Welcome back to the FuseBox, our interview series where we speak to good people at the front end of the Social Enterprise sector. Now that we’ve got 2020 over and done with (let’s never do that again!) we’d like to give you all some positive news, in this issue we’ll be hearing from Jamie Palmer one of the founders of Social Supermarket.
Like many other organisations 2020 was a tough year for Jamie but also one which posed huge opportunities. Given all the sadness we’ve endured in the last 12 months we though a genuine good news story of a Social Enterprise going from strength to strength would be welcome reading.
Without any further loquacious patter from us, let dive into our chat with Jamie.
Who are you and how did you get here?
I’m Jamie, Co-Founder/ CEO at Social Supermarket, an online marketplace for purpose driven brands and I’m passionate about the role that business can have in positively changing lives.
For those who may not know about Social Supermarket how would you pitch what you do?
Social Supermarket is the UK’s largest marketplace for social enterprise products. We feature over 1,000 products from 90 brands each with a unique social or environmental impact.
One way we differentiate ourselves is quantifying the positive impact that each purchase has; the ability for us to report on the number of pieces of fruit and veg saved, or hours of employment created, helps customers understand the impact their purchase has. This is combined with competitive pricing and focus on quality compared to standard brands.
How did the idea for Social Supermarket come about?
I have a background in both the charity sector, tackling issues like homelessness and the corporate world through renewable energy investment. I loved the work but was frustrated by the pace of change or depth of impact. When I first came across the social enterprise model, I was inspired by the use of trade, not aid to address social issues at scale.
The problem we encounter is that it is too hard to find brands which address these issues and when you do, the impact is often hard to understand and quantify. We created Social Supermarket to make it easy to buy from brands that do good. We connect consumers with products that reflect their values from gifts, food, drink and clothing; guilt free shopping that puts customer service and quality at the forefront of everything.
Are you planning to be the next Jeff Bezos… or do you see your role to disrupt and shake up the way online retail offerings are provided?
Haha, I’m actually reading a book about the development of Amazon at the moment. We are passionate about scale and challenging the status quo of traditional e-commerce models through creating impact with every purchase. We are also very conscious of how we grow sustainably and support budding impact entrepreneurs. Before going full time on Social Supermarket, I ran an Accelerator for EY Foundation and supported a range of entrepreneurs scale their business. We are committed to finding ways that Social Supermarket can support the next generation of social entrepreneurs.
COVID has had a huge impact across the whole economy and presented operational, psychological, and financial challenges many have struggled to cope with. What did 2020 teach you and the team at the Social Supermarket?
2020 has been incredibly challenging for business but at the same time it has also ignited a demand from consumers to consider the impact their purchase has. We’ve seen a huge growth in the number of people who want purpose to be at the heart of their purchases. We’ve also found that our gift boxes proved to be very popular virtual Christmas party alternatives. In the lead up to Christmas we’re currently looking at a 2,000% increase in hamper sales compared to 2019.
Apart from Social Supermarket, do you have any favourite social enterprises?
We’re working with a couple of new and emerging social enterprises that I really like and are very popular with our customers.
Firstly, Luz Lux who make vegan candles and use their profits support vulnerable women. They are beautifully designed candles and have an amazing range of scents.
Secondly, Vent for Change who make great notebooks made from upcycled leather and also donate profits to support children’s education charity.
It’s a classic interview question, but where would you like to see the Social Supermarket and the Social Enterprise Sector in five years?
In 2020 Social Supermarket will have sold over 100,000 products, in five years we’d like to increase this to over a million a year and we want to be the first-place people look to find and buy from purpose driven brands.
What are you and your team most proud of?
We’ve had some pretty significant milestones this year including raising angel investment to working with some high-profile corporate clients. Ultimately, it is when we breakdown the impact that the purchases made through our platform have in the world. For example, in 2020, purchases made through our platform create over 3,500 hours of employment for those furthest from the workplace. Taking a step back and recognising the impact and also the potential for the future is really inspiring.
The best piece of work or life advice you ever received is....
It is less important what you decide that it is that you decide