Empowering the Freelance Economy

The OLIO Interview: Free food never tasted (or felt) so good – would you consider becoming a Food Waste Hero or Ambassador?

Tessa Clarke (left) and Saasha Celestial-One, Co-Founders of OLIO
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Since we last spoke with Olio, the food sharing site has launched a great side hustle business tool.

OLIO MADE is a new section in the app which allows their OLIO community to sell their sustainable handmade crafts and delicious homemade food directly to friendly neighbours.

Just in time for the upcoming holiday season.

If you start selling your goods on Olio, tell us about your experience and of course send us pics of you in action with your sustainable handcrafted goods and yummy food to press@freelanceinformer.com

Food and waste are two words that should never go together.

“Waste not, want not,” my Grandmother used to tell me as she tapped my dinner plate with a fork next to any uneaten food.

Tessa Clarke and Saasha Celestial-One, Co-Founders of OLIO, the free sharing app, are ‘tapping’ a few more plates than my Grandmother ever could about food wastage and wasting no time in trying to solve it in 54 countries. Olio has been a lifeline to many people of all walks of life during the pandemic, and that is why Freelance Informer wanted their readers to know that this service is out there for them should they need it or want to learn more on how they could become an Olio volunteer or ambassador.

I speak to Tessa Clarke on the direction of this global business, the role freelancers will continue to play in its growth, and any tips for those parents sitting on the fence about setting up a business for the first time.

“A third of the food we produce globally is thrown away, and in the UK households are responsible for over half of all food waste. The average family throws away £700 worth of food each year. That adds up to £12.5 billion… £12.5 billion that is going straight to landfill!”


Which supermarkets or food chains in the UK are now signed up with OLIO?

OLIO works with a wide range of businesses including Tesco, Pret a Manger and Compass Catering, to mention just a few; and we’re signing up new businesses all the time. That’s because customers and employees are increasingly demanding that businesses stop throwing away perfectly good food that could’ve been eaten. Our Food Waste Heroes Programme, which connects businesses with trained local volunteers, is a great way to enable them to do this.

How has this transformed the viability of the business?

The Food Waste Heroes Programme is really important because it not only helps us fulfil our mission of reducing food waste, but it also ensures there’s lots of great food on the app and it helps us generate revenues too.

How did you celebrate when you signed the first supermarket contract?

With tears of joy! We then printed off the contract and pinned it to the wall, and treated ourselves to a glass of bubbly.

Tessa Clarke, co-founder of Olio is on a mission to curb global food waste – and it looks like she and the Olio team are winning. The Olio idea sprang to life in 2014 with 6 sweet potatoes, a whole white cabbage and some pots of yoghurt.

How many volunteers do you have signed up worldwide?

We have 10,000 trained Food Waste Heroes who collect and redistribute unsold food from local businesses. And over 50,000 people have reached out to become an Ambassador, which is someone who spreads the word about OLIO in their local community.

How is Olio taking off outside the UK?

OLIO is being used all over the world, and 25% of the weekly sharing is taking place outside of the UK, with the most active markets being Mexico, Singapore and New Zealand. Our focus in international markets is getting regular people to use the app to give away their spare food and other household items, rather than the businesses, as signing up businesses requires a team on the ground and we’re not yet ready for that.

Some of our readers have had a shock to their finances because their clients or sectors have been negatively affected by social distancing measures. Or their clients just are not paying up. Despite their financial hardship, they may be too proud to ask for a handout. Does Olio help eliminate any stigma someone might feel using the perks of being a volunteer (can take 10% of what they have packed before distributing to local people via the app)?

We believe very firmly that OLIO is for everybody, because if we want to stand any chance whatsoever of saving all the food that’s being wasted, then we all need to get involved! We also recognise that whist OLIO is acting as a lifeline to some people, it’s really important that they never feel stigmatised or singled out, because at the end of the day, OLIO is all about community, not charity.

We allow our Food Waste Heroes to keep 10% of what they collect as a thank you for their volunteering efforts. For some volunteers this is a really important part of the volunteering experience, whereas for others they don’t keep any of the food – it’s totally up to each person!

How much time should a volunteer allot for packing and distribution?

It generally takes a volunteer 2-3 hours per weekly collection slot to collect the food, add it to the app and then redistribute it to all their OLIO neighbours.

What would be an example box of goods a volunteer may be able to take home to their families- a mix of fresh produce (fruit, veg, milk) and longer life products (bread, pasta, sauces)?

There’s an enormous range of items that volunteers collect and redistribute, and from which they can select their 10%. We’ve recently run some analysis which shows that approximately half of all FWH listings are fruit, veg, soups & salads.

If you often are throwing away food or have a large harvest of home-grown veg – share it!

As a growing startup, will you consider hiring freelancers to help you scale the business (from content, marketing, IT/AI, Data, distribution, to accounting)?

As we grow we’ve recognised that there’s a big jump between having nobody do a role, and somebody full time; we’ve also experienced times when we need some specific expertise or help. So yes, freelancers will continue to be part of OLIO’s growth journey!

What advice would you give someone if they were on the fence about going freelance or starting up their own business, but held back because they were also raising a family?

Although many people worry that setting up a business at the same time as having kids is a recipe for disaster, the experience of myself and my co-founder Saasha has been the exact opposite! We set up the business to be remote from day one, and as a result, I’ve been present for my family in a way that just wouldn’t have been possible if I’d been working in an office at a corporate job. I’ve been there for every step of my kids’ journeys – and they’ve been there for every step of OLIO’s – which is a win-win if you ask me! 

To learn more about the company and how the business started, read more here.

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