Tips for Local Food #4 : Leveraging Free & Low Cost Tools

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 ‘Leveraging Free & Low Cost Tools. You can also read our guide to Social technology, Funding, or Giants!

More Tips for Local Food from Bucky Box - Leveraging Free & low Cost Tools

 

Have you ever tried to run a local food business armed only with a telephone, Microsoft Excel and email?

 

Many people around the world are still forging on down this path, but there’s a revolution happening around the internet which can make things easier, create more time to do the things that matter, and free you up from painful admin.

 

Core components of local food distribution mainly involve Ordering, Customer Accounts, Communications, Packing & Delivery Logistics, and Payment Reconciliation, so lets take a look at what’s out there that can help you do these things, better.

 

Ordering

It’s time to take your customer’s orders for the week! How do they make orders at the moment? Phone? Email? Facebook?

 

Well a shopping cart can be a good way to handle online ecommerce transactions, and there’s heaps of options. Of course, generally you will need to already have a website (which you could build through services like WordPress [free]), which you can then use a plugin for – just search WordPress Ecommerce, and you’ll find many options!  Or you can use a specialised ecommerce service like Shopify (paid service), which provides themes and payment options.  Most of these options will cost either a) ongoing hosting fee, b) upfront cost, or c) % on every transaction and/or monthly service fee.

 

You’d generally be able to expect an email when orders are made, or a spreadsheet of orders at the end of the day.  Some of these options are quite flexible to create a catalogue of products so for example, you may offer a Standard Vege Box, plus a list of extras – you should be able to do this, but most of the shopping carts are created for a ‘stock list’ of say 20 or 30 products which do not change regularly.

 

Customer Accounts

Managing your database of customers needs to be carefully done to ensure you don’t drop the ball!  Some people will be regular customers, some will be ‘inactive customers’, and some will be ‘potential customers’ who have expressed interest but not ordered yet.  You’ll likely have different tasks for each of these, so you’ll likely need a to-do list of actions too.

 

You might run a spreadsheet with all these names, contact details & orders against these people, but as we all know – spreadsheets can be fickle beasts – prone to human error (ever written over a cell and found a moment later that the Undo button wont work!?).

 

A customer relationship database might be another way to deal with this.  There’s some great tools like OnePageCRM (paid service) which are created as lite-Sales tools which could be adapted to house all those relationships and schedule reminders & follow ups, or there are a number of free options in the Mac App Store, or Google Chrome Marketplace.

 

You might also like a to-do list app which synchs across all your devices so you can keep track of things – take a look at Wunderlist (free), Trello (free) or Todoist (free).  These are great if you’re not tied to the desk all day – whether you’re out on the farm, rushing around suppliers or markets, or simply on your day off & want to run a couple of chores.

 

Communication

Well if you’re not in communication with your customers, you’re likely to be out of business pretty quickly.  There’s a proliferation of tools in this space now – we wrote a little about some of them (and how to use them) in our Get Social : Using Social Media tools for Local Food guide.

 

We would heartily recommend you’re using a suite of communications including:

  • – Phone or VOIP services – such as Skype (free or low cost)
  • – Email – you can’t go past Google Mail (free or low cost)
  • – Support Desk – if you want a simple & powerful helpdesk & knowledgebase, check out Uservoice (free or low cost)
  • – Social Networks – Twitter (free) is a great service for business-to-customer communication, and channel for storytelling & reaching out to new customers. Also a Facebook Page (free) is a great way to connect less formally with your customers, tell your story and share pictures of your products, customers & suppliers.

You can also check out our blog about finding new customers & Marketing guides, as well as our roundup of existing support & resources for local food.

 

Packing & Delivery Logistics

This is where things sometimes start to get tricky. It’s one thing taking all the orders, it’s another thing making sure they get to the right place at the right time, on the right day.

 

Unfortunately there’s not a lot of tools in this space which haven’t been developed for courier companies or logistics firms shipping products around the country.  There are systems like Delivery Biz Pro (paid-service), which seem angled a bit more at home delivery services, and we expect some more to arrive with the rise of Ebay, Etsy and the likes, but mostly those goods head out in the regular post services.

 

Of course you can use Google Maps (free) as a way to pinpoint where your deliveries are headed, but it’s not highly adaptive to delivery runs with multiple drop offs.

 

Payment Reconciliation

Headaches at 11pm at night trying to match up bank accounts with customer accounts? Hastily scribbled notes on delivery sheets not making sense at the end of the month? This is one of the areas we’ve heard the most frustration about.

