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How COVID moved a package free grocery store online with Brianne Miller of Nada

“We decided very early on that we were going to try and get online as fast as possible. That was something that always was in the works. This really was just a good kick in the butt to finally get these systems and processes in place to make that a reality. There’s certainly a lot of adaptability that was needed there and things were changing.” – Brianne Miller, Co-founder and CEO of Nada

In this episode

In the COVID era of grocery shopping, Nada needed to shift its business model to be innovative with their decisions to continue to serve their community. As a package-free grocery store on a mission to connect people to just food – championing a community food system by linking buyers to suppliers and offering healthy, unpackaged products & services – this posed a challenge in the current world.

Vicki Saunders discusses these pivots with Brianne Miller, Co-founder and CEO of Nada in this minisode including:

The impact of health and safety regulations on Nada’s business model.
Shifting to an online model while adapting to constant changes.
Embracing opportunity for a different type of growth.
The need for a complete company restructure.
How online models can have a positive impact on sustainable development goals to reduce the impact on our planet.

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Podcast Transcript:

The podcast is being transcribed by Otter.ai. (there may be errors, run-on sentences and misspellings).

Brianne Miller 0:00
We decided very early on that we were going to try and get online as fast as possible. And that was something that always was in the works. This really was just a good kick in the butt to finally get all of the systems and processes in place to make that a reality. And there’s certainly a lot of adaptability that was needed there and things were changing.

Vicki Saunders 0:18
Welcome to SheEO.world, a podcast about redesigning the world. I’m your host, Vicki Saunders. In each episode, you’ll hear from SheEO Venture founders—women who are working on the World’s To-Do List. These innovative business leaders are solving some of the major challenges of our time. Please sit back and be prepared to be inspired.

Welcome Brianne, it’s so good to see you.

Brianne Miller 0:44
Hello, it’s nice to see you again, too.

Vicki Saunders 0:47
So you’ve had quite a journey since the beginning of COVID, with your business NADA, being a grocery store that actually is package-free, and all the complications that came with that. So could you talk a little bit about what’s happened since the beginning, take us on a little journey.

Brianne Miller 1:02
Yeah, definitely been a chaotic few months. But yeah, I’m really excited for where things are heading. There are a lot of, yeah, a lot of really awesome things that we’ve been able to figure out in the last few months. So I guess first off, we are an essential service as a grocery store. So we support a huge number of local businesses through our supply chain, and a lot of food security initiatives as well. So we’re really lucky in the sense that we were able to remain open the entire time. In reality, that required a lot of changes in terms of our operations. So completely shifting our model, we were really heavily impacted by changes in health and safety regulations. So I know a lot of us are thinking about how much single use plastic packaging has come back into the picture in the last few months. So that’s definitely something that’s affected us, because in British Columbia, there were regulations that first off prevented customers bringing in their own containers to purchase food, which is something that our core business model is based on and what people are most excited about. And then there were also regulations around package tray or bulk foods being sold. In the very beginning, it was prevented completely. And then it switched very quickly to stores being able to sell bulk food, but it needed to be dispensed by team members. So for us that translated directly into a lot of additional labor costs that needed to be managed, because instead of hundreds of customers filling their own containers that fell onto our team, we gave it a shot, we tried it for a couple weeks, it did not work at all, it was, yeah, it was a lot. Before COVID, we were having more than 100 customers a day come into the store and doing their regular grocery shop. And so it was just too much for our team. And we really wanted to prioritize the health and safety of both our team members and our community, decided it just wasn’t worth the interactions of the public coming into our store. So we decided very early on that we were going to try and get online as fast as possible. And that was something that always was in the works. This really was just a good kick in the butt to finally get all of the systems and processes in place to make that a reality. And the amount that we’ve accomplished in the first few weeks of that was really impressive, our team really rallied and dove in to help wherever was needed. There’s certainly a lot of adaptability that was needed, then things were changing. There’s actually a very beginning was at the point where things were changing. Every day, we were trying to make decisions. And we couldn’t think until the end of the week when, we finally got to the point where we could plan a week ahead and two weeks ahead and the dust is finally settled now. We’re still in an interim model of operation right now. So the store is operating at reduced hours, we are still facilitating in person transactions, but just a very minimal amount of them. So people can call in for their grocery orders and pick them up. And then what we’re mostly focusing on is encouraging our customer base to move online, mostly for safety and for ease of our store team.

Vicki Saunders 3:43
That’s great. You’re doing delivery, too?

Brianne Miller 3:45
Yeah, we are. And that actually was not in the plan. That’s a really, really exciting opportunity for us. It’s actually the conversation around local grocery delivery has completely changed our plan for how we want to grow in the next few years. So we were initially planning on expanding with additional retail stores in the Pacific Northwest. And we’ve completely scrapped that idea for now and are realizing that we can get local foods and support our local supply chain with a much larger audience just here in Vancouver by moving online, and it’s a lot easier, a lot quicker and a lot less capital intensive for us to do that. So it’s something we’re really excited about.

Vicki Saunders 4:19
That’s amazing, right? What—as a result of COVID how maybe we’ll stay online and then your unbelievable relationships with your suppliers. Like how many suppliers do you have from the region?

Brianne Miller 4:28
We have about 150. So there’s quite a few of them. A lot of them are really small businesses as well. And that’s something through a lot of the changes that have happened over the summer. We’ve essentially done a complete company restructure as a result of this, it really is a different business model. So we have a team of 30 people and every single person is in a different role than what they were three months ago. So it’s actually been really fun. It’s been really exciting kind of working with people to move them into things they’re really interested in. We’ve promoted a lot folks, we brought on a lot of passionate and excited people to the team. So we’re really excited to see what they can do with us in the next few months.

Vicki Saunders 5:08
For now, the future is grow the online business. Instead of the actual footprint, which makes a lot of sense. You have a little uniqueness about your delivery, you’re not using cars to deliver?

Brianne Miller 5:18
Yeah, we’re not using cars. So we are working in partnership with a really amazing community cooperative called Shift Delivery, and they do completely carbon neutral delivery by electric bicycle. So that’s something we actually have done a lot of research, we’re working with a research team based on the University of California right now to help us analyze our total carbon footprint. And what’s really interesting is we’re actually looking at the total carbon footprint of our supply chain, both pre- and post-COVID. So we’ll be really interested to see how things like our purchasing decisions and how people’s grocery shopping habits have really impacted our carbon footprint. But that’s something that’s super exciting as we pivot into online as well, is that there are actually carbon footprint savings by doing delivery models as well for groceries. You have a lot less people in their cars that are driving to the grocery store, and people are often doing larger grocery shops in one go. So that’s a really exciting aspect for us from an impact standpoint as we work towards our Sustainable Development Goals and trying to reduce their impact on the planet.

Vicki Saunders 6:13
Amazing. Well, thank you so much for checking in with us. And thanks for your leadership and all the work that you’re doing. We’re really excited to be supporting you.

Brianne Miller 6:21
Yeah, thank you so much. We’re so grateful for all the support and looking forward to the next few months.

Vicki Saunders 6:27
Thank you for listening to the SheEO.world podcast. If this conversation resonated with you, please share it with a friend and subscribe on your favorite podcast player. If you’d like more information about SheEO, please visit our website at SheEO.world. That’s S-H-E-E-O dot world.

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