‘A Global Food Revolution’ is the mission that New Zealand-based social enterprise Ooooby has its sight set on facilitating. The company describes itself as a collaborative commons enterprise that reinvests all its profits into developing local food production, ensuring all participants in the supply chain are rewarded fairly for their contributions. For instance, it pays farmers 50 percent of the total retail value for the supply and delivery of their produce to the Ooooby HQ.
Ooooby, which stands for ‘Out Of Our Own Backyards’, was founded by husband and wife team Pete and Katherine Russell. It puts together boxes of local and organic produce sourced directly from both professional growers and amateur gardeners.
The cool thing is any individual that grows fresh produce can be a potential Ooooby supplier. For example, Ooooby has paid one man around $100 for selling the company grapefruit grown in his own backyard. The company is similar in spirit to Adelaide startup Ripe Near Me, however Ooooby is scaling at quite a rapid rate, mainly due to the fact that its unique supply chain methodology is its biggest strength and asset.
The startup recently became the first New Zealand company looking for impact investment to ever raise money via equity crowdfunding on Wellington-based crowdfunding platform PledgeMe. Ooooby raised a total of over NZ$285,000, which is well above its tipping point of $200,000. The campaign was backed by 156 people who now own 2.4 percent of Ooooby. Originally the team was looking to raise a total of $800,000 and give away a total of 9.1 percent in equity.
“Ooooby’s main purpose is to help rebuild local food economies,” says PledgeMe Equity Champion, Will Stewart. “This has lead to an unusual share offering where potential dividends are invested back local food systems or projects. The fact they met their minimum goal of $200,000 in just over a week shows that social enterprises can seek impact investment through alternative funding sources”.
Unlike many startups that choose the route of crowdfunding to get an idea off the ground, Ooooby is not a new concept or pre-revenue. In fact, the company has generated well over NZ$1 million in revenue this year and has customers across New Zealand, Australia and the United States. The reason the company decided to go with the crowdfunding option instead of raising a Series A was because the notion of letting people in the community have ownership in the Ooooby operation aligns to the overall vision and mission of the company.
One of the most interesting aspects of this equity crowdfunding round is the types of people that participated. Not only did the money come from engaged individuals and customers that usually use the product and PledgeMe platform as usual, but there was a significant amount of capital raised from trusts and organisations that were looking to make calculated impact investments.
“It’s been impressive to see the support Ooooby has seen from trusts and organisations who have funds for investment aimed to return value in a range of ways,” says Stewart. “This has been complemented by strong support from engaged customers and professional networks who, until now, have watched Ooooby grow while cheerleading from the sidelines. Now they’re part of the team.”