Stories from Local Food heroes

Sometimes you just have to be in awe of the local food community. The amount of people who believe so much in their service to get food from farm to plate, that they’ll put up with crazy-complicated spreadsheets, late nights, and still smile graciously when those systems let them down once again.

 

Today, I’m happy to post this….

Bucky Box wants to give you your life back - upgrade your spreadsheets today!

 

We’re lucky enough to speak to a lot of people thinking of starting local food schemes, or already running them, and the stories we hear time and time again are the ‘just in time’ ones….

 

“I realised that the software would cost upwards of 10′s of thousands of dollars to build, and was almost ready to give up on the idea, but then I opened the paper and read that Herald article, and thought ‘Hallelujah!’ someone’s already doing it! I had to get in touch, it’s exactly what I need, at a tiny fraction what it would cost to build myself.”

 

That was a snippet from yesterday’s conversation with an NZ distributor who’s been in the market game for 11 years and is keen to start home delivery. I sometimes feel floored when we hear these things as it makes it feel like our efforts worthwhile.  Naturally, from here the product has to match the expectations, but with the new interface I believe we’re there…

 

“We had to reduce the size of the scheme as the admin burden was ruining my family life, which is ironic as it was always supposed to be a lifestyle business.”

 

… was another one we heard recently. It makes you want to hug people sometimes, but instead we need to get them a login…

 

Go on, if you’re still running on spreadsheets, or know someone that is – take a peek at what we can do to help your local food business.

Production, Distribution & Waste – Challenging Industrial Agriculture

 

Recently we’ve heard the same old arguments being pumped out by industrial agriculture, especially in reaction to the droughts in the US.

 

The argument goes: “There’s almost 7 billion people on Earth, and there’s 1 billion hungry. We need more food to feed the world. We must intensify agriculture; bigger & better, and we’ve got the answer – we call it a Sustainable Agriculture”.  That ‘Sustainable Agriculture future’ is typically large-scale intensive agriculture, GMO, and more sophisticated ‘scientific’ farming methods.  Inevitably the cost of this agriculture is greater, and farmers must have all of the latest information, tools, machinery & chemicals to make it happen.  It also, coincidentally, means greater profits for the big boys of industrial agriculture (rather than farmers).

 

There’s an assumption in there that needs testing: “We need more food to feed the world”.  It’s so often taken as a given, but there significant research which suggests otherwise.

 

We grow enough food to feed 10 billion people already. Eric Holt-Giménez recently wrote a fantastic rebuttal of the industrial agriculture view on the future of food. The first part of his argument centres around the point that Hunger is not caused by scarcity, but by poverty – that is what needs to be tackled to feed the hungry people in the world, not more food.  It follows on to show that Industrial Ag Vs Natural Farming does not represent the gaps in yields that are constantly talked about by GMO advocates. The longest running study (Rodale Institute – 47 year study) shows that Organic farming has better yields & profits, whilst requiring lower energy inputs & causing lower greenhouse gas outputs.

 

We Already Grow Enough Food - Infographic - Challenging Industrial Agriculture

 

The UN have put out several studies on Food Security and Sustainable Agriculture which do not support the Industrial Ag spin. They don’t stand to create vast profits from their view, but they do expect to see greater advances in sustainable development & poverty alleviation through more agriculture shifting to small-scale agroecological production. There also are gains in climate resilience and energy reduction from adopting farming based on ecological systems.

 

A 2011 report on Food Waste by the Food & Agriculture Organisation (PDF) suggests 1/3 of global food production is wasted through the supply chain or pre/post consumption. This food waste infographic featured on Food+Tech Connect supports this argument, showing it’s as high as 40% in the US.

 

It’s clear to see there’s significant work that needs to be addressed on the Consumer side of things, but this also supports our assertion that a big change needs to happen upstream.  If food distribution were to change from the centralised, industrial model that accounts for 99% of our food system, to local food webs, then we have the opportunity to disrupt the food waste in this area of the chain too.

 

The world has changed since our food system was invented – the information & web revolution has made new things possible – aggregation of supply & demand through web-based tools is just one of them.  We built Bucky Box for many reasons, one of which indicates the potential for decentralised food systems & local food webs to be more efficient than Industrialised Ag.  By re-localising food distribution with these new tools, we can efficiently move food from farm to fork with minimal wastage, instead of farm to landfill.

 

The time has come for a revolution in our food system.  It may be a quiet revolution which sees individuals consciously choosing to buy local, for small-scale farming to make a wholesale return, and for more-than-profit food distribution to rise, powered by a wave of digital tools for a better food system.

