Coronavirus stories: Essential oils company to a greengrocer in a week

Coronavirus stories: Essential oils company to a greengrocer in a week

Posted: Mon 30th Mar 2020

Amid the struggles entrepreneurs are facing as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, we're hearing lots of stories of business owners adapting to the circumstances and setting up new businesses or services to generate income. From this week, we will be telling some of those stories.

A few weeks ago, David Marr was running a business selling accessories for essential oils. With trade dramatically reduced because of the coronavirus outbreak, he now runs Clapham Fresh, a company delivering fruit, vegetables, bread, dairy products and more across London.

In just a few days, David and his girlfriend Ashley Turner sourced stock and drivers and created a website. The businesses now has hundreds of customers. David tells us his inspiring story.

When and why did you start Clapham Fresh?

On 18 March I went to Sainsbury's near where I live to buy some food but they had no fruit, veg or meat left. It made me annoyed because behind that Sainsbury's is New Covent Garden Market, one of the biggest fruit and veg markets in Europe.

I went home and told my girlfriend I was going to check out the market to see if we could get some food there. My thought was right as they had loads of food so bought a few trays of different things to keep me and my girlfriend going.

A few days later on the Thursday night, I thought I would take my girlfriend to have a look. I know how to treat a lady! She got to see the scale of the food that was piling up as restaurants were starting to close.

Clapham FreshOn 20 March, my girlfriend and I, plus a lady who works for us in my existing business, were packing orders to go out for our accesories business and I asked if I could leave and go and list some of the fruit and veg we saw in the market on a website and see if anyone would buy it. We did and it grew from there.

Something else that helped kick start it was that  I was worried about my other business as I knew it was going to grind to a halt, but if I am honest, it didn't seem to be the major driver. It must have had a subconscious effect though.

The main driver was the anger I felt in Sainsbury's that day. I am not a massively angry person but I felt real outrage at what was happening.

How did you get the home delivery service up and running so fast?

The website was created in a few hours and is rough and ready at best but customers seem to like it.

My girlfriend and I asked a friend if they would like to help and we started delivering orders in our cars. Then we found friends and friends of friends to help deliver in vans. We are now upgrading to refrigerated vans.

It has been a lot of work and not a lot of sleep but I didn't really notice it until yesterday when I just fell asleep on the sofa. I just kind of got on with it.

What has been the response from the market?

Very positive. We have had good messages of support and lots of orders so not sure you can get any better than that.

Do you feel introducing this innovation will help you trade through the next couple of months?

Yes, and I think there is the possibility of having a very viable business when things get back to normal.

What advice do you have for other small business owners right now?

Have a go now. As weird as it sounds, there are a lot of resources out there not being used, so other businesses will go out of their way to help.

We have found this with suppliers and drivers. A lot of drivers had been laid off so we now have our pick of very experienced people we wouldn't have been able to get near six months ago.

Also from a customer perpective, I think many of them are willing to give you a chance at this time as in our case, they really had nothing to lose.

The latest coronavirus support information

We are keeping you updated on the latest information on how to access the government's coronavirus business support here. You can also find advice and the chance to ask a question on Enterprise Nation's coronavirus business advice hub. Follow Enterprise Nation on Twitter too for updates.

Enterprise Nation has helped thousands of people start and grow their businesses. Led by founder, Emma Jones CBE, Enterprise Nation connects you to the resources and expertise to help you succeed.

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