Q&A: Tessa Clarke, founder of food-sharing app OLIO

June 10, 2020

OLIO is an app that connects people and companies so surplus food can be shared, not thrown away. That could be food nearing its sell-by date in stores, or groceries in an individual’s fridge.

As of 2020, over 10 per cent of Jersey’s inhabitants have joined OLIO. And the food that is redistributed via the app each month saves over five million litres of water (food production is incredibly water intensive) and has an environmental impact equivalent to 25,000 fewer car miles.

We caught up with co-founder Tessa Clarke to find out why the service has found a natural home in Jersey.

OLIO has been very successful across the UK, but how did it arrive in Jersey?

Tessa Clarke: Back in May 2017, an amazing Jersey resident called Elis Joudalova joined OLIO as a regular user. She quickly signed up to become an OLIO Ambassador, someone who spreads the word about OLIO in their local community, and then an OLIO Food Waste Hero, someone who collects unsold food from local shops and redistributes it to the community via the app. Within just a couple of days Elis had signed up several local retailers to join OLIO, and the rest, as they say, is history.

What kind of companies are signing up to use OLIO in Jersey?

TC: We work with a wide variety of businesses, including cafés, supermarkets (Co-op, Alliance and Waitrose), bakeries and wholesalers. Because Jersey imports a lot of its food, changes in the weather pattern can result in too much food being delivered at the wrong time, and so that makes OLIO an even more critical tool in the island’s battle against food waste.

Have you experienced a unique commitment to sustainability among the business community and individuals in Jersey?

TC: Jersey definitely has a lot of the right ingredients to make OLIO work. It’s a small community that’s keen to make a difference together. There’s growing awareness of local and global environmental issues, which is shared not only by residents, but also by local businesses, which don’t like throwing away perfectly good food either. And although there isn’t a significant homelessness issue, there is a growing hidden poverty, which means that there’s no shortage of demand for delicious free food. Most importantly, however, there’s an incredible band of OLIO Ambassadors and Food Waste Heroes who dedicate their time to spreading the word and collecting and redistributing tonnes of beautiful food from local businesses, ensuring that nothing goes to waste.

Do you find it easier to get OLIO’s message across in close-knit communities like Jersey?

TC: Absolutely! The fact that Jersey is a relatively small community that has a high appreciation for the value of food means that it’s been easier to spread the word here than in many other places. The local media have also been very supportive, and social media is powerful too.

What kind of people are drawn to work with OLIO as volunteers in Jersey?

TC: We now have over 100 active volunteers in Jersey, and although there’s a lot of diversity, we do see that they tend to be female (with lots of mums) and community- or environment-oriented people. Everyone is united by their commitment to the cause, and happily lots of incredible relationships have been formed along the way.

You’re due to speak at Jersey Finance’s rescheduled Private Wealth Conference 2020 in December. What topics are you hoping to address there?

TC: I’ll be sharing the OLIO story from inception to a global movement of two million people who have shared over four million portions of food. I’ll also share our fundraising experiences as a female-founded business that has raised over GBP10 million from venture capitalists, impact funds and angel investors. And I’ll close out with my thoughts on the incredibly important role that the gatekeepers of capital have in ensuring that there is more diversity in their midst and that they are investing at scale in the greatest investment opportunity of our lifetimes – solving the climate crisis.

Visit olioex.com

Interview by Mike Hine



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