Hubbub started only as a six week pilot scheme in 2008 after Marisa decided life as a human rights barrister wasn’t working for her. She decided to give it a test run, delivering from two shops in her boyfriend’s Mini and leafleting door to door at weekends with the help of her friends.
The response she said gave her the belief and leap to take it to the next level: raising money, building a website and signing up more shops. I invited her onto YHP to share her story.
Can you give us some background information about yourself?
I passionately believe in the importance of independent shops to local communities and started Hubbub to make it easy for more people to support the small businesses that are the lifeblood of our communities.
Before starting Hubbub in 2008, I worked as a barrister specialising in human rights. I am a published author who has lived and worked in London, Geneva and New York as well as in West Africa, South India, the Balkans and Northern Ireland. I am a graduate of Somerville College, Oxford University, and hold a Master’s degree from the European Inter-University Centre for Human Rights.
How did the idea for HUBBUB come about?
Hubbub started life as a pilot scheme in 2008, when I decided being a human rights barrister wasn’t for me. I love to eat well and have always been passionate about independent shops – but my lifestyle meant that, when it came to where I shopped and what I ate, I couldn’t make the choices I wanted to. I realised that lots of people would shop locally more often if, when they couldn’t get to the shops in person, it was as convenient as buying from the supermarket. So the idea of Hubbub was born.
Tell me about the early days, what was the hardest part of starting the business?
I started Hubbub as a six week pilot scheme delivering from two shops in my boyfriend’s Mini and leafleting door to door at weekends with my friends and the response from both customers and shops was overwhelming. That initial response persuaded us to keep the pilot scheme ticking over while we raised finance, built a bespoke website and signed up more shops. Since then, we’ve grown more than 100% year on year and haven’t looked back.
Raising cash, finding great staff and acquiring customers have all been challenging, but the single hardest thing has been creating the amazing Hubbub web platform which makes everything we do possible. To compete with the likes of Tesco and Ocado, we need to offer our customers a comparable (and better) online experience and to attract high calibre developers who love food and want to make the world a better place. We are currently recruiting for more developers and offer a year’s free bacon as a referral fee to anyone who finds us a developer we go on to hire!
What is HUBBUB? And what are you trying to solve with it?
Hubbub is a home delivery service on a mission to save the high street! Customers order online from their local greengrocer, butcher, baker, fishmonger and other independent shops and Hubbub brings their order to their door all in one delivery, at a time of their choice.
Everyone is conscious that local shops are struggling to survive but it’s very difficult as an individual to do something about it when you work long hours and/or have family responsibilities competing for your time. Tied up in wanting to support local shops is an increasing concern about where our food comes from and how it’s produced – for quality, ethical and health reasons. But whilst we all want the quality local shops offer, we need the convenience of supermarkets. When I had the idea of starting Hubbub, I thought it was a business that could change lives and transform communities so I had to give it a go.
Hubbub’s aims are:
- To take back market share from the supermarkets and give it to local independents
- To be the best online food shop in the world
How have you been able to fund the company so far?
Hubbub’s been entirely funded by friends and family, existing customers and people who have approached us directly. It’s also helped that our investors have been able to take advantage of EIS relief which is available to help certain small companies raise funds.
What advice can you give to entrepreneurs looking to raise investments for their start-ups?
Allow as much time as possible so that you’re not raising under pressure; ideally, six months or more
Match the size of your investor to the size of the investment you are trying to raise
What would you say has been the highlight of your entrepreneurial journey so far?
It’s immensely exciting to be making a real difference to communities, changing the way people shop, and giving them a choice about where they spend their money.
What should we be expecting from HUBBUB in the coming months?
Hubbub’s goal is to serve local communities right across the UK. We are currently looking at various models for rolling out nation-wide and are particularly interested in how we can enable local people to franchise the model. Watch this space!
Lastly, what three pieces of advice would you offer entrepreneurs starting out today?
Have a clear separation between work and private life, especially if you’re working from home
Set up an advisory board of people with more experience than you who can advise and support you, and help keep you focussed
If you need help, don’t be shy to ask for it