 

Yes, there’s 101 online accounting services – being proud Kiwi’s, we’d point you in the direction of Xero (paid service) – we use them in fact, they’re ace, and we reckon they’re streets ahead of the competitors like MYOB (paid service). That said, we don’t think they really cut it for local food distributors when it comes to matching up multiple payments, with multiple customer accounts, on a weekly basis.

 

Of course, there is another option.  Bucky Box has gathered all these insights from hundreds of conversations with local food distributors around the world – and we’ve built our tools for a better food system with them in mind.  Bucky Box helps you with Ordering, Customer Accounts, Communications, Packing & Delivery Logistics, and Payment Reconciliation, all in one turn key solution.  Check out our website to sign up for a trial.

 

Tips for Local Food #3 : Creative Funding – finding new & innovative ways to fund your local food enterprise

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 ‘Creative Funding’ – finding new & innovative ways to fund your local food enterprise.

Bucky Box - helping you find new & innovative ways to fund local food enterprise

 

You can also check out ‘#1 : Get Social – a guide to new media for local food‘ & ‘#2 : Call on Existing Resources & Support – Standing on the Shoulders of Giants‘.

 

Finding it hard to find the capital to get your local food enterprise off the ground? Want to scale up your business, but finance is a barrier?

 

Here’s our first guide to creative funding paths for local food enterprises, which we think may help you find a path away from the loan sharks & corporate banks, to an exciting future of local food funding.

 

You may remember we wrote a blog off the back of National Good Food Network’s webinar about funding local food.  This is still a great resource for a variety of creative ways to fund local food enterprise, so we’re re-posting the slideshow below.  However, this blog is the follow up with some fresh new ideas from our research in this space too.

 

