B12 Give Making Waves in the Food Rescue Scene
Fresh off their app launch on February 1st, we had a chance to talk to Tony Colley, Founder of Be One To Give (B12Give) and learn more about his social enterprise. B12Give is a delivery service that redistributes ready-made food to the people who need it most. This all started by Tony taking it upon himself to bike to shelters around Toronto with donated food. Now B12Give has been built to where it now provides the same service through an app, where drivers deliver perfectly good food across the GTA.
(Questions and answers have been lightly edited for clarity)
Food Fight (FF): What was the inspiration behind B12Give?
B12Give (B12G): It came out of my lived experience with food insecurity after losing the business I had at the time. I was on social assistance and experiencing food insecurity first hand. Eventually I was able to find a job working for a catering company that hosted several events daily; this is where I saw a large amount of surplus food being unnecessarily thrown out. I started to redistribute the leftovers to shelters on my bike until one day I couldn’t rescue all the food and decided to purchase a backpack for delivery drivers. In that moment I realized that something more had to be done to combat food waste and food insecurity across Canada, and that was the inspiration for B12Give. I launched the pilot through text messages from caterers saying they had surplus food, and I would go collect the order and redistribute to a local shelter. This continued to grow and due to its success we decided to expand the service and offer a full fledged app with a monthly subscription based offering.
FF: What is the mission of B12Give?
B12G: Our mission is to close the gap between surplus and access across Canada. Two of our largest social issues are food waste and food insecurity; B12Give helps tackle them both. Our service closes the supply chain where we rescue surplus prepared food and redistribute to those who are food insecure to ensure it’s not thrown out.
FF: What have been some of the biggest challenges running B12Give, especially given COVID-19?
B12G: So we launched our pilot in November 2019, and received a lot of media attention from several major news outlets. Those features garnered attention from universities, event venues, hotels, and shopping malls, so we had a lot of momentum going into 2020. Then the pandemic hit and our momentum grinded to a halt with most retailers and other businesses being forced to close. Even though this affected our initial traction, it amplified the need for our service, so we spent quarantine focusing on developing the app and making sure it was where we needed it to be. We also discovered some new challenges, as the pandemic eliminated us partnering with universities and event venues, so we shifted our focus to meal prep kitchens and larger retailers like supermarkets. COVID did us a favour as it forced everyone to realize how big the issue of food insecurity is in Canada. With it now being front and centre after receiving a lot of media attention, the general population can no longer look away or ignore the issue of food insecurity in our country. Even though COVID has brought its challenges, we launched on February 1st and have done a few news interviews to promote the app, and are continuing to grow our platform of users.
FF: Are there any misconceptions about your business?
B12G: The biggest thing we realized was that most people think we’re a charity so the messaging around our business type and pricing structure confused business owners at first. I think that’s one area we are still working on because when I talk to them on the phone they understand the service, so our messaging just needs to be refined.
FF: Congratulations on launching your app! What was that process like developing an app?
B12G: It took a little bit of time finding the right person to work on the app, because I was looking for a female app developer who would see the project through. I actually ended up finding our tech lead and a freelance developer around the same time, so the timing was perfect. Due to COVID we were able to focus all our attention on getting the app developed and ready for market and then shifted our focus to marketing the app and getting the word out. This week we did our team photos and we all met each other in person for the first time, so that was definitely a unique twist given we developed the app during quarantine.
FF: Where do you see the business going in the next few years?
B12G: We want to be the UberEats of food rescue and offer a gig economy based service where all we need are people, cars, and surplus food to make it work. Our first goal is to offer the service nationwide, with aspirations to scale internationally. With Toronto being the largest metropolitan city in Canada, it’s been a great test city for us as it helps with development and scaling of the app. Currently, our service uses the personal vehicles of our drivers, but I could see us scaling to company owned cubed vans that can deliver more food in the future.
FF: What has been the highlight so far of running B12Give?
B12G: For me the impact of feeding people is definitely a highlight. I know what it’s like to be food insecure so to be able to provide for others is fulfilling and motivates me every day. I must say I never thought I was ever going to launch an app; this was something that came about randomly through my volunteering, so the process of developing the infrastructure and designing the UI of my very own app has also been very rewarding.
FF: Thank you so much for your time! It is always a pleasure talking to you and we appreciate the service B12Give provides.
If you would like to learn more about Be One To Give check out their Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/B12Give/?modal=admin_todo_tour), Twitter (https://twitter.com/B12Give, Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/b12give/.), LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/company/be-one-to-give/) pages or website at https://www.b12give.ca/.
If you live in the GTA area you can download B12Give on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.