#BusinessSpotlight on OddBox, tackling food waste one delicious misshapen at a time!
Food waste is a massive global issue. In UK alone, 20-40% of produce is wasted before it even leaves the farms – not ideal for the planet, or the farmers. In comes Oddbox! We met Emilie and Deepak at several TableCrowd dinners over the past few months – and we simply had to talk to them about their business…
Explain your business in one sentence!
Oddbox is London’s first wonky fruit and veg box delivery subscription service tackling food waste by rescuing delicious misshapen and surplus produce directly from farms and delivering them to customers for 30% cheaper than similar box services.
What were you doing before you launched your business?
My background is in corporate finance and for the past 5 years before launching Oddbox, I worked for a charity working in developing countries to empower adolescent girls to reach their potential.
I started my career in the private sector and learned a lot but wanted to do something more meaningful which would have a positive impact on people and the planet.
Working in international development gave me this opportunity to contribute to a greater good but I missed some of the commercial aspects of the private sector.
With Oddbox, we are able to combine the social impact of tackling the huge issue of food waste (with its associated impact on climate) with the commercial aspect of being able to offer a financial return to the growers for perfectly good produce. For us, it is a perfect solution which makes sense both from a commercial as well as from an environmental point of view.
If you have business partners, where did you meet them?
Deepak and I met in India when I moved there for work. We were colleagues at the time and so worked together a while ago.
A lot of people ask us whether it is challenging to work with your partner. Our experience has been great and obviously, we needed some adjustment at the start to split responsibilities however the fact that we know each other so well is very helpful. We can 100% rely on each other and can have constructive arguments. We end up talking about Oddbox all the time but that’s also because we love what we do!
What’s your biggest ‘hindsight’ moment?
I was worried about the fact that I didn’t know anything about the fresh produce sector when we started Oddbox and that we didn’t have any relationships with growers and indeed it took us a long time to build these relationships.
However, not knowing how things were being done was also massively helpful as we didn’t have any preconceived ideas about anything and we just applied a lot of common sense and tried different things.
You will never have all the skills you need and that’s why it is so important to get great people at the start and we were lucky to recruit our Operations Manager Gavin very early on, who he had fresh produce experience.
What will the next year bring?
We have an ambitious plan for 2019 to expand to the rest of London and triple our customer base. We then want to expand to tier 2 cities and evaluate the opportunity to replicate Oddbox in mainland Europe.
We also believe there is huge potential to use technology to bring more visibility to the amount of wonky and surplus produce available and therefore are looking to find channels for this to be used.
Give us one piece of advice for someone starting a business in your sector.
Talk about your business to as many people as possible and ask for help. We have been very lucky to get help from people with 20 years experience in the sector and this helped accelerate our growth. Nobody is going to steal your idea. Having an idea is so easy but executing is hard work and you can shortcut hard times by getting advice and support from others around you.
The start-up community is very supportive and you will find a lot of people willing to help you and share their experience so don’t hesitate to ask for help.
Convince someone to use your product in under 50 words.
In the UK ~30% of fresh, quality produce is rejected by supermarkets and wasted yearly. Consumers are looking for affordable ways to make healthier, more sustainable choices. Oddbox provides a solution by paying the growers a fair price, providing great value to consumers and donating 10% of produce to charities.
What’s your favourite business in your sector (not including your own)?
There are so many great businesses fighting food waste and if I had to choose one, it would be Winnow Solutions, which uses technology to help professional kitchens track the amount of waste they create and this visibility helps them identify ways to reduce their waste. It is a very simple solution similar to the idea of recording your food when you want to lose weight with the premise that what you track you can action.
Tell us about your TableCrowd experiences!
Like many people, I don’t particularly enjoy networking and find it difficult and stressful to network with new people. TableCrowd makes the whole experience of networking a lot easier and much more enjoyable.
At every dinner, I have met really interesting people and as there is a theme for each evening, the networking opportunities are a lot more relevant.
What’s your favourite London restaurant?
That’s a very difficult question. I love Indian food and live close to Tooting: there “Dosa n Chutny” is one of my favourites. I also love Le Garrick in Covent Garden for French food. I am a huge pad thai fan and love Rosa’s thai.
Are you in the Food & Drink industry? Why not join us for dinner:
Dine with co-founder of New Covent Garden Soup Co & Little Dish >> building, growing & exiting a FMCG business
Want to see what else we’ve got on the menu?