December 11, 2020

Hannah McCollum - Blackacre Icons

ChicP is a young company founded by Hannah Mccollum, a London based food entrepreneur. 40% of British crops are rejected because of their size or shape, and ⅓ of the food produced is never eaten. With nearly 8 million tonnes of food waste being produced by restaurants, supermarkets and homes each year, this vast amount of food waste is something that ChicP is trying to tackle.

When did the idea for ChicP come to you, and how long have you been running it?

I’ve been running ChicP for 4 years. I’ve worked as a caterer and a private chef, and seeing the huge amount of food that goes to waste is criminal. Whilst working as a private chef, I’d always turn left over veg into dips for the next day, and it quickly became popular with clients asking “Hannah, what’s the dip of the day?”. I’ve always been passionate about food waste and being a creative chef, I’d always turn leftovers into something else. I wanted to create something that would tackle food waste, support British farmers and at the same time, raise awareness about the issue.

Did you run ChicP as a side hustle and if so how did you know when the right time was to take it full time?

I did a business plan whilst at my previous job, to help plant my vision; shortly after I had a clear ambition for the idea, I left and started ChicP. I was doing a lot of private chef work, so when I did those jobs I had time in between meals to test recipes and plan, testing ideas for ChicP. Once ChicP was starting to show good progress, I then did much fewer cooking jobs and put all my energy into running the business.

What was the first step in getting the business up and running, how did you take it from an idea to reality?

You kind of have to do everything at once, a big chicken and egg process.

Firstly, I did lots of research into where I’d find suppliers and visited a lot of farms. I needed to understand the market, understand whether farmers had surplus and whether I’d be able to get it from them. As a small company starting up you need traction before you can start working with farmers. I had to start by going to the wholesale markets - they would throw so much out every day, I’d end up only going once a week because I’d have so much I didn’t know what to do with.

I was creating recipes whilst researching events and places to sell the products, along with types of packaging, branding ideas etc. I was doing so many things at once to move forward. I was adamant to grow organically so I was consistently researching the market as a whole. Whilst I was trying different flavours out, I wanted to get feedback at the same time as attempting with some sales; my first big event was Fare Healthy. I got in touch with the girls who ran the event and thankfully they loved my products so were happy to take ChicP on! Within a month of launching, the event enabled me to have 600-1000 young women, which was my target market at the time, trying my products and buying them. At the fare I asked consumers to put chickpeas in a pot in front of their favourite flavour so that I could get feedback. I sold out and it was the determining factor as to whether I would pursue ChicP as a business.

I was making the hummus at home whilst reaching out to Wholefoods, Planet Organic, other independants and wholesalers. It was another chicken and egg situation; I had Wholefoods accept us and because we had them, our wholesaler took us on board, otherwise we may not have got the wholesaler. It was the same situation with finding a manufacturer. Wholefoods was such a pivotal point in the journey.

Who is your role model/who gives you the most inspiration?

Hugh Fernley-Wittingstall, his passion and his ethos is very similar to mine; from river cottage and farm to fork. Sustainability is big in his heart from fishing to packaging and recycling. All of his initiatives I totally back, I’ve done lots of river cottage events. I’m sure thousands of people watch his documentaries, but I feel like so many more people should be on board with it.

Jenny Dawson of Rubies in the Rubble is a business owner who I look up to, when I was 18 and on the tube and read her article about her chutneys I just thought wow that’s what I want to do.

How do you keep motivated?

We had a few months at the beginning when we were sending samples to Planet Organic and we had such great feedback throughout it, and they were so positive and then they ended up saying that we weren’t the right fit for them. I couldn’t believe it.

If things fall through, or have a setback, it's tricky, you feel pretty rubbish really, but if you talk to people then they make you feel so much better. One negative isn’t the be-all and end-all, you just have to persevere.

If you weren’t keeping London’s hummus addicts supplied, what would you be doing?

Probably something to do with green tourism, something environmental, part of me wants to go to Africa and do conservation, but I enjoy being outdoors, so something to do with farms and rivers or gardening. Still probably to do with cooking, probably cooking and travelling.

What are your tips for people tackling zero waste outside of the kitchen?

Use less!

In everyday life whether that's going out for dinner, order more responsibly, have that consciousness, finish what’s on your plate and don’t order excess. Maybe order more vegetarian, think whether you really need that steak?

If you’re buying lunch on the go don’t ask for a bag, think about what you’re throwing away afterwards, bring a reusable cup. Minimise your consumption with everything. The less you can put in the bin the better, producing less waste makes drastic effects on the environment. Try to be responsible with your waste, recycle, or donate clothes, use charity shops. People don’t realise how much just one person’s consumption changes can have an effect.

There was a Nepalese guy staying with a family friend, for an environment event, they’d had dinner and there was a tiny amount left which was going to go in the bin and he was gobsmacked at them trying to throw away this prawn pasta, when he could have it for lunch tomorrow. He couldn’t believe that they thought it was ok to put food that was still edible in the bin.

Also, freeze everything!

Have you had any ideas you’ve put into practice that have been a total flop?

The business is too young yet. I haven’t taken any other products or too ‘out there’ flavours to market yet. I tried to make a sweet hummus using grapefruit once which I tested on my friends which they said it’s disgusting do not put this out there! So thankfully no...

What has been the key to your success so far?

My story, my ethos, and having the drive to actually have a mission. Having something to talk about is what gets people interested and invested.

Is this your first entrepreneurial venture?

No, I started a clothing company after I finished school called Piglet Clothing. This came about from when I would make skirts for myself but friends ended up wanting to buy them too. I won a few fashion awards at University for the business and it was fun and successful (in a small way) but I knew it wasn’t something I wanted to do for long term.

What does jewellery mean to you and do you have a favourite piece?

I used to go out and buy so much jewellery, from little retailers and vintage shops. I love vintage and items that are different and authentic. I love jewellery that is unique and which you can’t find anywhere else. I wear yellow gold mostly - My grandmother brought me a necklace for my 18th which I love, probably because It's from her, and I have some great rings from both grandmother’s too. Recently I bought my first ever more expensive piece; a gold chain with a Columbus travel and St. Christopher pendant/charm. Jewellery to me is definitely sentimental.

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