#NotInOurName – Salesforce misses the point

Have you heard of the term ‘Social Enterprise’?

***************  GREAT NEWS!!!! ***************

Salesforce has dropped it’s trademark attempt of the term Social Enterprise!

We would like to give a big Hi-5 to the team at Salesforce who decided to pull the pin & leave the term ‘social enterprise’ to mission driven businesses like ourselves, who put purpose before profit.

*********************************************************

 

Recently Salesforce.com went somewhat under the radar in applying for the trademark for the term ‘Social Enterprise’.  In some ways, we wondered how long it would take for this situation to blow up, since various companies had begun using the term ‘social business’ referring to businesses that use social tools (such as Facebook & Twitter) for customer service.

 

Truthfully, using social tools has been a big part of business for awhile – email & phone, customer forums and message boards have been a dominant part of communication in business for well over 20 years now. It doesn’t mean you’re suddenly a ‘Social Enterprise’ or ‘Social Business’ because you’re using them.

 

That said, the backlash that has sprung up against the attempt to trademark the term ‘social enterprise’ is interesting to watch.  It’s largely been led by the UK social enterprise networks such as Social Enterprise UK which launched the #NotInOurName campaign to stop Salesforce – you can follow it here on twitter. Due to Richard Branson’s outspoken support to ‘screw business as usual’, he’s even been asked to intervene through the Virgin group too!

 

The term ‘Social Enterprise’ has been used for businesses which are trading to achieve a Social, Environmental or Cultural mission for longer than Salesforce has been trading (13 years).  Here at Bucky Box, we think of it as ‘more than profit’, as we focus on maximising positive impact instead of simply the dollar value.  The distaste that has been expressed at Salesforce’s move to trademark the term is clearly evident and well founded – a company seeking to cash in on the term threatens to undermine a movement, and an entire sector which contributes millions of dollars to economies around the world, creates positive social & environmental impacts, and is seeking to redefine the compass of ‘good business’.

 

That’s why we’re standing up & giving our voice to Social Enterprise UK’s #NotInOurName campaign. Here’s our line in the sand. We believe Salesforce’s recent reply totally misses the point and shows their naïve dismissal of the issue:

 

When it comes to trademarks, businesses or organizations in different sectors can use the same trademark. Salesforce.com does not own or intend to own the trademark rights for the term social enterprise within the nonprofit sector, and is not seeking to restrict descriptive uses of the phrase by others in philanthropy, social responsibility, community involvement or mission-driven organizations.

 

Salesforce don’t seem to realise that social enterprise is not just about a sector – about philanthropy or not-for-profit, it’s a revolution in the business world which is blending social & environmental return on investment with financial.  For example, Bucky Box is a social enterprise, which is creating software for local food distribution.  So we are working in very much the same sector as salesforce, but we have a more than profit business model.  Under the trademark, we wouldn’t be able to call ourself a ‘social enterprise’, which we believe is a ridiculous attempt by a corporation to control the use of this term.  Pro bono Australia agrees with us.

 

So join us, and millions of people around the world who benefit from the work of the huge numbers of Social Enterprises, in telling Salesforce to back down and recognise that there’s something bigger than profit at stake here.

 

Editor’s note: we’ve also just had a discussion about which CRM system to use, and needless to say Salesforce did not get a look in. We highly suggest taking a look at the very awesome OnePage CRM who have a great solution which is highly intuitive compared to the cumbersome Salesforce interface!  

Tips for Local Food #2 : Call on Existing Resources & Support – Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

As part of our series on Top Tips for Local Food Distribution, we’re diving a little deeper into each of the 5 tips we gave. This week is ‘Call on Existing Resources & Support’ – Standing on the Shoulders of Giants. You can also check out ‘#1 : Get Social – a guide to new media for local food‘.

 

Bucky Box helps connect you to existing resources & support for local food enterprise

“If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” – Isaac Newton

 

Have you created your dream job, only to find that despite offering quality local produce from farmers who care – customers are slow to jump aboard? Or are you a startup veg box scheme which needs a pointer in the right direction to get the wheels rolling?

 

Whatever your challenge, someone, somewhere is likely to have already faced it.  Thanks to the wonders of the internet, you have access to a remarkable amount of knowledge from around the world, when it comes to local food systems.  Hard to find the right bit? Well Bucky Box is here to help.

