My favorite quote is: “It's not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.” ― Epictetus My superpower would be: To control my own temperature
Revolutionizing distribution to make organic accessible and affordable
GLOBAL AMBITIONS. Sean Howell has always been motivated by mission-driven work. His varied and successful career - including being the LGBT Foundation's first CEO, a fellow of the World Affairs Council, an activist, restauranteur, and co-founder and president of LGBTQIA+ social network Hornet - has served to help the planet, uplift communities, and create better customer experiences.
"I'm the kind of founder who thinks the best ideas come from an iterative process, including team members, and creating strong feedback loops. But the most important thing for a successful team is that they understand that there's a purpose, that a company is here to disrupt something, and that disruption is a mission."
Sean's latest enterprise, Buffalo Market, is perhaps his boldest operation yet. The company, co-founded by Adam Olejniczak, is a food and beverage distributor focusing on improving the world. They aim to make organic produce affordable and accessible throughout America, resulting in a healthier population and planet.
Using their advanced distribution system and tech-driven network of fleets, Buffalo Market can identify genuine customer demand and deliver products to stores efficiently and with comparitively minimal environmental impact. With the ongoing global supply chain issues impacting grocers worldwide, Buffalo Market's reimagining of the outdated distribution process has been welcomed by retailers.
After launching in March 2020, Buffalo Market now works with every major US grocery chain. Before that, the first iteration of the business was in a different kind of logistics, an e-grocer that grew to serve all of California; delivering fresh organic groceries direct to doorsteps. As Covid hit, the business pivoted to a food delivery service called RydeOn Groceries before evolving into its current operation.
Buffalo Market's focus on working with rapidly growing brands means they are able to provide a national platform for food companies that use sustainable and ethical practices. "What we're doing is pushing great products and food into these major grocers. For example, we work with an organic bread company in Petaluma, and their business has grown 1,000% since we put them on store shelves. Now they have plans to roll out nationally with Walmart." This allows the company to help democratize food, allowing retailers to find products that normally have a hard time finding distributors like Buffalo.
The key to the company's continued growth is developing its high-tech software, Sean's ultimate passion. Before Buffalo Market, he co-founded Hornet, an LGBTQIA+ social network with 40 million users worldwide. An idea born from his ongoing activism for the queer community, Sean was Hornet's Chairman and President for over ten years, focusing on the community and activism aspects of the platform. As well as dating, Hornet educates on topics including discrimination, mental health, and HIV, particularly in markets where gay men are most at risk. The product lessons from building a highly used consumer app helps Sean design Saas software that is equally user friendly.
With Hornet and now Buffalo Market, Sean's businesses have and will continue to have a considerable positive impact on the planet. "If Buffalo Market can help democratize food at the consumer level, I believe the world will be in a very different place – economically, nutritionally, and in terms of the planet's overall health."
VALUING THE INDIVIDUAL. As a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, Sean believes that resilience has been the key to his success. "I've always said queer people often make great founders because they've struggled with rejection and have the kind of life experience that teaches you resilience. Whenever I'm hiring someone, I always ask, 'what is something at your last job that put you outside your comfort zone, where you earned some battle scars?' If you're operating a high-growth company, let me tell you, resiliency is the number one thing you'll need."