Business spotlight: Galora encourages neighbors to share and sell fruits, veggies and more

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This article was originally published in Hometown News of Westchester.

When Ryan Xavier lost his job due to COVID in March, he decided to launch a new website that would not only solve the problem of having too much fruit in his yard with no easy way to share it, but would also help reduce backyard food waste across Los Angeles and beyond. Since launching the summer of last year, now has more than 9,000 users across the U.S. who are sharing and selling their backyard fruit, veggies and more, while making meaningful connections with their neighbors.

Q. Please tell us a little bit about yourself.

A. I grew up in Westchester and went to Visitation and later LMU. For many years, my mother Jenny Cabrejas was the Spanish teacher at Westchester Lutheran.

I have always loved traveling and after I met my wife we found ways to work while traveling, and we spent long periods of time in Costa Rica, Japan, Italy, France, Greece and Spain. While living in France, we started Cobblestone Paris Rentals, a business that offered furnished rentals to tourists visiting Paris.

Traveling for most of my life, I have always been keenly aware of cultural differences and how an imbalance in certain elements of life can lead to people feeling less fulfilled. Here in the U.S., and specifically in L.A., we clearly have a lot of material wealth and job opportunity, but that leaves little time for the social connections and development of hobbies that are given priority in many other countries. I think COVID kind of woke everyone up a little to the importance of allowing plenty of room in our lives for doing the things that make us happy and having quality time with others. I have tried to emulate the people I met while abroad, investing a lot of time into developing my hobbies like guitar, languages, cooking, friendships, and overall, just maintaining a good balance between work and life, and never assuming they were the same thing.

Then COVID happened, and for obvious reasons, my travel business was hit hard. But the silver lining is that being in L.A. for all of 2019 and 2020 has given me the opportunity to build Galora, which I see as a way to help people heal from this difficult year, and an opportunity to bring some of the lessons from my travels to my hometown.

Q. What do you like about running your business and being an entrepreneur?

A. Anyone that is being honest will tell you that running a business is very hard, especially if it’s one that has never been done before. But the challenge becomes worthwhile when you see that it is helping people and inspiring them to be their best selves. Watching the public adopt your idea and then do unique things with it is truly inspiring.

Q. Has COVID impacted your business? What changes have you made?

A. Crop swapping and bake exchanges have long been popular, but COVID made traditional in-person gatherings impossible. The rise of the Galora app has reinvented the way that sharing can happen, and more importantly, has opened sharing to many more people. Previously, if a neighbor left a box of fruit on their lawn, it could only be seen by a few people, but Galora has made it possible for anyone with a Galora account to see the offer, and to contact the grower to plan a COVID-safe pickup. This is more equitable, more efficient, and more likely to connect people that may never have met before.

Difficult times always change a culture, and COVID will leave a mark on ours as well. People that used to work in offices may never go back, the hobbies and activities we love have become more important, and after a year of near total isolation, the importance of human contact will not be taken for granted again. I think all of those things mean that Galora is arriving at the perfect time to help us come out of this stronger and more united than ever.

Q. What else would you like the community to know about your business?

A. The future of Galora is really exciting because we think that eventually people will be able to get many of the things they want directly from neighbors, and this can have a big impact on health, the economy and even the planet. Just imagine that if you traded your lemons for someone’s sourdough, nothing would have been sprayed, shipped or packaged. You would be eating truly local and truly organic, meeting the person that made it, saving money and healing the planet, all at the same time. 

It’s important to remember that Galora is for everyone, whether you have fruit trees or not. If you are into baking, craft making, cooking, or canning, all that and more can be traded or bought on the site. You do not need to be a professional, all you need is a passion for sharing the things you love to do. If you aren’t making or growing anything these days, then you can still buy very inexpensively from neighbors. Galora is truly a welcoming place for everyone.

Q. What are some of your favorite local businesses?

A. In Westchester, I love Thai Talay on Lincoln. In Playa, the chicken tandoori at Tandoor-A-India on Pershing is my favorite, and down near the water, I’m a big fan of the Vietnamese pho counter ASAP Phorage, in the back of the little market on Culver Blvd.