Local Food Funding Webinar Round-up

[<a href=”http://storify.com/buckybox/local-food-investment-webinar” target=”_blank”>View the story “Local Food Investment Webinar – National Good Food Network” on Storify</a>]<br /> <h1>Local Food Investment Webinar – National Good Food Network</h1> <h2>A webinar hosted by @ngfn on innovative ways to fund your local food enterprise.More information at the National Good Food Network here: http://bit.ly/y7TKRg</h2> <p>Storified by Bucky Box · Sun, Aug 05 2012 21:27:10</p> <div>Youngfarmers</div> <div>Find out how the USDA supports local and regional food systems. Free webinar TODAY 3:30p ET 12:30p PT http://bit.ly/y3qVhDNatl Good Food Netwk</div> <div>’Cutting Edge Ways to Fund your Food Business’ #NGFNwebinar on now http://bit.ly/w07Ggl – thanks @ngfn!Bucky Box</div> <div><b><i>You can see the FULL webinar video here now too:</i></b></div> <div>Cutting Edge Ways to Fund Your Food Business – an NGFN webinarwallacecenter</div> <div><b>Check out the live-tweeted round-up here too:</b></div> <div>Study & Support of #FoodHubs – resource coming soon from USDA & Wallace Centre http://foodhub.info #NGFNwebinarBucky Box</div> <div>USDA Unveils New Food Hub Resource Guide to Expand Market …Apr 20, 2012 … CHICAGO, April 20, 2012 ? The U. S. Department of Agriculture unveiled the first Regional Food Hub Resource Guide, bol…</div> <div>Food Hub Center — National Good Food NetworkBuilding Successful Food Hubs: A Business Planning Guide for Aggregating and … Check out the Regional Food Hub Resource Guide, a new …</div> <div>Panelist & speaker Michael Shuman is introduced to the webinar audience of around 80 people from around the country (and world in Bucky Box’s case!)<br></div> <div>Michael Shuman (economist & author) – ‘Local $, Local sense’ : the importance of #investment in #food. Webinars coming up! #ngfnwebinarBucky Box</div> <div>Information from NGFN:<br><span style=”font-style: italic;”>Drawing from his new book, “Local Dollars, Local Sense:  How to Shift Your Money from Wall Street to Main Street,” Michael Shuman will explain a dozen, low-cost strategies local businesses are using to secure new capital from the general public.  He will talk about specialized bank CD programs, prepurchase deals, new-generation cooperatives, internet sponsorship sites (like Kickstarter), P2P lenders (like Prosper and Kiva), community lending circles, investment clubs, municipal bond schemes, local revolving loan funds, direct public offerings, and local stock exchanges.  He also will report on the latest news of a crowdfunding reform bill – sponsored by Tea-Party Republicans but endorsed by the Obama Administration – that is working its way through Congress and could literally make trillions of dollars of new capital available to local business.</span></div> <div>www.postcarbon.org</div> <div>$103m to relocalise food in Boulder, but #local people can fund this with a fraction of our savings & securities. #ngfnwebinarBucky Box</div> <div>Economic impact of moving 25% of food to #local: 1899 jobs, $81m in wages, $138m local gdp – in Boulder County alone! #ngfnwebinarBucky Box</div> <div>’A tiny fraction of national long term capital is invested in local markets’. Shift $ from Wall St to Local! #ngfnwebinarBucky Box</div> <div>AGREED! Software being one! "Many efficiencies discovered in current food system that are not contrary to Good Food." #ngfnwebinarBucky Box</div> <div>The Local Food investment tips start rolling in from Michael Shuman….<br></div> <div>Investment in Local Food: 1) Speciality Deposits (CD’s) http://trib.al/43JZ5Y #investment #food #ngfnwebinarBucky Box</div> <div>Specialty Deposits – Deposit Services – Citizens Business BankWith CDARS, you can access FDIC protection on multi-million dollar CD investments through Citizens Business Bank. There are few guarant…</div> <div>1) Speciality Deposits: Alternative Credit Union CENTS http://trib.al/Et7k9d #ngfnwebinar #investmentBucky Box</div> <div>Alternatives.org: Business CENTS – Alternatives Federal Credit UnionWhether you are at the starting stages or have been in business for years, Business CENTS can help. Business CENTS is a comprehensive s…</div> <div>Investment in Local Food: 2) Co-op Investment – lighter & easy to get off the ground #ngfnwebinarBucky Box</div> <div>Cooperatives take up the next 5 minutes or so – seem like quite the possibilities in this space.<br></div> <div>#Co-ops are amazing. It’s official. Food Hub with Co-op backing anyone? #ngfnwebinarBucky Box</div> <div>International Year of Cooperatives Video Clip 2012uncoopsyear</div> <div>2012 International Year of Co-operatives | Welcome to the official …A key aim of the International Year is to raise public awareness of the co- operative business model. In the media section you can find …</div> <div>Carrying on with the tips…</div> <div>3) LION – local investment opportunity network – Local Food enterprises can apply! #investment #ngfnwebinarBucky Box</div> <div>The Concept | Lion InvestingWe know it's important to “buy local.” What if we could also invest locally? LION – the Local Investment Opportunities Network – co…</div> <div>Local Food Investment tip #4: Sponsorship – get in on the @kickstarter crowdfunding revolution! #ngfnwebinarBucky Box</div> <div>KickstarterKickstarter is the world's largest funding platform for creative projects.</div> <div>Haha, "The electronic Mohammad Yunus" Local Food Investment tip #5: e-Lending – get in on @kiva action! #ngfnwebinarBucky Box</div> <div>Kiva – Loans that change livesMake a loan to an entrepreneur across the globe for as little as $25. Kiva is the world's first online lending platform connecting …</div> <div>Local Food investment tip #6 ‘Slow Munis’ – Municipal Bonds http://trib.al/lHzWn8 #ngfnwebinarBucky Box</div> <div>Municipal bond – Wikipedia, the free encyclopediaA municipal bond is a bond issued by an American city or other local government , or their agencies. Potential issuers of municipal bond…</div> <div>Local Food investment tip #7 Pre-Sales – Get your money up front to aid growth! #ngfnwebinarBucky Box</div> <div>Local Food $ tip #8 Local Stock: locally raised funds for local projects http://trib.al/wV2kns #ngfnwebinarBucky Box</div> <div>Stock take of new legislation bills related to Crowdfunding – as backed by Tea Party & Occupy Wall Street.<br></div> <div>Pending legislation in US could open up a whole realm of new securities to Local Food if #crowdfunding legislation goes thru! #ngfnwebinarBucky Box</div> <div>Local Food $ tip #8: Local Stock Exchanges – Hawaii might be first off the rank! #ngfnwebinarBucky Box</div> <div>Local Stock Exchanges and National StimulusLocal Stock Exchanges and. National Stimulus. Michael Shuman. Business Alliance for Local Living Economies. Since the global financial …</div> <div>Local Food Investment tip #9: Investment Clubs like @SlowMoney & @SlowMoneyNYC #ngfnwebinarBucky Box</div> <div>Slow Money: Investment strategies appropriate to the realities of the …What it means to be an investor in the 21st century, promoting principles of soil fertility, sense of place, and cultural, environmenta…</div> <div>Local Food investment tip #10: Self Directed IRA (there’s even a "For Dummies" book for it!) #ngfnwebinarBucky Box</div> <div>Tax Advantages of Day Trading Through Self-Directed IRAs – For …Much of the tax hassle associated with day trading is eliminated if you trade through a self-directed Individual Retirement Arrangement…</div> <div>So the big question: "When the 1st $1trillion shifts from Wall St, what would you do for local food with a portion of it?" #ngfnwebinarBucky Box</div> <div>Prepare for the next stockmarket crash as everyone shifts their investment into local channels.Sustaination</div> <div>Food Hubs were talked about a fair bit as a shifting trend to open up new markets for CSA’s and local growers.  Check out http://foodhub.info to jump to the Wallace Centre’s resource portal for Food Hub information!<br></div> <div>Csrwire</div> <div>Food Hubs – Viable Regional Distribution Solutions – an NGFN webinarwallacecenter</div> <div>Big excitement about #FoodHubs from Michael Shuman as future of local food on #ngfnwebinarBucky Box</div> <div>Staticflickr</div> <div>I think Sustaination might have to bring our early investment offer forward.. over excited by #ngfnwebinar — thanks @buckyboxSustaination</div> <div>Michael Shuman opens the webinar to questions.  He explains investment into Food Hubs could be a prudent move at the moment.  We also ask about investment in technology for Food Hubs…<br></div> <div>Afraid we disagree on that one! ‘Most useful basis for software in local food is redeploying old technology’ what do u reckon @sustaination?Bucky Box</div> <div>@buckybox if you *can* re-use old software, then obviously do that. But there’s *always* room for necessary innovation #foodtechSustaination</div> <div>@Sustaination I’ve not seen too many VegeBox schemes operating SAP tho. Is #Tech moving too fast to deploy old tech for emerging industries?Bucky Box</div> <div>@buckybox barcode scanners, cheap gsm cell phones for remote data capture… all useful old tech which can be used.Sustaination</div> <div>@Sustaination True, simple smart phones & tablets will have a big role in the emerging decentralised food system. Time to make it happen.Bucky Box</div> <div>NZ Social Enterprise Bucky Box to Simplify Distribution for – SeedstockJan 16, 2012 … Bucky Box is a Wellington, New Zealand-based social enterprise dedicated to building software to improve the world&#39…</div> <div>BuckyBox: Helping Farmers Get Fresh Food To Your Table – Co.ExistCommunity supported agriculture and other farm-to-consumer schemes potentially offer a great way for independent farmers to compete in …</div> <div>Software firm focuses on helping small organic farms | Springwise3 days ago … Founded by one of the entrepreneurs behind Ooooby – which we covered back in 2010 – New Zealand-based Bucky Box is a sof…</div> <div>Study on shifting 25% of food to Local systems can be found here (PDF): http://trib.al/eoufudBucky Box</div> <div>Great stuff @NGFN, TY for the webinar, really interesting & helpful! Report to follow here: http://trib.al/T2EFXN #ngfnwebinarBucky Box</div> <div>Ditto! RT @buckybox: Great stuff @NGFN, TY for the webinar, really interesting! Report to follow here: http://s.coop/aorx #ngfnwebinarSustaination</div> <div>Check out more of National Good Food Network & Wallace Centre’s work here:<br></div> <div>Welcome — Wallace CenterWelcome to Wallace Center</div> <div>Welcome to your National Good Food Network — National Good Food NetworkThe National Good Food Network is bringing together people from all parts of the rapidly emerging good food system – producers, buyers, d…</div> <div>Check out more of Michael Shuman’s work here:<br></div> <div>Cutting Edge Capital – Creative Capital Raising for Your Business » About UsJenny has over fifteen years of experience as an attorney for and creator of social enterprises. She has raised funds for and launched a …</div> <div>THE BUSINESS ALLIANCE FOR LOCAL LIVING ECONOMIES | BALLE – Business Alliance for Local Living EconomiesDansko Stepping up its U.S. Footprint (posted on Mar 15 2012) Philadelphia Inquirer The Dansko shoe company strives to manufacture their …</div> <div>Local Dollars, Local Sense by Michael H. Shuman – Chelsea GreenLocal Dollars, Local Sense by Michael Shuman probes the future of investing — making the case for investors to put their money into buil…</div> <div>Local Dollars, Local Sense: How to Shift Your Money from Wall Street to Main Street – Michael Shumanargusfest</div>Cooperatives & Community

There’s something about local food enterprise which shouts cooperation to us, and if there’s one thing we can learn from nature about feeding a geographical area / community / neighbourhood, then it’s that competition & cooperation can be utilised together for greater outcomes.

 

2012 is the year of the Cooperative, and there’s plenty of examples, events & resources about how you can use co-operative models in your local neighbourhood to either get started, or raise capital for expansion. Check out the Food feed over on the Cooperative-2012 site for more gems, including a series of ebooks on using Cooperative Models to create a better food system. There’s also lots of great examples over on NGFN’s food hub site.

 

The basic idea goes:

  1. Gather interest from your neighbourhood – leaflet the town!
  2. Establish the cooperative funding model – tell people how they can invest
  3. Create a funding opportunity & cast the net – tap your networks for interested investors & engage them in your opportunity
  4. Fulfill your cooperative investment opportunity – use the money to get started / grow & return profits to the investors.
Grants & Seed Funding

Governments, charities, philanthropists & other funders around the world are waking up to the potential for investment & philanthropic seed funding for local food enterprise.  Whether you’re an individual, community organisation or social enterprise, there’s lots of options with a little research.

 

Focusing primarily on US & UK (where the financial landscapes are most developed for local food) we have picked out the best guides & examples;

USA

UK

We’re aware of some great programs in UK which offer support & financial packages for food funding. Take a look at Local Food Grants, and Making Local Food Work.

 

If you’re looking for something outside of these regions, as people frequently are, we suggest starting with your National/Regional Government body which looks after Agriculture & Food, and then deploying the power of Google or Twitter to find local grants or support.

 

Crowd Power

Unless you’ve been avoiding the internet for the last couple of years, there’s a chance you would have heard of the ‘Power of the Crowd’ in some shape or form.  This is an emergent space where new offerings are popping up and disappearing all the time (mainly because if you don’t have a crowd, the idea wont work!).

 

Many people will be familiar with websites like Kickstarter, IndieGoGo, Pozible, PledgeMe and more. These are the fore-runners in the Crowdfunding revolution which follow a fairly simple formula;

  • Create a Project & write a creative introduction / post a video to entice people to support you.
  • Offer Rewards – at the time of writing, there’s financial & legal barriers to offering anything more than a ‘pledge’ to support the project.
  • Get Social – share share share with your networks to spread the word you’re looking for help to get started / scale up.
  • Crowdfund! If people believe in your idea & like your rewards, they pledge money. Simple and incredibly effective.  If your project hits the target, you get the money, the pledgers get their rewards, and the world gets another project which may not have happened otherwise.
Crowfunding can be used to remarkable effect, and stories of $10k projects being funded three or four times over are not uncommon.  There’s been some successful projects related to local & community food projects, but we believe the various sites out there could be used much more for local food start ups!  Not only do you get the money, you usually also get heaps of buzz, a ready-to-go customer base, and passionate advocates who follow your progress & delight in hitting your target with you!

 

Recently, Slow Money launched Credibles; a crowdfunding investment system which returns food instead of money, this US based system has the potential to be replicated around the world.  Also launched in the last month, Three Revolutions, a crowdfunding platform dedicated totally to food.

 

We have also seen a revolution bubbling around the world in ‘Crowd Investment’ through sites such as Crowdcube. This is worth keeping an eye on!

 

As ever, these guides are a work in progress. If you’ve had success / seen someone else be successful with funding their local food enterprise beyond sharks & pounds of flesh – we’d love to hear from you! Comment or Tweet!

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:

#FoodRevolution Day is upon us!

Bucky Box is supporting Food Revolution DayToday, thousands of people around the world are taking to the streets, to workplaces, to schools, and to the internet, to celebrate Food Revolution Day.

 

“Food Revolution Day on 19 May is a chance for people who love food to come together to share information, talents and resources; to pass on their knowledge and highlight the world’s food issues. All around the globe, people will work together to make a difference. Food Revolution Day is about connecting with your community through events at schools, restaurants, local businesses, dinner parties and farmers’ markets. We want to inspire change in people’s food habits and to promote the mission for better food and education for everyone.”

 

Food Revolution Day was kicked off by the effervescent Jamie Oliver, who has been working hard since his early days as a celebrity chef, to train his passions on creating a better relationship between individuals, communities and food. We have a lot of respect for Jamie’s work on social enterprise projects such as Fifteen, Ministry of Food, and Kitchen Garden Project.

 

We decided we wanted to get involved, to lend our voice and our creativity to the Food Revolution, to support the vision of a global population which is better educated about food.  We joined Google, Spotify, IDEO, & Twitter, in pledging our company’s part in the food revolution – after all, we’re all about creating the tools for a better food system.

Bucky Box has pledged to be part of the Food Revolution - this year we'll be capturing the Farmer's Market through the lens.This year, we’ve committed to supporting better food in the workplace, and more food education for individuals in our networks.  We’re also wanting to train our creative talents on 19th May, on capturing the buzz in the local food movement.  We’re going to be out and about in Wellington, New Zealand, grabbing some of the excitement, colours, textures & delicious looking food at the Hill Street Farmers Market.

 

The only question left really, is ‘What are you going to be doing for Food Revolution Day?’.

How could you argue with a man this passionate about a better food system?

 

You can follow our day’s adventures on Facebook & Twitter – and we’ve fired up a Storify too to celebrate the #FoodRevolution internet action.

Locally sourced ingredients make up the topping for a #FoodRevolution Day celebration

Our photos of #FoodRevolution Day are up on Facebook here now.

 

Or, follow the Storify here, as it evolves:

[View the story “#FoodRevolution Day through the eyes of Bucky Box” on Storify]

#FoodRevolution Day through the eyes of Bucky Box

Celebrating the world wide day of action for better education about Food.Bring on the #FoodRevolution!!

Storified by Bucky Box · Thu, May 17 2012 23:46:05

Foodista
The media, celebrities, and the social networks are a’buzz with stories of the inaugural Food Revolution Day!
Food Revolution Day: Jamie Oliver hits 488 citiesFood crusader Jamie Oliver has succeeded in recruiting 800000 people to participate in his inaugural Food Revolution Day which is set tak…
Food Revolution DayThis Saturday, May 19, will be the first-ever global Food Revolution Day. I can not tell you how proud I am that we have more than 500 ci…
What are you doing for #foodrevolution day? Join me and @JamieOliver & stand up for real food!<http://foodrevolutionday.comGwyneth Paltrow
Check out the lovely @gennarocontaldo supporting #FoodRevolution day in London! http://foodrevolutionday.com http://pic.twitter.com/rRFEPiVDFood Revolution
In the U.S., more people die from diet-related disease every year than drugs, alcohol and war combined http://bit.ly/JVogMH #foodrevolutionRobyn O’Brien
sf.funcheap.com
Why a Food Revolution?
Jamie Oliver’s TED award speech.jamieoliver
RT @thelostescapist: @Live4TheMomentz "These fries taste…potatoey!" xD #bestmoment #foodrevolutionCaitlin DaSilva
Food Revolution Day, May 19jamiesfoodrevolution
What have YOU got planned for Food Revolution Day?
RT @jamieoliver: Check out the amazing #FoodRevolution menu at the UCLA cafeteria on may 19th!! http://pic.twitter.com/NeiujYwLPattycakes
Food Revolution Day Google Hangout With Jamie Oliverjamiesfoodrevolution
*siapin cangkul* RT @putisafira: @IDberkebun akan meramaikan #FoodRevolution #Jakarta http://yfrog.com/odi7cpFerry Arta Kusuma
Looking forward to getting stuck into #FoodRevolution Day here in NZ this weekend! Farmers Market Photography mission!! cc @FoodRevBucky Box
"I can not tell you how proud I am that we have more than 500 cities in 57 countries… standing up for real food." http://huff.to/JjpbIMFood Revolution
Remember this? http://bit.ly/crRiXe My buddy @JamieOliver is going global with it for @FoodRev Day on sat. U in?Ryan Seacrest
We partnered with Jamie Oliver’s first @FoodRev Day on May 19 to inspire change in food education. To learn more, visit http://bit.ly/HmW5ldChangeLab Solutions
Some amazing Food Revolutionary dinners happening across America this wknd for a lucky few. Hurry and grab your seat!! https://www.grubwithus.com/foodrevolutionJamie Oliver
Join @JamieOliver to bring back food education. $25 can educate a class. Host a dinner with cities worldwide May 19 http://foodrevolutionday.com/Food Revolution
RT @AlDmanii: Food revolution day ثورة الأغذية #uaeu #foodRevolutionUAEU #foodRev #foodRevolution http://yfrog.com/gyjmmvpjcute
43 milhões de crianças abaixo dos 5 anos estão com sobrepeso 19/Maio @FoodRev @jamieoliver farão um movimento #Foodrev http://pic.twitter.com/HeEfNlVgLucilia Diniz portal
Recipes abound throughout the Food Revolution Community!  Check out more on Jamie Oliver’s recipes page here: http://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes
Yummy thanks to @jamieoliver oh and the stolen/borrowed recipe book @claresandford #foodrevolution http://pic.twitter.com/KGW3SXszMichelle Sandford
Join the NYC Chinatown Dumpling Tour this Sat in support of Food Revolution Day! http://bch.me/xrvLX1 #foodrevolution #NYCDumplingMark Birch

FastCoExist “World Changing Ideas & Innovation” features Bucky Box

Things are a’bubble here in the office in Wellington this morning as the Fast Company article on Bucky Box went live last night.

Fast-Company magazine's blog FastCoExist which features 'World Changing Ideas & Innovation' features Bucky BoxWe arrived at work to find the twitter feed was ticking over happily with RT of the FastCoExist piece on Bucky Box’s software for a better food system.

 

FastCoExist is one of our favourite reads. It provides daily news on ‘World Changing Ideas & Innovation’, many of them businesses working for a better world.  It’s a great feeling to be part of that club.

 

Bucky Box is working on the new operating system for emerging local food systems. We’re open for beta testing in invite-only form. Feel free to share the word to local food distributors you think might be interested.

Creating the operating system for a new emerging local food system - Bucky BoxCreating the new operating system for local food isn’t just about supporting what’s going out in the market, it goes much bigger & broader than that, it reaches into the future.  We see what has happened in the last 30-40 years in our global food systems as a step backwards in environmental & social standards which have borrowed from our future. We’ve created a more fragile food system with less resilience, and now the pressures are beginning to mount up : population growth, soil health, water quality, climate change adaptation, loss of biodiversity and ecosystem functions which are vital to our survival.  All the research points toward moving to sustainable food production, distribution & consumption, which largely means small scale farms (not industrial-scale mono-cropping), regenerative farming techniques (not chemical farming which destroys our soils) and regional food systems (not industrialized supply chains).  We see a better way, and Bucky Box is our first step in making that vision a reality.

 

Not only are we creating cutting-edge software for the local food movement, but our social enterprise structure means that we’re going to be putting a minimum of 66% of our profits back into the movement itself through our partnerships with local food systems researchers, advocates, educators & practitioners. More to come on that matter soon, so connect with us at @buckybox and be the first to hear.

Local & Friendly Food Champion Showcase: The 30 Project

We’re extremely pleased to announce the fifth in a stream of partnerships with local & friendly food champions!

The 30 Project is a think + do tank for changing the food systemWe are big fans of the work the 30 Project have done already, and inspired by their vision to ‘be a think + do tank for changing the food system‘.

The 30 Project addresses the food distribution problem - 1 billion people are hungry, 1 billion are overweightThey aim to tackle the food distribution problem – 1 billion obese, 1 billion starving.  Through initiatives such as the FEED Project and now ChangeDinner, the 30 Project aims to “bring together key organizations and activists working around the world on addressing hunger, obesity, and agriculture issues to talk about their visions for the food system and the next 30-years. Many of the best anti-hunger and anti-obesity organizations have been so focused on their important work that they have not been able to work together on common challenges. The 30 Project is gathering the best people together to work towards creating a truly healthy and sustainable global food system.”

If you haven’t already seen Ellen Gustafson, the founder of 30 Project, speaking at TEDxEAST – here’s her 10 minutes of passion & purpose:

You can support 30 Project directly here, Follow @the30Project on Twitter, or dive into some of the Change Dinner videos like this one:

#ChangeDinner today!

The Change Dinner campaign from 30 ProjectThe back story: in the early stages here at Bucky Box we decided to forego any marketing budget, and instead work with the best of the local & friendly food champions around the world and give our customers the chance to nominate where these funds will go. We see that these are the individuals & organisations who are making significant headway in catalysing, educating & advocating for a fair, friendly, local food system. We support their work to the hilt.