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How was OLIO born?

We all grew up with backgrounds in food. Tessa, our Co-founder, grew up on a farm so firmly believes that all food is meant to be eaten, not thrown away. I grew up in an Iowa hippy family who cared about the environment, so from an early age I’ve been aware of our impact on the environment.

In 2015, we gave ourselves a year to prove the OLIO concept. The first thing we did was research, and we became aware that over a ⅓ of all food produced is wasted, with a value of over $1 trillion.

How did you get it off the ground?

We started OLIO on whatsapp with 12 people in a group chat,  just to see if people were interested in the idea before we put money into the app, people liked the idea and 5 months later we made a MVP, which launched in 5 London postcodes, and we’ve kept growing ever since.  

Millions of people all over the world don’t have enough to eat, whilst others are throwing their food away, which makes no sense. So Olio was born to help eliminate the food waste problem within society and help people who need it most.

What are some key learnings?

We never build, automate or invest in anything until the manual version of that process is completely broken. I recommend every entrepreneur to read about the lean methodology, and how it can be worked into their business. It’s only when something done manually breaks that we improve, fix or invest in it. It’s really tempting when you’ve got scarce resources to develop or invest in things, but until you get feedback you’re just building in a vacuum. The other piece of advice I would give is to listen to podcasts. I love podcasts and listen to almost 20 hours a week. You can learn so much from people. The more you listen to the more ideas you get.

How else did you apply the lean methodology to OLIO?

When we came up with OLIO, we sat down and wire framed what is essentially OLIO today. However, before we built anything we needed to see if people wanted to perform the behaviour we wanted them to do, which is to share food with strangers, and then go to that person's house to pick it up.

We didn’t build anything, instead we created a Whatsapp group for 2 weeks and over that two weeks we saw 26 shares. When we debriefed the participants they all said we need to build this, and critically that it doesn’t need to be much better than what was already on offer. So we still don’t have a search button, or a map function, because the core service hasn’t broken yet. We never build anything until we know it’ll help.

What's keeping you going professionally?

We are one of the organisations going to benefit from COVID, so we are trying to persuade people to share resources with people near-by and to be more generous and community minded. COVID-19 has been a catalyst for people to rethink their role within communities and they have found OLIO can help them do this. I’m looking forward to when we reach the other side of COVID-19 for more people to start using OLIO.

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