 

Resources & Courses

 

There’s some great online and downloadable resources which can help you step through the early stages of set up – call them cheat sheets;

Networks & Communities of Practice

 

Connecting with people & projects of interest is vital to continuing to keep your finger on the pulse of what works, as well as what new opportunities may be around the corner. Check out some of these online & offline networks:

 

Support from Government & Charity

 

There’s some admirable work being done around the world by several governments in an effort to rejuvenate local food systems, here’s some of the programs which we’ve seen which might be able to offer you some help:

We will also take the opportunity for a specific focus on funding in the next Top Tips blog, but you can check out the National Good Food Network webinar in the meantime.

 

Technology

 

Mapping, Consumer Apps, Back End Systems, Traceability, and much much more is coming.  Here’s a run down of a couple which might be useful to local food schemes looking to make their job easier;

There’s many more examples of technology which would enable your local food business springing up all the time, so keep tuned on the above channels (and here!) for more examples.  You can also check out our blog about ‘Getting Social’ – tips for local food businesses using social media.

 

By no means is this an exhaustive list, so we’d love your feedback for other resources, networks, support & technology we should be adding too! Drop us a note below in the comments.

 

Thanks to Jenny Huston for support in the Resources section & Kirsten Larsen for tips on Australian Government Support!

Social Business & Trendhunter feature Bucky Box : Local Food Delivery Software

A big thanks to Social Business and Trendhunter, who picked up our social good business model, and ran a story on it recently entitled ‘Organic Food Delivery Software’!

Local Food Distribution software company Bucky Box, have a social good mission

 

It’s always nice to be featured as much for our social good mission & business model, as it is for the technology which will catalyse the possibilities for local food around the world.

 

Bucky Box is a New Zealand-based social enterprise that is making it easer to deliver organic groceries. This innovative software will cut down on time and errors—making the business owner and the customer happy. The tool emerges alongside the growth of grocery schemes like community supported agriculture and other distribution models, which exist in many industrialized countries for organic food and non-organic food alike.

 

Of course, our software isn’t just suited to Organic food distribution, we can support schemes who are distributing fruit, veg, meat, juices, and a whole lot more – take a peek at our video to understand a little more.

So a big thanks to @TianaReid who hunted us down and to Social Business and Trendhunter for featuring us!

Tips for Local Food #1 : Get Social – Using Social Media Engage With Customers

As part of our series on Top Tips for Local Food Distribution, we’re diving a little deeper into each of the 5 tips we gave.  This week is ‘Get Social’ – how you can use new media to engage deeper with customers, suppliers & your community.

Bucky Box helps you navigate the Social Media realms

You keep hearing that you should spend more time using social media for your business, but you’re pretty sure Facebook is a worldwide popularity contest, Twitter is a flurry of 140 character status updates, you can’t see how spending all day looking at pictures on Pinterest is going to help you get customers in the door, and the bills wont get paid by your blog…

 

So, lets be honest…

Why go social?

 

Some people may still need this question answered, and we completely understand why.  On the face of it, social media is noisy, time consuming and lacks clear value to small businesses.  However we want to convince you that the opportunities far outweigh the costs, so let us take 5 mins of your time to explain why.

 

Today, more than ever before, you have an unrivaled opportunity to engage in rich two-way conversations with a range of your stakeholders through a variety of communication tools.  So, what good could come of these conversations?

 

1. Storytelling

Use this opportunity to tell your story.  Tell people about more than just your product or service – tell them about why you set up this business, what you stand for, why you’re passionate about it.  Give your business a human face, be prepared to be a little vulnerable, and admit that maybe you don’t have all the solutions – sometimes in our openness we find great results.  Storytelling is the future of social media as we see it – so take the opportunity to take an active role in the crafting of your own story with words, pictures, video and other engaging media.

Image courtesy of flickr/cambodia4kidsorg

 

Storytelling is key to positive word of mouth (digital and er… mouth…), fundamental to how we remember things, and is rapidly becoming the medium through which customers expect to engage with business, so make your stories worth telling.  Telling your story is an important part of how you elevate your business from engaging in a cost-war ‘race to the bottom’ kind of capitalism, and can help you turn a simple product into a better experience for your customers.  The kicker is, that now, using a variety of new media, you can make your customers part of that story, and give them a voice.

 

2. Visibility

The old phrase ‘all PR is good PR’ came from the desperate desire for eyeballs & ears pointed toward your business. Today, you can get those eyeballs without having to dress a guy up in a chicken suit, write endless press releases, or run yet another promotion.  With the rise of social media, you have a direct channel to millions of people if you are willing to engage in genuine conversation, and/or if you’re able to create & share interesting content to get things started.

