Saasha Celestial-One is Co-Founder & COO of OLIO app, a free app harnessing the power of mobile technology and the sharing economy to provide a revolutionary solution to the problem of food waste. OLIO is growing quickly, empowered by 50k+ volunteers.
Since 2016, 2.4m OLIO-ers have successfully shared over 6m portions of food in 54 countries.
Saasha was named one of the UK’s “Coolest Female Founders” by Business Insider, has an MBA from Stanford, is mum to 8-year-old Nolan, and is the proud daughter of hippy entrepreneurs.
The ‘lightbulb’ moment came on 17th December 2014, as co-founder Tessa Clarke was packing up her apartment in Switzerland, getting ready to move back to the UK.
Despite their best efforts to eat everything they had, they were still left with 6 sweet potatoes, a whole white cabbage, and some pots of yogurt:
“The removal men told me that all the food had to be thrown away, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do this. And so — much to their frustration as we still had a lot to pack up — I got my new-born baby and toddler dressed and set off armed with this food to find someone to give it to.”
She thought about knocking on neighbors’ doors to see if they wanted it, but the problem was she didn’t know if they would be in. Even if that had been the case, she didn’t really know them and it might be a bit awkward if they didn’t want what she was offering.
Feeling defeated she thought to herself: “This is absolutely crazy…. this food is delicious. Why isn’t there an app where I can share it with someone nearby who wants it?”
So the idea for OLIO app was born. She told some friends and family about the idea of a food sharing app, and they all thought she was crazy. But in February 2015 when she told Saasha, her eyes immediately lit up.
“I’m the daughter of Iowa hippy entrepreneurs (hence the origin of my last name, Celestial-One — which my parents made up!) and I grew up in a large, relatively poor family” Saasha recalls.
“I spent much of my childhood accompanying my Mom on various missions to rescue things that others had discarded — wooden fixtures from foreclosed houses, plants from the greenhouse dumpster, aluminum soda cans (worth 5¢ each) casually tossed aside at the beach, etc.”
Just like that, an incredible business venture started — one that would lead to a local revolution.
Top three tips for people starting a business:
- Do your market research and experiment with the way you reach your potential customer.
- Choose your co-founders wisely, as it’s like a marriage and you want to get it right
- Get out there with your message, show up offline and online as the face of your brand
How did you validate your idea?
We conducted some market research using SurveyMonkey and through this, we found that 1 in 3 people are “physically pained” throwing away good food. That’s a lot of people, who almost every day, are having to throw away food because there’s no alternative… there’s been no innovation since the rubbish bin!
Food waste is the 3rd largest contributor to the climate crisis and 71% of food waste post farm gate takes place in the home. We make it easy and fun to share your spare, rather than let it go to waste.
What we settled on was a slightly bizarre ‘proof of concept’ involving Whatsapp! We invited 12 people who took part in our market research survey, and who said they were physically pained throwing way good food, and we put them all in a closed WhatsApp group. They all lived close to each other and we asked them for 2 weeks to add any surplus food they had into the group and we’d see if food sharing started. We leapt with joy and watched on in excitement as many more items of food were shared during those two weeks.
What is one failure are you glad you experienced?
When we first launched we allowed people to sell their spare (as long as it was 50% off or more).
This was a disaster – people were horrible at pricing things, and the worst-priced items were by definition left on the app the longest as they weren’t requested, which meant that new users had an unpleasant experience when they opened the browse view for the first time. We moved quickly to ‘everything is FREE’ and it’s really helped to shape our community culture and brand.
What role has social media played in your success?
Major – especially local Facebook groups – I belong to more than 500. Our tube campaign was pretty awesome, as it allowed us to reach even more Londoners. We also capture user stories with our dedicated Twitter account and it’s great for social proof!
What piece of industry advice do you often hear that you disagree with?
You have to get an office to recruit great talent and ‘be legit’ – we’ve been remote-first from day 1, which has kept us lean and flexible and find amazing talent outside of London
One particular win or proud moment in your journey?
Winning the 2018 Momentum for Change award at the UN Climate Conference in Poland, in recognition of OLIO’s potential at scale to mitigate the climate crisis. Tessa and I are both prolific public speakers, which takes a lot of time. However our story is really powerful and it’s free (except for our time of course) and it’s been so important for finding investors, partners, talent, etc.
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Saasha Celestial-One is Co-Founder & COO of OLIO, a free app harnessing the power of mobile technology and the sharing economy to provide a revolutionary solution to the problem of food waste. OLIO is growing quickly, empowered by 50k+ volunteers. Since 2016, 2.4m OLIOers have successfully shared over 6m portions of food in 54 countries. Saasha was named one of the UK’s “Coolest Female Founders” by Business Insider, has an MBA from Stanford, is mum to 8-year-old Nolan, and is the proud daughter of hippy entrepreneurs.