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Saasha Celestial-One is the daughter of Iowa hippy entrepreneurs who was raised with a deep appreciation for the planet and its scarce resources. She rebelled by moving to New York City and joining Morgan Stanley after graduating from the University of Chicago. After completing her MBA at Stanford Graduate School of Business, where she met her OLIO co-founder Tessa Cook, Saasha spent 9 years in various strategy and businesses development roles - first at McKinsey and most recently as Vice President of International Partnerships, American Express.
She could only rebel for so long, however, and when on maternity leave in 2012 opened her first business in London, which she outfitted entirely from FreeCycle. It was a short skip and a hop to founding OLIO, a sharing app connecting neighbours to stop good food from going to waste, with Tessa in 2015.
We interviewed Saasha on the 7th of June 2017.
Could you explain to us what it is you do?
Thanks for having me! I’m the co-founder of OLIO, a free app starting a Food Sharing Revolution to tackle food waste.
Can you tell us about your background and what inspired you to set up your food sharing app?
My parents were hippies who taught me never to let anything of value go to waste, especially food. When my co-founder Tessa was moving home she had fresh food she couldn’t take with her, and the idea for OLIO was born.
Can you explain how OLIO works?
OLIO is super simple, simply snap a picture of anything of value you have but don’t want and add to OLIO. Neighbours receive alerts and can request and collect. It’s a great way to meet new people in the community, too!
What type of items can I add to OLIO?
You can add any edible food or any unwanted yet useful household items such as light bulbs, toiletries, etc.
What have been the biggest challenges so far with starting up your business?
Building the sharing network to minimum scale on zero budget – we’ve had to be very resourceful and leverage our volunteers. Challenging mainstream consumer behaviour which thinks food waste is ok. Riding the entrepreneur roller coaster and staying sane and making time for friends and family
What type of financial and mentoring support have you received?
We have raised 2 rounds of financing mostly from social impact investors. OLIO is part of many great start-up programmes such as Go to Grow London.
What sacrifices have you had to make to become an entrepreneur?
Everyone has sacrificed a higher salary for the benefit of working on a cause we are passionate about – ending food waste. There’s also great flexibility with an entrepreneur lifestyle which means the sacrifices have been few.
We all know that juggling a business is hard work, how do you manage your time and ensure everything gets done?
My co-founder and I message each other constantly – frequent check-ins avoid going too far down the wrong path! Ruthless prioritisation is also key, and focus on a single core metric everyone is optimising against.
What would you say is your proudest business moment so far with OLIO?
I can’t just pick one, but every unsolicited email from an OLIO explaining how we’ve changed their life is a happy moment.
Finally what advice would you give to other entrepreneurs looking to set up their own business?
Choose a co-founder carefully whom you love working with – a business is like a marriage. Chose a business model that is inherently scalable, by definition – and then do everything you can that does not scale to get the momentum going.
For further detail on OLIO please visit www.olioex.com
Please note: This interview took place on the MiVentures platform which is owned and managed by Wenta.