When we started packing veg boxes back in 1993, marketing consisted of evenings spent photocopying and folding leaflets after I got home from delivering the boxes. As sales grew and I wanted to get back to the fields, I employed feckless young men who crashed my vans and were rude to customers, leaving me increasingly frustrated.
For a short while a local group of musicians handled the sales and deliveries, leaving me to grow the veg. It worked well at first but they turned out to be as stubbornly independent and anarchic as me but less reliable; they were all charging different prices, sometimes adding non-organic eggs etc., and often competing with each other in the same village.
My big sister, having spent her life marketing in London, told me I should be concentrating on developing my brand; I honestly didn’t know what she was talking about but could see that we needed organisation and consistency to move forward. Taking her advice, I tried to organise my band of anarchists into accepting allocated sales territories and selling produce at the same price and even adopting some common systems, but predictably most told me where I could stick it.
At about that time a bright young staff member called Martin went to a seminar and came back telling me there was a name for what I was trying to do; franchising. For years I just called it “the F word”; there are so many horribly exploitative businesses that have followed this model that I refused to accept it.
However, after 20 years I now do; our 61 local franchisees know their customers and areas better than we could ever hope to and deliver a level of personal service we struggle to match when we deliver ourselves.
As over 50 per cent of our franchisees came to us as customers first, might it be for you? We need veg men and ladies to help bring our fields into our customers’ homes, connecting them to how their food is grown and helping them enjoy it around the kitchen table. Business should be fun, so we are looking for franchisees who we like, trust and who share our vision for a world where good food, good farming and good business are the norm.