The app was born out of the frustrations Clarke had experienced when it came to rehoming her own surplus food. “I’m a farmer’s daughter, so I grew up working incredibly hard on my family farm producing food, and as a result of that, I have a pathological hatred for food waste,” she explains. The real catalyst came when she was moving from Switzerland back to the UK, and was told by the removal company that she would have to throw out all of her perishables.
That phrase has almost become a cliché and initially Clarke was met with same scepticism. One of the few people to really take the idea seriously was her eventual co-founder Saasha Celestial-One, who grew up in a family of “Iowa hippy entrepreneurs” that gave her an appreciation of the planet’s scarce resources, according to the company.
“Much to the irritation of the removal men, I stopped packing and instead bundled up my newborn baby and toddler and set out to the streets clutching this food, hoping to find someone to give it to – and to cut a long story short, unfortunately I failed miserably,” she recalls. She ended up stashing the food in the removal van anyway, but the whole experience had triggered a bigger revelation. There could be an app for this, she realised.
Together they ran a proof of concept in the form of a two-week trial among a group of 12 people in north London via WhatsApp. “We didn’t want to invest our life savings building an app that in all likelihood no one would want,” Clarke says, “and that’s some advice I always give to any early stage entrepreneur: do whatever you can to find a low cost or no cost way of testing your core hypothesis, before investing in building something.”
“We have a philosophy, which is: it was billions of small actions that caused the climate crisis in the first place, and billions of small actions can help get us out of it. But to enable and facilitate those billions of small actions, we’ve got to empower people with a tool – and an app is just a brilliant way to do that,” says Tessa Clarke, co-founder of Olio. The peer-to-peer sharing app strives to curb the amount people throw away, which now includes household items as well as its original remit: food waste.