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published on April 1, 2016 - 9:53 PM
Written by The Business Journal Staff

Myplato, a new food tech startup in Fresno is looking to bridge the gap between local growers and health conscious consumers by marketing unique crops in a more exciting way.


    The concept for Myplato was inspired by founder Jensen Vang’s own experience growing up on a farm in the Central Valley.
    “I know from experience that producers face a lot of challenges in getting their product into the market,” he said. “There’s a tremendous lack of knowledge around food from different cultures, particularly here in the diverse Central Valley.”
    Myplato uses a social media platform to connect producers and their crops with market owners, chefs and consumers. The site is currently undergoing beta testing with a pool of 71 users from around the world, but Vang said he hopes to highlight the work of local Hmong farmers since many of their crops are not readily familiar to local consumers.
    “Lots of Hmong and Southeast Asian growers have crops that may seem ugly or smelly but are super good for you and have all kinds of applications,” Vang said.
    To help consumers get used to the more exotic crops Myplato has begun reaching out to local chefs and markets and is producing farm-to-fork recipe ideas, all of which can be “pinned” directly onto a crop icon or message board within the site.
    Vang has experience working with local farmers markets through his job as a food systems development manager in the planning and resource development branch of the Fresno Economic Opportunities Commission, and said he has seen a lot of interest from throughout the local food scene.  
    Some of the local users beta testing the site are Chef Naomi Hendrix of RAW Fresno and Gibson Farm Market at Fresno State. The beta phase will continue for a few more months and then Vang said he hopes to incorporate user feedback before launching the site for the general public.
    “This started out as kind of a hobby interest of mine since I grew up on a farm,” he said. “I also come from a food tech background in Silicon Valley so I got the experience and saw the opportunity here.”
    Already Myplato has a team of four and is looking to move into workspace at the Bitwise South Stadium complex later this year.
    “We’re excited. We want to go as big as possible with this and help truly represent the region as the food capital of the world,” Vang said.

Downtown salon celebrates Fresno’s beauty, fashion scene
    A new boutique salon in Downtown Fresno is looking to bring more awareness to the local fashion scene and beauty industry.
    Owner Clinay Wills opened Seasoned Trends last month in a two-story space on Van Ness Avenue near Fresno Street.  The concept grew out of her similarly named lifestyle and fashion blog and builds upon her work in arts and entertainment.
    A native Fresnan, Wills said she decided to move back to the Valley after working for a few years in Los Angeles.
    “I was in a company and I was feeling small,” she said. “Fresno raised me, I went to school here, I grew up here. So when I wanted to open my own business, I decided to come back to my hometown.”
    Business hours for the salon half of Seasoned Trends are currently by appointment-only while the upstairs boutique is open more regularly. The clothing selection includes one-of-a-kind pieces and Wills said she plans to begin stocking local designers from the Fresno-area.
    “I’m looking to promote a local designer every few months,” she said. “This is an all-in-one space where people can come and get their eyebrows done, do their nails, style their hair and shop for an outfit all in one place.”
    While she is still in the process of hiring licensed beauticians, Wills said she has already recruited Alma Cortez, formerly of the Brow Bar in Fresno’s Fashion Fair Mall. Cortez has a large following and Wills said the salon has already seen repeat customers loyal to the Brows by Alma brand.  
    One of the makeup artists from the Benefit brand makeup bars in Fresno is also scheduled to join the staff soon, and Wills said she eventually hopes to open the salon for regular hours between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m.
    Located near Kocky’s Bar & Grill and the Fresno’s Arts Council office, she said the business is a sign of the new culture and business scene springing up in Downtown Fresno.
    “I thought this was going to be a great opportunity because of downtown growing and expanding,” she said. “There’s a real need for a salon here, especially as more housing goes up and people begin to move to the area.”
    Seasoned Trends’ focus on celebrating Fresno fashion is also a good fit since most downtown clients and supporters are interested in celebrating the unique style of the city, she said.
    “I want to scout out that talent and highlight it, because the people and designers, they’re already here,” she said. “I’m just giving them that place to house it and be inspired.”

College students get business start with entrepreneur painting program
    Since expanding to Fresno a few years ago, College Works Painting has nearly doubled in size, debuting an intern entrepreneur class of 20 this spring.
    The program gives local college students hands-on business experience, exposing them to nearly all aspects of management throughout the spring and summer painting season, said Eli Redman, regional consultant for the Fresno area.
    “Painting is a relatively easy trade for students to understand and then focus on the business management side,” he said “Each [intern] has their own painting crew which they’re in charge of hiring and managing.”
    That sort of leadership training was a major draw for Fresno City College student Wenting Liang, who joined the company earlier this year. Her territory includes part of northeast Fresno near the Highway 41 and her crew will handle interior and exterior paint jobs throughout the spring and summer.
    The branch is currently canvassing the area’s neighborhoods and giving out free estimates for homeowners.  
    “We go door to door to learn about direct marketing,” she said. “We also incorporate social media marketing in order to get the word out about what we’re doing.”
    Liang and the other branch managers are also expected to learn managerial skills and will be in charge of hiring and organizing their own painting crews.
    Each branch is encouraged to complete no more than 20 residential painting jobs, most of which are completed within 3-5 days, Redman said.
    “This allows them to really focus on the customer service side of things,” he said.
    For Liang, the internship serves as valuable training on her way to opening her own restaurant. Her family moved to the U.S. in 2004 after closing their own business in China.
    “Lots of internships are merely shadowing someone else around so learning leadership skills and how to manage a crew is really appealing to me,” she said.

Hannah Esqueda  |  Reporter can be reached at:
490-3466 or e-mail hannah@thebusinessjournal.com


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