In John Lewis’s lab: 3 female founders fixing future shopping

By Kitty Knowles 9 August 2017
Female founders are fixing your future shopping. Pic: Getty/ becon.

When entrepreneurs hack retail with John Lewis and Waitrose.

Whether you love its pongy perfume counters, fabulous fabric samples, or row-upon-row of fashion, it’s safe to say that British department store John Lewis has got shopping down.

What you might not know however, is that in 2013 the legacy brand joined forces with Waitrose and investment firm L Marks to shape the future of retail through its innovative JLAB business accelerator.

This year, the cohort looks even more progressive than usual, because – for the first time – it brings more female founders than male founders on to its programme.

Let us introduce you to three fantastic female founders fighting to fix your future shop…

Juliana Zarate Davila, Founder, Mucho

What you need to know

Mucho is a personalised grocery app that recommends daily recipes based on your personal lifestyle, tastes, and dietary needs. Ingredients are then delivered, with Mucho remembering what you already have at home to minimise food waste.

Foodies can browse personally curated lists and recipes that match your changing or niche tastes: if on Monday you’re on the #MeatlessMonday bandwagon, but on Wednesday like wine & steak don’t fear – it’ll learn those habits too.

You can even set budget and number of people in the family.

Why you want to use it

  • Less time spent deciding what to buy.
  • Less worrying about food restrictions and more about food enjoyment.
  • Eating food that is good for you and good for the world.
  • And soon – a seamless, and convenient way of shopping.

Budding business?

Mucho’s already featured in the UK app store ‘Hot right now’ section (sitting snugly between Pokemon Go and Tour de France), and has dozens of chefs and bloggers on boards to bring lively content to its app.

It’ll take a cut of your spending with retailers, and is also already working on making money through recipe partnerships with publishers. It’s lined up two exciting John Lewis pilots to bridge the gap between food inspiration and shopping.

The big picture

Deciding what to cook and shopping are the least enjoyable part of the cooking experience, says Davila: “We are faced with contradicting dogmas around diets, mixed messages about what to eat, what is good for the world, an unlimited amount of recipes, and an overwhelming amount of products to choose from”.

But as we increasingly decide our meals daily instead of weekly, Mucho can simplify that shop.

“At Mucho, our mission is to empower customers to enjoy great food every day.”

Seni Glaister, Co-Founder, WeFiFo

What you need to know

WeFiFo connects amateur home cooks, Supper Club hosts and professional chefs with paying guests.

It’s for anyone who enjoys cooking for others, and those looking to find a new dining experience.

Glaister hopes that by encouraging people to share food at communal tables, she can put the social back into social networking.

“There is no doubt that the act of sharing food offers great mental and physical health benefits but sometimes eating with others doesn’t come naturally,” says Glaister.

“WeFiFo is just like Airbnb for the kitchen table,” she says.

Why you want to use it

  • A wide choice of different social dining experiences – from free community meals to top professional chefs.
  • Training, mentoring and managing to help ambitious home cooks kick start their careers in food.
  • A community through which people can meet and eat.

Budding business?

WeFiFo has already raised £350,000 in seed funding, and is now focusing on getting more hosts and guests on board.

The company is built on a commission model, but the cut taken reduces as cooks improve their ratings and reviews. It’s lined up several pilots with Waitrose for next month.

The big dream

WeFiFo’s biggest aim is to give people another option to eating alone – “to be able to join a WeFiFo table wherever you are in the world”.

It also designed to make home cooking more accessible and affordable, and to reduce food waste.

“Sometimes we all need a little help and motivation to open our doors to our neighbours, and WeFiFo offers the tools to help,” says Glaister.

Bea Warner, CEO and co-founder at Exaactly

What you need to know about Exaactly

Exaactly wants to ensure you never miss a delivery again.

To do this you simply create one Exaactly address, which holds all your favourite addresses (home, work, uni etc) and any special information about them (directions, photos, safe delivery spots, etc).

Warner wants it to become “the Paypal of addressing” that’s available across all online checkouts.

“They way people communicate their location to friends, businesses and organisations has changed,” Warner explains.

“It’s no longer lengthy addresses, focused around a fixed static property; it is now their own unique digital addresses – personal, flexible and dynamic to them.”

Why you want to use it

  • One sign in to access all your addresses at any online checkout.
  • Curated information (pics, directions, and even audio clips) mean delivery men never get lost.
  • Dynamic delivery to allow you to receive your delivery almost anywhere, wherever you are.

The business

Exaactly’s already raised funding of over £250K and is now focused on testing with JLAB.

It’s a ‘SaaS-based’ company, which means it makes money through subscriptions to its API, and it’s due to launch beta customers imminently.

The big picture

A whopping 12% of all deliveries fail first time, causing you – the customer – pain.

For businesses, this not only adds up to £1bn in wasted costs each year, but 43% of customers will leave a site for good if they get ‘carded’.

“Whether it’s knowing exactly where to safely deliver packages when customers aren’t home, or allowing for dynamic addressing depending on where you are, Exaactly assures consumers the power to order anywhere, anyhow, anytime,” says Warner.

Are you ready for the shopping experience of the future?