Jenny Dawson’s startup is one with a difference. Her chutney enterprise, Rubies in the Rubble, champions uniqueness with a strong social ethos – using produce that’s discarded or rejected by society for aesthetic reasons.
“I wanted our products to be a literal solution to food waste, but also to stand as symbolic vehicles of our message: to consume less, think more, and be proud of it,” she explained.
Meeting Dawson at the first Dell U.K. Centre for Entrepreneurs networking event, I was fortunate enough to sample some of the company’s delicious products, and to hear more about what it takes to build a socially conscious enterprise.
What was the inspiration behind Rubies in the Rubble?
In the winter of 2010, I had become enthralled to read about the global food industry and the issues of food waste. I couldn’t believe how wasteful we were as a nation and it just didn’t make sense that Western countries produce up to 300 percent more food than we actually need, while 1 billion people suffer from malnutrition.
Obviously fairer distribution of all that surplus food is the ideal, but in the meantime, learning to value and put it to use in our own country is, I felt, a point of moral principle. So Rubies in the Rubble was born — a brand of delicious products made, as much as possible, from surplus fruit and vegetables that (are) usually discarded due to imbalances in supply and demand, or for aesthetic reasons.
How have you found the process of getting a distributor on board?
It’s been incredible! We have had an amazing response from consumers and retailers for our brand and what we stand for. Our main challenge is being such a small team, but needing to get our brand out there and to engage with the public. The food market is incredibly competitive and it’s hard to grow as fast as you might like on a startup budget.
What’s the best way to get the message out about Rubies in the Rubble and what it stands for?
We have had some great press, which has been really helpful for spreading our message. Social media allows small brands to create a following and connect with the public at very low cost — so I need to get better at it.
As a social entrepreneur, how have you found the process of raising capital?
Fortunately we haven’t had to yet but we are just preparing ourselves for it now. It’s quite exciting; we have a really compelling business case with an exciting future, so are looking forward to the challenge of finding a good match in an investor.
How can a social enterprise achieve scale while staying true to its mission?
It can be challenging, especially when you see other companies grow very quickly around you, but at the same time, you value success in different ways. We don’t use fruit and veg to make chutney — we make great chutney to use fruit and veg and carry our message.
I wouldn’t be running Rubies in the Rubble if it wasn’t for the social aims and missions we achieve through our production, so if scaling up in a certain way meant we lost sight of our mission, I wouldn’t do it.
What’s the next big thing for Rubies in the Rubble? How are you looking to grow this year?
We are going into new product ranges this year, which we aim to launch with a storm. I’m really excited about it — these products are addictive, healthy, and have a fast run rate, which means we can put to use many more wonky fruit and veg. Watch this space.
Beyond that, our five-year goal is to be nationally known as an umbrella brand that is passionate about valuing good food.Business,Entrepreneurship,Green,Leadership