Enlightened customer support facilitates expansion of local shop.
With a little help from startup funding and a lot of goodwill from his customers, Reuben Chesters has achieved strong growth in his Glasgow shop, market garden and vegetable box scheme in less than six years.
Reuben’s community interest company, known simply as Locavore, is meeting a demand for locally produced food and highlighting its connection with a host of global issues including climate change, public health and animal welfare.
In 2012, he opened a one-man shop selling little more than potatoes, turnips and oats, with the aid of a £4,000 grant from Firstport, a fund that supports startups by social enterprises in Scotland.
With little or no competition from other producers or sellers, the enterprise grew and attracted another Firstport grant, this time for £20,000, to open a bigger shop on the south side of Glasgow which sells Reuben’s own crops plus those from other producers and employs 15 people full-time.
In early 2018, he plans to take a bigger step by opening a 6,000-square-foot shop selling local produce plus groceries that are organic, fair trade, or have some other “good story” behind them.
The new store has been funded largely by the expansion of the business which gets about 90 percent of its revenue from trading, but has also attracted individual investments of £250 or more from about 80 customers, totaling £100,000.
Another project for 2018 is the acquisition of a wholesale business to supply around 80 other retailers who have a similar ethos with organic groceries such as pasta, olive oils, and tinned pulses.
“We want to develop this business to support progressive retail and organic producers through short supply chains so that we can get good value products to customers and support alternatives to supermarkets,” Chesters said.
Reuben, 31, and his staff team of 30 expect revenue to jump to at least £2 million in 2018, about treble the 2017 level. The enterprise has always been “in the black” and its surpluses, though “very, very small,” have been reinvested, he said.
He attributed his success to the mix of services, an active social media presence, a physical shop within the community and people’s recognition that he’s doing more than just selling vegetables.
“It’s mission-based, we have something that we want to achieve,” he said. “It’s bought us a lot of loyalty and a customer base that really supports us.”
Find out more about Locavore at: www.glasgowlocavore.org.