Demand for veg-boxes on the rise

THE VEG-BOX MAN: Chris Long loves regrowing a taste for vegetables straight from the farm.

THE VEG-BOX MAN: Chris Long loves regrowing a taste for vegetables straight from the farm.

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ORGANIC veg-box business Riverford says business is booming against the odds and it is looking for new franchisees in Yorkshire.

It claims to have increased deliveries from its regional base, at Home Farm, Newby Wiske, near Northallerton, by 20 per cent in a year.

Riverford on Home Farm, the regional branch of a business started in Devon, was set up in 2007 and delivers to over 3,000 customers in Yorkshire and the North East of England.

The company is hosting a ‘franchise discovery day’ at the farm next Saturday (August 20). Franchisees will be expected to put up between £15,000 and £30,000, depending on the territory. A training fee of £6,000 is being waived at the moment for the Doncaster, North York Moors and Rotherham areas. See www.riverford.co.uk/franchise or call 01803 762015.

Chris Long, 35, is ‘the Riverford man’ for Leeds. He worked in the food business before paying Riverford £17,000 in 2009, including the training fee, for a patch with 173,000 households and about 40 existing customers. He says: “I wanted to go solo. I looked into similar businesses and what Riverford ask is fairly standard.

“I now deliver to 175 people a week in the Leeds area and a year ago I took on Huddersfield, too, when somebody pulled out, and I’ve built that up from 40 to 120 deliveries, roughly.

“On the four delivery days, I am always at the distribution hub, in Bradford, no later than 6am, to line up the orders, so I can make first delivery around 7am. I’ve just taken on a second van and have one or two occasional guys who help but on my own I would expect to be out until 3 or 4pm. Then it’s working out routes for the next day and ringing customers and chasing money until about 6.30, so it’s a 12-hour day.

“On Monday, the farm is packing and I am working on promotions or admin. Standard advertising doesn’t work. You have to let people see the produce and have a chat. I’ll be at the Huddersfield Food & Drink Festival this week. Working for yourself, you only get back what you put into it. Holidays are up to you. I had a week in Scotland this year, thanks to having a stand-in organised.

“For the first three months, I paid myself £1,000 a month. Now it’s £2,000, after tax. Anything spare goes back into marketing and building the business. I love it. I am passionate about organic food and about connecting farmers with local customers. And I’m my own boss, which I always wanted.” Chris Long is on 01937 588176.

KEEPING THE CUSTOMER HAPPY

ANOTHER Riverford franchisee, Mary Watson of Sheffield, got into it four years ago, with husband Chris. She says: “We considered starting our own business from scratch, but we’d had no experience. I love being a mum while working part-time.

“And even though Chris starts work very early, around 5.30am, he’s usually home by early afternoon. In summer, we do a lot of local shows, which is one of the best ways to get new customers.

“But one of the things we’ve learnt is that customer retention is just as important because it’s harder to acquire new customers than satisfy the ones you already have.”

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