- Founders: Jane Dimitrova and Velin Kerkov
- Founded in: 2021
- Employees: 12
- Money raised:-
- Ultimate goal: Fight food waste.
Tackling food waste is much more difficult than it seems at first glance. Many catering companies throw away food that is not sold on a daily basis. The Bulgarian start-up foodObox wants to do something about that. They developed an app. This can easily link food producers like bakeries and restaurants to consumers to still sell leftovers. Jane Dimitrova, co-founder of foodObox, tells in this episode of starting the day how it all came about and how the company is doing now.
How did you come up with the idea for foodObox?
“I studied in Italy for a few years. I didn’t have much time to cook and also a limited budget. I was looking for a way to get cheap food and also save time. Then I found a local application that was very popular. Not only with students, but also with others. This app connected restaurants in Italy with consumers who could get leftovers so cheap. I started using it and I liked it. When I came back to Bulgaria I discovered that there was no such thing here. So I decided to develop it. I studied economics and business economics and took a master’s degree in start-up development. Somewhere I have always wanted to start my own company. And if it’s also social, it’s even better.’
What problem are you solving?
“Our mission is to reduce food waste. A third of the world’s food is thrown away. There are many restaurants, bakeries and shops that have leftover food because it is not sold. There are several reasons for this; the best before date has passed, the lunch menu is not completely sold out, or a particular cake is already two days old. This food can be sold to consumers through our mobile application. The idea is to reduce initial costs by at least 40 to 50 percent. That way it doesn’t get thrown out. You have to come and pick it up yourself. There is no delivery.”
How does the app work?
“foodObox is a mobile app. Consumers can create an account for free. The app is available for iOS and Android. After you have created an account, you can see where a so-called surprise box is offered. It’s a surprise box, because you rarely know what’s left at the end of the day. As a baker, you don’t know whether it will be a croissant with chocolate or a filled cake. But you know there’s something left in the end.
The only thing you know in advance is the original price and the price after the discount. Usually a box costs 5 euros before the discount and 2.50 to 3 euros after the discount. It can contain a cake, a lunch menu, a brownie or something else. The customer pays when he picks up the food.”
Where can people in Bulgaria find you?
“We started in Sofia. Then we started getting questions why we weren’t in Varna or Plovdiv. Our team grew and we currently have offices in ten different locations, including Stara Zagora, Pernik, Shumen, Burgas and Ruse. If there if there is interest elsewhere in Bulgaria, we are happy to take it up. Everyone can join. Our idea is to reduce food waste throughout Bulgaria.”
What was the biggest problem you had to overcome?
“There have been all kinds of problems. At the beginning, it was difficult to market such an unconventional idea because such an app did not yet exist in Bulgaria. He is known abroad. Many are already using it. On the one hand, consumers were a little negative about the idea that they would buy a box of food that is going bad. They were afraid of getting leftovers and mold and expiration dates and things like that. But in fact it is about absolutely good food, which was not only sold that day.
On the other hand, companies thought it was a good idea but were unsure when to participate or wanted to see how it would work with other companies first. There was a threshold for who would participate first. Later, some more well-known brands participated, such as Harmonica, one of the largest producers of organic food in Bulgaria. It worked as an ice breaker. In this way, more and more restaurants and other companies began to participate.”
How are things now?
“We are currently in our first external financing phase. As a start-up, we first invested personal resources. We have had two jobs for a long time to pay the bills. At the moment we want to find more funding so that we can grow even outside of Bulgaria. We would like to enter some of the neighboring markets. All in all, we are looking for funding to grow the business.”
Where will you be in five years?
“I see great potential in Eastern Europe, because these kinds of apps have existed for a while in Western Europe. It’s nothing new. In fact, they are very well developed, but somehow in Eastern Europe, starting with Poland and further south-east, there is not much interest from larger companies. I believe that Romania, Greece, Serbia and Macedonia are good markets and should not be underestimated. Why couldn’t we become the market leader in Eastern Europe and soon be able to compete with these big Western companies that are known all over the world?”
Are you still working on other developments?
“It is very important for us to solve the problem of food waste. One of the ways to do this is by educating people. We have focused our efforts on young children. From September, we will hold educational talks for children from 1st to 4th grade, so that they can develop habits from an early age not to throw food away. I think it is very important. Not only to save food that would otherwise be thrown away, but also to fight food waste in general. We will give ten trial lessons in ten different Bulgarian schools. We also want to investigate at what age children best understand this problem and our solutions.”