 

Image courtesy of flickr/rosauraochoaAs a small business, you can set up an online presence without paying a penny – whether it’s a Facebook Page, a Twitter Feed, or through blogging engines like Tumblr & WordPress, you can get set up in a matter of minutes.  It’s then time to mould a profile around Who you are, and Why you’re in business.  Go ahead – ‘like’ some other people, engage in some conversations, share some relevant stories, pictures and video, and slowly but surely your page will grow in followers too.  Did you know Facebook recently launched a Directory service to help people find businesses anywhere and everywhere?  If people are looking for you, it’s your job to help them find you!

 

3. Validation & Insight

With a community building up on your page (even if it’s still small), you have a group of people who you can interact with; often that’s really important in the early days of your local food business as it gives you the opportunity to get validation for ideas (before implementing them) through the likes of Polls, or insight into the reasoning behind your customers & potential customers’ buying decisions (through comments).

 

Take this opportunity to engage in conversations and let your customers co-create the future of your business with you.  Previous to this digital ‘social’ landscape, it was possible to talk one-to-one or one-to-many, but with these decentralised communication tools, you can engage in genuine many-to-many conversations.  Embrace it, and think about how you can use new media in more ways than simply storytelling – perhaps it could be a useful customer service tool, a way to identify new pricing models, a way to alert customers to their deliveries or a way to generate a new brand identity?

 

4. Real Time & Early Warning

The great thing about new media is that much of it happens in real-time, meaning you have instant answers, insights, and feedback.  This real time world can make your business more lubricated for decision making, more responsive to change, more adaptive to positive & negative feedback, and more willing to test & experiment.

 

That gives you a huge advantage over some of the alternative ways to do Food Distribution (naming no names…) as often there are monolithic processes & systems behind industrialised food chains.  Play on your nimbleness as an advantage – you can be flexible and responsive to change using social communication – a prized asset in unstable economic, climatic & societal times.  We’re predicting the rise & rise of local food over the coming 50 years.

New media can also be great early warning systems for when something isn’t right – it’s better to be the first to hear so you can make changes and retain customer loyalty, than suddenly lose a customer of 5 years because they don’t have easy communication channels, or think you don’t care.  You can use Facebook & Twitter as highly effective tools  to engage in day-to-day or semi-regular communication with customers to keep the conversation casual – that way they’re more likely to let you know when something is wrong, rather than walking away and you never knowing why.

 

Take the customer service initiatives that Air New Zealand have been winning awards for left, right & centre. Most of these are driven through their team which monitors the social media streams; they have embedded the team into their business so that they’re part of the service, and they use the social environment & conversations with customers to test new ideas and gauge interest, as well as drive awareness of promotions & offers.  They’re able to turn a negative customer experiences back into positive ones through their real-time service, as well as deploying ‘acts of kindness’ through the ‘Air New Zealand Fairy’.

 

5. Measurable

The data driven approach to online community building, sales & conversations is a valid one, as long as you don’t use the data in isolation.  Using the metrics related to engagement such as ‘Talking About This‘, you can get insights into what’s working and what’s not – it lets you spot trends more easily, but it wont make you better at creating communities and having conversations – that’s where you need to be paying attention & asking the right questions.

 

What should be in your Toolkit?

  • Facebook – work with the social giant that has been working to create a better place for people, businesses & community groups to hang out online. Work with the social graph to learn more about your customers, other stakeholders, and engage in conversations.  There’s some good run downs on Facebook Pages here and here.
  • Twitter – the thriving local food community on Twitter is ready and waiting to chat! There’s millions of people using twitter now, so use a mishmash of hashtags, geolocation & conversation to find local customers & other people who you can reach out to for help! More good guides here, here and here.
  • Online Advertising – Google does a good job of giving you visibility for a tiny daily budget, and now you can also reach out to use Facebook Advertising & Twitter Advertising too. The ability to target down to highly defined demographics make online advertising a great option for finding new customers as a small business.
  • Blog – we’d recommend using a blog to create regular, changing content which tells your story and gives customers regular updates which create value for them.  Check out these guides to blogging for small business.
  • Pinterest – last up is the ‘newcomer’ which is on the up – a social network based on aesthetic ‘pins’ – also known as pictures.  Whilst Pinterest is quietly driving 1000’s of people to websites around the world, the world is busy enjoying the visual revolution! Here’s a Pinterest guide to get you started, and a couple of people we think you might like; HISBE, Flavrbox & Food+Tech Connect.
  • Check out our ‘Hashtags for Local Food‘ blog, or start searching for more information about Social Media on twitter, there’s some great guides for Local Business use.
**UPDATE**
Local Food - plenty of opportunities to tell your story.
If you’re looking for a guide to get started with Social Media, then check out the Spredfast Resource – Pocket Guide to Social Media.
Mashable have also picked up on the trend of Farmers & local food distributors uptake of Social Web tools.

