The Enterprise Nation member flying the flag for wonky food

The Enterprise Nation member flying the flag for wonky food
Ashley Cavers
Ashley CaversThe Wonky Food Company

Posted: Fri 20th Jul 2018

With so much perfectly good fruit and vegetables thrown away or never even making it to the supermarket shelves, Ashley Cavers was inspired to start The Wonky Food Co that makes great-tasting products from imperfect and surplus fruit and veg.

The Enterprise Nation member, who joined us via a partnership with Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership, tells her story.

How did you come up with your idea and turn it into an actual business?

My brother John first came up with the idea while working on a kiwi farm in New Zealand and being shocked and dismayed by the amount of fruit that was thrown to the ground because it wasn't quite the right size, shape or colour.

In the UK, 40% of the fruit and veg we grow never makes it to the shop shelf, which is just crazy.

So John and I came up with the idea of doing our bit to tackle this problem by turning unwanted fruit and veg into products such as relishes, sauces, soups and salsas.

We recruited a friend and neighbour, Laura, to devise the delicious recipes and The Wonky Food Co was born!

What start-up challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?

Securing a consistent supply of imperfect fruit and veg was a big problem in the beginning. We fixed this by joining forces with Ed and Joe, who run a large family farming business.

This farming partnership has enabled us to understand more about the supply chain, to scale up production, and hopefully have a potentially bigger impact on preventing perfectly edible fruit and veg from falling out of the food chain.

What has been your biggest achievement with your business so far?

Last month we launched our first range of relishes with The Midcounties Co-operative, and seeing our products on supermarket shelves for the first time was a real thrill.

Having the chance to join other rural businesses with Enterprise Nation at 10 Downing Street to meet the prime minister's business adviser was also a pretty special moment for our business!

The Wonky Food Co relish

What is your next big business goal?

We plan to roll out across more Co-op stores, as well as be on-shelf in independent delis and farm stores up and down the country.

We are also developing new ranges in different food categories, that will allow us to be more reactive to fruit and vegetable surplus.

What do you think will be your biggest challenge getting there?

Our biggest challenge is time. We have all bootstrapped the business by continuing to work in our day jobs.

Thankfully these day jobs are pretty flexible and also involve skills (catering, PR, web design and farming) that we need to use to grow our business, but there are never enough hours in the day to get through our to-do lists!

How has Enterprise Nation helped your business?

Enterprise Nation is a constant source of inspiration as you read of other people's entrepreneurial journeys.

It is also a fantastic source of knowledge, advice and training which is so important for everyone starting their own business.

I've also really enjoyed attending some of their events such as the Festival of Female Entrepreneurs.

Which other entrepreneur inspires you and why?

I'm a real admirer of Jeff Skoll, who has used the great wealth he made at eBay to fund social enterprises as well making films and documentaries committed to inspiring social change.

![The Wonky Food Co relish and vegetables]( (1).jpg)

What are your three tips for business success based on your experiences so far?

Share the journey. Whether it's a business partner, mentor or non-exec, find people who can support you along the way. Business is tough enough without having to go it alone!

Have a clear vision for your business. You can't get there if you don't know where you are going.

Be kind to yourself. There's still too much 'all or nothing' talk when it comes to starting a business. Sure, you have to be committed and work hard (very hard!), but you still need to take a break, and not neglect the other parts of your life.

Anything else you would like to share?

People warned me about going into business with friends and family (I started the company with my brother and a good friend), but so far it's been a totally positive experience and all the stronger for being a partnership built on existing respect and a knowledge and understanding of each other's personalities and lives.

Join Enterprise Nation today and become part of an amazing community of small business owners.

Ashley Cavers
Ashley CaversThe Wonky Food Company
Ashley has more than 20 years' experience working in media, research and communications, with a specialism in business and enterprise. She has a background in print and broadcast media with more recent experience in corporate communications and network building. For the last eight years, she has worked as senior researcher for The Sunday Times Fast Track, meeting the entrepreneurs behind some of the UK’s most successful private businesses. She also has direct experience of starting and running businesses, having previously run a PR and events firm as well as starting a stationery and gift business on the beautiful coast of Ireland, which she successfully sold.  Her latest venture is as co-founder of The Wonky Food Company, which recently launched its first range of relishes in the Co-op supermarket.

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