Delivering local food to local folk
In August 2013 I made a successful application to join the FuseBox Amp programme run by Wired Sussex down here in Brighton. The programme was aimed at people with start up ideas and offered the chance to spend three months with mentors working on your business idea.
The course was run by the lovely Tom Nixon from NixonMcInnes and the team at Wired Sussex who had managed to draw together a fantastic array of experienced mentors and successful entrepreneurs to give their time for free.
Finding one mentor is difficult, but we had access to more than thirty and we didn’t even have to go hunt them down, they came to us!
At the time, I was lucky enough to be able to give myself the time to fully explore an idea I had been tinkering with on and off for some time. I was excited about the idea as I thought it solved lots of consumer pain points, but I needed to fully explore whether it was actually a business that would work. So I entered FuseBox fully aware that I’d either make it work or forget about it.
When I applied to FuseBox, I had put together a presentation which I’d pitched to a few people. It clearly chimed with people’s values, but I had no idea of the viability.
I envioned a service delivering value all along the chain. I wanted to test my hypothesis that technology could help bridge the gap between consumer and producer, deliver great, affordable and varied local produce to local people at affordable prices &ndash and pay farmers fairly to boot.
Could the traditional supermarket distribution model could be turned on its head? Would smart logistics software facilitate last minute pickup and delivery schedules, negating the need for centralised warehousing and large numbers of staff?
Business Model Canvas
I followed the Business Model Canvas process to help set out an overview of the business. The canvas focuses on key partnerships, the value proposition, customer segmentation and relationships and channels to market. I found it a useful way to think about the business and it provoked searching questions.
My central belief was that changing people’s behaviour is extremely difficult.
Of the sample I questioned, 42% of people had had a veg box delivery and 100% of them had given it up.
For many of us, ordering a veg box leaves us with an extra problem, what to cook with the 12 carrots and green leaf thingy. It’s not how we are used to shopping, we have been trained well to expect to have exactly what we want.
SuperDoopermarket should operate exactly like a conventional online supermarket, where you simply add what you need to your shopping basket.
I saw SuperDooperMarket’s target customers as sharing a set of values – people who have a concern for fairness, justice and the environment. In psychographic terms, they are the values held by Pioneers.
An initial questionnaire looked at shopping habits, average spend and shopper values.
Given that my home town of Brighton & Hove is a hot bed of Pioneers, I thought this a satisfactory location to set the venture. I set the boundaries to within 25 miles.
Early on, I approached the Brighton and Hove Food Partnership who very generously gave me a list of local suppliers. I cleaned the data, updated and expanded it. Knowing I needed all the geolocation data to calculate routes and delivery times, I created a map of suppliers and used a Fusion table to pull all my info together.
AI route optimisation
With my supplier data mapped and edited, I used a trail of Route optimiser to explore delivery scheduling, timing, pricing and begin to cost this part of the business.
A huge amount of insight was gained by doing this. I was able to understand the how many deliveries per van per day were possible, how much that would cost in both time, wages and fuel and where the depot might be be located in relation to suppliers and customers. The software also allowed me to change many variables – such as adding extra delivery vans, prioritising specific delivery locations and changing the delivery fee per order.
As a way to say thanks to all the mentors and gain a further insight into price-sensitivity, I ran a competition to win a hamper full of local produce. Entrants were asked simply to say how much they thought the hamper would cost to buy – the winner was pulled at random