Business

Alto and Gardenuity: Growing Together during COVID-19

How two local startups have collaborated to help meet consumer needs and drum up new business.

With minimal reasons to use transit services, Dallas’ local ride-sharing company, Alto, has had to shift from delivering passengers safely to delivering product swiftly.

“We saw a precipitous decline in ride volume,” says CEO Will Coleman. “We had two options: to stop operating, which doesn’t seem like a reasonable thing to do in the light of having customers that need our service, or to find a new way to meet a different kind of demand.”

An Alto vehicle loaded with Gardenuity garden kits for local delivery.

When the ride-sharing business dropped nearly 90 percent, Alto quickly moved to partner with local restaurants, small shops, and pharmacies, to provide same-day or next-day delivery to consumers.

“We are really fortunate to have invested so much in the technology platform that enabled our original business of ride-share, and we know that that business will come back again,” says Coleman. “We’ve always been interested in using that core platform, that core technology, and all of our assets to be able to extend into additional opportunities like delivery.”

Alto uses its original ride-sharing app to offer delivery as well as promotional codes on partnering companies’ webpages.

Logistically, Coleman has faced arguably fewer issues while shifting his business model than many local company owners: none of Alto’s roughly 130 employees have been laid off or taken a pay cut, and the startup already had the licenses necessary to deliver.

Additionally, while Alto is losing money at the moment, the growth of its delivery business has been more rapid than it was when the company initially launched as a ride-share provider a little over a year ago.

Gardenuity and Alto have partnered to deliver garden kits to DFW.

“We think that the need for what we are doing will only continue to increase and that we will be able to build back an even stronger business than we had when we entered all of this,” says Coleman.

Partnerships and valuable differentiating brand standards have been crucial to Alto’s growth thus far. For Coleman, safety and cleanliness have always set Alto apart, both as a ride-sharing service and a delivery provider.

“I think the way that people start to look at what it takes to really deliver on safety is something that we believe that we’re well-positioned to do,” says Coleman.

Coleman’s confidence and Alto’s high-quality ride-share service may be part of what ultimately led Donna Letier, CEO of local garden-purveyor Gardenuity, to partner with Coleman now.

“Quite frankly, I’ve been a fan of Alto for a long time,” says Letier. “I was driving to work this past Monday, and I thought ‘gardens delivered.’ We need to figure out [how to keep] those drivers driving.”

Together, she and Coleman began delivering garden kits to local homes.

An Alto driver delivers Gardenuity products.

A nimble shift, the move to delivery has arguably allowed Coleman to build off of the success of local companies like Gardenuity. Letier is one of the lucky small business owners in the area yet to see business decline. To the contrary, Gardenuity’s e-commerce traffic has increased by at least 30 percent.

“We’re very fortunate that people recognize that growing things is good, especially if you’re lonely or have high anxiety,” says Letier. Though her team is small (around eight employees, not including farm partners), she hasn’t had to make any pay cuts or layoffs either.

Alto may continue to offer delivery after the close of the COVID-19 pandemic, but for now, both companies revel in an opportunity to collaborate to meet community needs.

“It’s really great to bring our business together,” says Letier. “That’s good for the DFW marketplace consumer.”

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