5 Tips for Local Food Delivery

Image courtesy of The Ecologist

We realised that as of late we’ve been chatting with a lot of local food delivery enterprises from all over the world, which puts us in a privileged place to spot some of what’s working for different organisations, wherever they may be.  We thought in the spirit of open source, we’d share our musings;

 

Get Social!

The landscape of finding & engaging with customers has changed with the emergence of social media. With social media has come an unprecedented opportunity to engage in meaningful conversation with your customers & stakeholders, and tell your own story like never before.  One of the best things? With over 835 million people worldwide using Facebook & Twitter, many of your customers are likely to already be there and 100’s more potential customers in your area too.

Whilst most social media sites (such as Facebook & Twitter) are free to use, you should factor your time into the equation – like any conversation, listening as well as talking takes time.  Consider super-targeted adverts on Facebook/Twitter/Google Ad Words.  We also heartily suggest telling your story through a blog (like ours!) on Tumblr or WordPress, and for the more aesthetically inclined – share your story, your passion & your vision through sites like Pinterest or Vimeo.

Remember; make your dialogue about Quality not Quantity.

 

Call on existing resources & support

In several countries around the world, there’s now NGO’s & Government programs which are set up to help local food distributors get started, or iron out any problems.  They vary from downloadable action packs to full immersive social enterprise courses!

 

So our suggestion? Research, and make use of anything out there which could help you – you’ll be surprised what’s available!

Just some of our favourite resource hubs include; Soil Association (UK), Making Local Food Work (UK), Wallace Centre (US), Sustain (UK), Eaterprises (Australia), Transition Network (Worldwide).

 

Get creative with Funding

There are plenty of ways to fund a local food enterprise beyond mortgaging your house with the bank.  Our run down from the National Good Food Network webinar on funding local food tells you how!

Teaser for the NGFN blog: Co-operative model, LION networks, Crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter, Micro/e-Lending platforms like Kiva, Slow Munis, Local Community Pre-Sales, Local Stock Exchanges, Investment Clubs like Slow Money.

See more here: Cutting-edge ways to Fund your Local Food business

 

Leverage free & low cost tools

Let the explosion of innovation & applications that resulted from mobile technology play into your hands!  The great news about the Mac App Store, Google Play & Chrome Store is that there are more applications than ever which can help you run your business more efficiently, and many of them are free.

 

Whether you need to manage your to-do list [Wunderlist], collaborative project management [Trello], communicate with your customers for nix [Skype], manage your social media marketing [Hootsuite], or simply use collaborative document sharing & calendars [Google Apps] – there’s a host of free apps out there.

 

We also would heartily suggest you check out some of the emerging technology, specifically around local food distribution.  This is where we get to play.  There’s several options out there now, which can manage customer accounts, help you manage packing & delivery logistics, and deal with the burden of payment reconciliation. Taking away the admin burden of local food distribution is one of the main barriers to growth we can see & are doing something about!

 

Be Authentic, Tell Your Story & be about More Than Profit

We keep coming back to this as a really important part of local food distribution.  We all loathe greenwashing don’t we? So don’t do it – be authentic with the story of where you came from, where your food is produced, and how you play nice with others.  We see local food distribution as being about values, and we constantly ask people to think about business in terms of ‘more than profit’.

 

Importantly, don’t ruin it for everyone. Local delivery, organics, farm-to-fork… it’s a tiny fraction of food distribution around the world. Don’t go stomping on it by picking fights with other people trying to do something similar in your area!  Try thinking about converting other people away from mainstream supermarket shopping, and growing the local food economy?

 

Use your blog and social media to tell the story of your business. Make it about more than just ‘units’ and ‘weights of food’, and aim for something more aspirational – your Values.  Use photography, words, infographics, videos & the great testimonials from your customers to show that you’re about supporting local farmers, delivering affordable organics, or whatever else it is that got you interested in local food delivery in the first place.  But be authentic!

Here’s some of our favourite use of Creativity in Local Food to get you started.

 

Do you have any more top tips to share?

 

You can now see the expanded version of this blog here: