Local food lovers can now get their own slice of ethical Ooooby’s pie by buying shares
When Pete Russell established Ooooby (Out Of Our Own Back Yards) in 2010, little did he know a small seed of an idea would be germinating all over the world five years later.
Ooooby is best described as a farmers market in a box delivered to your door but Russell says there is a much deeper mission behind it.
“It’s all about the sustainability of local food being produced in your area and Ooooby is the connector between those local growers and those precious customers that are keen to support them. Ooooby customers are passionate about the food they eat but also where it comes from, how it is grown, and they actually care whether it gives a decent deal to the farmer.”
Russell confirms growers are paid 50% of the total retail value of the produce they deliver to their nearest Ooooby hub.
Ooooby uses an online platform for each of their local distribution hubs which allows customers to handpick their box of local produce incorporating anything from fruit and vegetables; including All Good Fair Trade bananas, ecostore products, free-range organic eggs, freshly baked breads and condiments.
Its popularity has not only seen hubs popping up domestically outside of Auckland. Russell says support offered by Wendy Schmidt, wife of Google’s former chief executive Eric Schmidt, made him realise he was onto something special.
“It was a total buzz and even today I have to pinch myself that it actually happened. Wendy Schmidt’s foundation, 11th hour, was seeking ways to support ecological agriculture and when she learnt about the Ooooby model she felt that it solved many of the problems facing ecological growers in terms of access to the market without needing to charge boutique rates. Ooooby provided a way for locally grown organic food to be made more accessible to residents of Fresno which is considered to be a food desert even though it lies right in the middle of the central valley, which is one of the US’s largest food producing regions.”
Schmidt’s foundation backed Ooooby with US$150,000 and Fresno became its first US hub.
“We’ve also started in Sydney and plan to open a hub in northern England later this year. Ooooby has the potential to take-off around the world, it’s proven and the systems work but to do this we need to scale up the business.”
Traditionally Russell might have pulled a proposal together and gone to see his bank or tapped into an equity investor but like many things about Ooooby, Russell says he wants to keep it local.
“We’ve gone with crowdfunding to raise capital because we want to work with ‘our crowd’. Through crowdfunding, the passionate people who are already part of Ooooby and who care about food, can actually each have a slice of the pie. It perfectly aligns with the philosophy of food for the people, by the people.”
Russell and his founding team including Davy van de Vusse, Nick Pinchin and James Samuel have assigned 90% of their shares in Ooooby Ltd to the Ooooby Foundation, a newly established not-for-profit trust with the primary purpose of rebuilding local food systems. The profits that flow to the Ooooby Foundation will be channelled into supporting community food projects and start-up funding for urban farms and artisan food businesses.
“There won’t be standard cash dividends for investors; they will instead receive local food vouchers which can be spent within their local food economy including Ooooby purchases. Shareholders will also receive discounts when purchasing from Ooooby and will share in the ‘good’ of helping to make food production more local, better for the environment and for their communities.”
The crowdfunding launches 1 September. To receive the investment documents and an invite to the investor information evenings being held, go to pldg.me/ooooby