This month we caught up with Felicity Beasley who founded The Local Trove with business partner Victoria Ayres in 2020. Despite an incredibly busy time preparing for the imminent launch of their innovative service, Felicity was kind enough to spare some time to share with us a little about the business, its challenges to date, its growth aspirations, and how the eScalate programme has been supporting their efforts.
Q. Felicity, could you possibly tell us a little about The Local Trove?
A. Absolutely. Our mission is to create the most extensive consumer facing marketplace of local independent food suppliers, retailers and producers. Trove is an online aggregated platform that allows people to order from multiple local fresh food suppliers: think butchers, greengrocers, fishmongers, bakeries, dairies and farm shops. These orders are collected from our local supplier partners by our drivers, sorted in our vans and then delivered in a single, convenient drop to our customers. Our platform enables independent suppliers to reach a wider audience through enhanced technology and centralised delivery without having to invest in their own infrastructure.
Q. Fantastic. And what inspired you to start the business?
A. As co-founders we share a common value that eating good quality, locally sourced food is not only better for our bodies but keeps communities alive. We see an abundance of fantastic locally produced food and locally curated product lines. Since 2018 here has been a huge growth in online grocery shopping coupled with demand for home delivery. In 2018 online grocery delivery was valued £11.4bn and is forecast to increase 54% to £19.8bn by 2023. At the same time, people increasingly want to understand the provenance of their food source and to shop locally. All these trends have been accelerated by COVID 19. Yet, through our research we have found many SME food retailers have not set up a digital shopping presence or home delivery service and where they have it tends to be limited or quickly pulled together. Therefore, we saw an opportunity to provide suppliers with a high quality online ecommerce store, order management platform and outsourced delivery which would meet the growing needs of consumers, yet allow them to focus on their core business.
Q. What do you believe were your biggest challenges starting out?
A. I think we would outline the following three big challenges:
- Creating a marketplace. Trove’s success is predicated on our ability to create a two-sided market place of both suppliers and local customers, therefore one of the biggest initial hurdles was to identify and onboard suppliers and then to create a customer market. To do this we identified a test area of Chipping Norton in Oxfordshire. We have three suppliers ready to join the platform and will be opening to customers at the end of July. We hope to show the model working in the initial area before scaling.
- Delivering the technology. We knew we needed to create technology that is user friendly and intuitive for both suppliers and customers, teamed with a sophisticated logistics module to track daily orders so the drivers know which suppliers to collect orders from and where to deliver to customers. As co-founders who are not from a tech background this has been an interesting challenge, but one we have really been able to learn from and understand how to implement design & development sprints for future.
- Fundraising. Aside from the eScalate grant, Trove is self-funded along with an equity partnership with our technology developers. This has enabled us to get to the position to launch the business in the test area. We have been simultaneously talking to potential investors to support our growth capital. Whilst we have a lot of promising interest, we need to prove the model to obtain future financing to grow.
Q. You have achieved so very much in a relatively short space of time. What are your longer-term growth aspirations?
A. We have customer services, community impact and sustainability as core values which run through everything we do. Trove has been established to serve our suppliers and consumers, therefore it is our aspiration to create a trusted brand that anyone who associates with us – be it suppliers, consumers, employees, service partners, investors etc. have confidence that we place a high value on delivering a high quality, reliable service. We aspire to roll out Trove across the UK as we see a huge opportunity for Trove to help consumers “think local” first when it comes to their fresh grocery shopping. We aim to look back in five years’ time and to have established a substantial network of local independent suppliers across the UK with a large base of regular customers – in turn Trove should drive the retention of more money within local communities.
Q. And on to the eScalate programme for a moment. Can you describe how the programme has supported the business?
A. The eScalate grant has been a brilliant support in a number of ways. Firstly, we were genuinely honoured to be awarded the grant from an independent panel of experts who were evaluating our business against a number of other businesses to support. Therefore, to be selected to receive grant funding was a huge endorsement to our business plan and aspirations. The financial support has enabled us to move with more confidence into our first market. Also, we have been impressed with the support and access to knowledge sharing as part of the programme. We have been able to speak to experts and listen in on seminars/workshops across a variety of areas that scale up businesses need to understand, but where their skill set may not lie.
Q. And finally, reflecting on your journey so far, what recommendations would you make to other entrepreneurs/business owners starting out?
A. We have certainly taken on board a number of key learnings over the first few months of the business (and continue to learn!), some key early recommendations would be:
- Have a clear objective in what you are trying to achieve. You may not have all the answers, but you do need a compelling story that is backed by solid research on what the problem is that you are trying to solve and why your solution can help.
- Don’t be afraid of competition! You will always be asked about competition and how your proposition is different. We view this as really healthy and makes us more focussed on our own objectives and how we aim to be successful.
- Be ready to network and talk to as many people as you can! We have had so many interesting conversations with people over the past few months, many of whom are connections we have made by putting ourselves out of our natural comfort zone to cold approach people who we think could help. This has then led to many more contacts and connections, we have found so many people to be generous with their time, advice and support.
- Try and focus on the 3/5 key things you need to get done: what are those objectives? how will you deliver them? over what time period? It can be overwhelming with a never-ending to-do list, but we have moved towards a focus on what we need to achieve because we found that if you focus on everything, you focus on nothing!
- And finally, don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for support!