Friday, November 21, 2014
Editor's note: From the typewriter to the propelling pencil to our favorite, the world wide web, inventors and innovators from the United Kingdom have brought us brilliant advances that have changed the way we work all around the world. During Global Entrepreneurship Week, we’ll promote entrepreneurship in the UK through a handful of stories from early-stage disrupters and trailblazers who are using Google Apps for Work to overcome the challenges of starting a new company and inspiring others to start businesses. Today, we hear from Ben Pugh, founder of FarmDrop, the UK's first "click-to-harvest" online farmer's market.
Technology has the potential to bring consumers and producers together to make food tastier, more convenient and more sustainable. In 2012, I left my career in finance to test this potential and started talking with farmers, fishermen and consumers about how to improve the food supply chain. The following March, after months of researching and experimenting, we launched the FarmDrop pilot. More than 8,000 customers and 400 independent, local producers across the UK have signed up since and thousands of pounds of local food is being bought and sold through the platform each week.
For us, building a high-growth company has been about getting consumers and food producers excited about our online farmer’s market vision and assembling a team of talented people who believe in it even more. From scratch, Google Apps helped us tackle three of our biggest challenges head-on:
1. Establishing instant credibility without costly business tools
We started FarmDrop with no funding, but using Google Apps for Work right from the start helped shorten the otherwise difficult financial barrier to entry. Inexpensive email and collaboration tools equipped the team for work within a matter of hours, avoiding the complexity of software licenses, pricing structures and IT administration. A seemingly small thing like having an @farmdrop.co.uk email addresses made our day-old company feel like a real business. Apps helps us present ourselves professionally, which boosted morale and built trust among partners and customers from the outset.
2. Creating transparency throughout the company from day one
Joining a startup is a risk but it’s also great adventure and it’s important that everyone in the company feels like they are part of the adventure. For that to happen, everyone needs to know what’s going on in the business. It sounds simple and easy but with so much going on all the time it isn’t. Google Drive allows us to share business strategy documents, goals and performance metrics, as well as product roadmaps, even as they evolve. We’ve created a detailed timeline in Google Sheets that tracks all of our activities leading up to a major launch, so anyone can check team progress in real time. With granular sharing controls, I can grant view-only access to protect crucial data while still providing team members with access to information.
3. Enabling team members to work flexibly from anywhere
Flexibility is an important benefit of startup culture, but we don’t want it to interrupt work. On any given day, we’ll have a handful of people in the office, another handful working from home, and the rest on a farm, meeting fishermen and bakers or meeting people from new pick-up points. Apps connects us no matter where we are or what device we’re using. The development team uses Google Hangouts for their daily meeting, and can easily share their screens or move the camera to a whiteboard to share information with team members who are working remotely.
With our growth accelerating, we need to retain our sense of mission whilst the team expands. That means working together in total collaboration and being connected as a team which Google Apps enables. Our love of authentic, sustainable food and the people who make it will continue to drive us forwards to a world of better food and a healthier planet.