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Ordrs: The High Street

lewisham-high-street

In the past, high street shopping for me was a precaution my Mum implemented to prevent me from clashes with my siblings, while she wasn’t at home. My first memories of the high street was the overcrowded, vibrant Walworth Road. On the right was its even noisier neighbour, East Street market. Navigating through the packed streets were not pleasant. As I progressed to Secondary school, I began to see the high street in a more pleasant light. After a boring day of school, the high street was something I looked forward to. I always use to roam Lewisham high streets with my Blue Borough crew (my secondary school was in Peckham, where most students lived so it wasn’t the biggest squad). We used to hang out, joke and laugh, enjoy life, teenagers – yet to experience life. The 99p store was where we fuelled ourselves with chocolates and sweets. On special occasions, we utilised McDonald vouchers and indulged on Big Macs in the legendary “Lewisham McDeez” (as Novelist would say) – enjoying our second lunches of the day. The high street was a place that I continued to enjoy when I went to the University of York. A more adult element was added to the high street for me, it was where I carried out my weekly shopping and apart of my journey to independence - living, away from home.

Whilst at the University of York, I studied Electronic and Computer Engineering, in which I crafted devices and code which ranged from geeky digital multi-meters to exciting video player software. Building technology from scratch excited me and gave me a Tony-Starks-feeling. Many complain about technology taking away jobs but to me, it is a two-edged sword which one can use for good, to add value and improve processes. My excitement for technology was further enhanced when I interned at Entrepreneur-first-backed company, Predina, in which I contributed to Predictive Artificial Intelligence technology that prevents road accidents from happening.

As I progressed through university, I noticed the great usage and growth of fast delivery options which has saved me on many occasions. I looked into the market further and became excited by its growth and potential. I envisioned receiving products on my doorstep, minutes after hitting the order button. Further research and talking to people led to the Ordrs concept, the vision to put the high street online. I also met my now, co-founder Jimi and after I graduated, we began the real work and prepared for launch.

I left the University of York, gleaming, thrilled at the idea of working on Ordrs, my first serious start-up. Months before my delayed launch, I scrolled through LinkedIn, procrastinating – looking for opportunities. I came across the Young Braves programme, ran by Reluctantly Brave. The LinkedIn post emphasized on their values of inclusivity and the opportunity to incubate yourself and work on exciting projects with small start-ups and world-class brands. Exactly what I needed to master my entrepreneurial craft. The interview was a lot different from my past experiences, I instantly felt at home. The interview ended with me, eating vegan pizza (my first taste of the vegan world) with the team. I also found out that the CEO went to my secondary school in Peckham (pretty rare to see a successful entrepreneur from my old secondary school). Being apart of the Young Braves taught me the importance of authenticity and inclusivity in the business world – realness leads to real results. I got involved in exciting projects such as the community app, Young Planet which allowed parents to exchange (free of charge) their old kids' clothes and toys with other parents. Young Planet has ethics in its heart and has the vision to strengthen the community and reduce plastic waste. Working on such a project showed me that businesses are not just money-making machines. It is important to work on projects in which you can pioneer change and improve lives. It got me thinking, how can I use Ordrs to improve lives?

My work with the Young Braves was balanced with the difficulties of growing Ordrs, which had a concept that was not clear enough to people. Through trials and many pivots, I began to focus on grocery delivery. We allow users to shop from big retailers to small independents on one single online platform and relaunched a website in May 2019. I also used what I learnt from my experiences at Reluctantly Brave and began adding values to the heart of my business. I came up with the 4 Es: Ethics, Environment, Efficiency and Excellence. I began to notice the importance of my service for many of my customers as they struggled with mobility. I have received birthday presents and many messages of appreciation which is a testament to the value Ordrs adds to people’s lives.

Fast forward. Coronavirus. This led to sharp growth and difficulties shopping from empty shelves. However, independent stores appeared to be quite well-stocked and I managed to get many substitute products there. The independents have been a strong pillar during this difficult time. They often face tough competition from their online competitors and many believe that the high street stores and the high street as a whole will be a thing of the past. I disagree. The online world can be merged with the high street to provide value which is what we envision with Ordrs. The high street is more than a place in which you buy groceries. It is the centre of communities which is what will be engrained in Ordrs.

We are currently focusing on partnering with small independent stores to combine the beauty of brick-and-mortar with the convenience of the digital world. We will be working with Reluctantly Brave and the Young Braves to strengthen the high streets and have huge goals to go ‘glocal’

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