to school classrooms and after school programs. The Taste Test Boxes include all of the fresh, pre-measured fresh ingredients and step-by-step picture instructions for students to create and try a healthy, delicious recipe. The ingredients are sourced from local, sustainable farmers.

We ship kits to after school clubs, preschool programs, summer camps and K-12th grade schools. We’ve reached over 8,000 students in the last year in Georgia – that’s over 30,000 bites of fruits and veggies!”

Your Journey

Entrepreneurship is a journey that requires connections and support from a wide array of stakeholders across the ecosystem to help successfully identify, start, and grow a social enterprise.

“I draw a lot of support from three key communities: the farm to school community, the public health community and the social impact community.

Over the last 15 years, I’ve been obsessed with the field of farm to school – getting kids to develop a healthy relationship with good food and the farmers that grow it. I wrote my graduate thesis on it, and spent a decade working with Georgia Organics to establish the state’s farm to school programming. Through this work, I have gotten to know the local food, nutrition and agricultural players in business, school districts,  academic institutions, government agencies, schools and nonprofits. It’s a very tight-knit and supportive community, and I know someone in every state doing great work.

In 2017, I worked out my idea to develop the Taste Test Box kit through a fellowship with Center for Civic Innovation. I wanted to figure out how to leverage technology and the meal kit industry to make it easier for teachers to lead hands-on cooking and nutrition education with their students — and support local farmers.  

Last year, I gave a pitch on the Taste Test Box concept and received our first order that very night. PeachDish was immediately signed on as our fulfillment partner, and we were off to the races!  

Since then, I’ve sent kits to almost everyone that I have ever worked with (teachers, farmers, school nutrition and public health and nonprofit leaders) to get their feedback, and we have made several good adjustments.

Also, I am always looking to the brilliant folks at CDC, academic institutions, and other public health agencies who are figuring out how to move the needle on child nutrition and physical health. It’s very important to me that our product be an effective tool to ultimately increase student preference and consumption of fruits and veggies.

Earlier this year, I participated in the James Beard Association Owning It workshop and pitch. It was incredibly rewarding to spend time with other women food business owners.”

Why Georgia’s Social Impact Ecosystem Matters

Being an entrepreneur is hard and it’s even more challenging when you are a social entrepreneur as your business model and / or structure doesn’t follow the same path as traditional start-ups.

“A lot of people are surprised that we are a for-profit company, since we have what seems to be a non-profit mission: helping children discover, love and eat their fruits and vegetables. I believe that there is and should be space for companies to address critical public health issues, and the social impact community makes this possible.

There are many companies out there that are marketing stuff to supposedly make us healthy or lose weight. The wellness industry is a $4.2 trillion industry – and most of it has nothing to do with actual health. (Gwyneth Paltrow will sell you a $66 egg, if you don’t believe me).  

When I saw that, I wanted to create a company that addressed a real public health problem while selling a product that focused on a real solution. On top of that, this work allows us to support and promote some amazing local farmers.”

Interested in learning more about Small Bites Adventure Club, please visit:

  • Instagram: @smallbitesclub
  • Facebook: @smallbitesclub
  • Website: www.smallbites.club (check back in the fall for website launch)
  • LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/erin-croom-0a50736/