Donald Pendagast ‘20 MBA has always had an entrepreneurial itch — even in his previous career in higher education advancement, he was constantly thinking of ways to shake things up and pursued innovative ideas to help businesses on the side.
Now an analyst with Seattle-based consulting firm Slalom, Pendagast says he’s long had an interest in building community around small businesses, and in the past decade explored different ways to embrace the “buy local” movement and connect small businesses to each other to help them compete with big box chains. In 2012, he started developing an idea to create a mobile-app-based loyalty program that could be used among several small businesses.
While in the UConn MBA program, Pendagast started frequenting farmer’s markets and buying into community-supported agriculture, or CSA, programs at local farms. He noticed that farms would sell goods made by other local small businesses, creating connections like the ones he’d hoped to make through his app idea. He also noticed that while farmers and makers were great at producing their goods, they sometimes needed help finding customers.
An idea initially called “Farm Box” was born, which has since evolved into Curated CT, the pilot startup Pendagast launched in October 2020 with the help of peers in the MBA program, support from the Connecticut Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (CCEI), and $1,000 in seed money from CCEI’s Get Seeded pitch competition.
Curated CT offers a monthly box of locally sourced chocolate, coffee, cheese, bread, and beer — and often bonus goods — delivered at pick-up events that foster the sense of community Pendagast loves about farmer’s markets.
Pendagast recently spoke with Julie Bartucca of the UConn 360 podcast about how UConn helped him get his idea off the ground: