Sustainability is becoming increasingly important across the planet. The difficulty, however, is in changing habits. Things that people have been doing their whole lives. Businesses that have used the same practices since their beginnings. And all these behaviours are installed into systems across the world that are impossible to change overnight. Perhaps one of the most well-known of these non-sustainable practices is the use of plastic in packaging, especially in supermarkets. What’s more, even if the entire general public wanted to avoid plastic-covered produce, it’s not an easy task — frequently more expensive and hard to find, any stores that do sell products plastic-free, are rarely student friendly.
However, some of the most staple of student produce, namely pasta and rice, are the easiest to sell without all of the unnecessary packaging.
A few weeks ago, a business idea came to mind that sought to solve this problem.
The Hungry Turtle Company: A plastic-free produce shop on campus for students. Easily accessible. Affordable. Environmentally friendly.
I believed so passionately in this business. But, honestly, I think I underestimated the difficulties that could arise. Particularly within a university where regulations and fairly ridged systems make it hard from the beginning. I spoke to various people across campus and in town, all advising me in the best way they could. Single Step shop in Lancaster proved the most helpful and additionally kindly offered to order and store produce for me, which would solve some the problems I was faced with. I registered with HMRC as a business, found suppliers, contacted the person in charge of the Thursday market (where I’d initially sell the goods) and thought I could be ready to sell within a few weeks.
The costings are what made this impossible for me to achieve in the end though. Due to the price of the bulk produce, as well as additional costs such as the market stall and insurance, the products would have to be hugely more expensive than I’d hoped. As one of my key selling-points was making sustainable food shopping accessible to students with a low budget, I couldn’t just let this slide. I persevered and tried to find a solution but with time running out (before the Easter holidays and then the exam period) and other options not looking any better, it seemed right to leave my project there.
Although I am disappointed that this idea didn’t work and that I won’t be able to help make student-living more sustainable, I learnt a lot about entrepreneurship and what it takes to get a business started. Being in final year at university was never going to make this task easy, but I tried my best, learnt a lot along the way and built on skills that hopefully, in the future, can be applied to a new business idea.
Thank you to all who helped me to get this business running, particularly the team at Work In Progress at Lancaster University for all the business-related advice.