Alumni profile - Jamie Crummie
Too Good to Go was a very lean operation when we first started; we were bootstrapping and cutting costs at any opportunity but from the off we went all in, it was a full time career and we had the luxury of being able to support ourselves through very modest means. For example, my co-founder and I shared a bedroom in the early days!
Why did you study your masters in Human Rights Law? What sparked your interest in this specific degree? I’ve always been fascinated by Law; I did my undergraduate in Law at Leeds University and studied an International Diploma in International Law in Australia before coming to CCLS. The real thing that has always drawn me to law is having social impact and this has been a key motivator for me throughout life. During my undergraduate studies and my studies in Australia I became much more aware of and involved in humanitarian projects, initiatives and Human Rights Law. In particular, whilst studying Human Rights Law in Australia, I worked for an NGO which was all about Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander rights. This was a very inspiring experience and something that I wanted to learn more about and develop in – this again stemmed from my genuine passion in social impact.
What aspects of your degree did you find most enjoyable? The entire degree was very interesting but there are a few modules that stand out. The refugee rights module was so inspiring that it led to me undertaking the first data project in the unofficial refugee camps in the Calais jungle. Similarly, modules in international terrorism and the legalities around approaching terrorism were equally fascinating, as were the core human rights and women’s rights modules. Another thing that made my masters so enjoyable was that I was able to attend so many talks from external speakers who came in to share their stories and their journeys. These talks were very inspiring and they gave me a different perspective through which to approach my studies.
Why did you choose to study at CCLS in particular? It was finally time for me to move back home to London! Also, the fact that CCLS had a very extensive law programme and the human rights course covered all of the modules that I wanted to take. It was quite an easy decision.
Why do you think prospective students should study Law at CLLS? Studying law has given me an array of different skills, all of which are, to use that buzzword, transferable. My master’s degree has made me analytical and encouraged me to approach all sorts of situations in different ways, so whether that is through negotiation, training and having discussions with people, or even the way in which I’m presenting points, arguments, presentations etc, law has given me a very strong foundation for the development of these skills. The law programme at CLLS in particular, is incredibly extensive and covers a wide array of topics and modules which I am sure will appeal to anyone who has an inquisitive mind.
Can you touch on your current role as Co-Founder and Director of Too Good To Go? What were your motivations for co-founding Too Good To Go? My motivations in life have always been around having social impact and actually, it was during my time in Australia where I was working in the events industry alongside my studies that I was met first-hand with the pandemic of food waste. I was working on large scale events of 300+ people and we would throw plate after plate of perfectly good food away. At the time I was unsure whether this was something unique to the events organisation that I worked for, or something unique to Australia. This planted the initial seed for Too Good To Go and then after completing my undergraduate studies and before undertaking my masters, I worked with various human rights organisations and one of our events was catered for by a group of people who were repurposing food, much like the food I had been throwing away, and turning it into an amazing spread. This was a very eye opening moment for me as I had previously been unaware of the gravity and the scale of food waste and from that point on it was something that had always played on my mind. With one of my other co-founders the pieces sort of fell together and then after completing my masters, we launched Too Good to Go.
It was a very lean operation when we first started; we were bootstrapping and cutting costs at any opportunity but from the off we went all in, it was a full time career and we had the luxury of being able to support ourselves through very modest means. For example, my co-founder and I shared a bedroom in the early days!
How has your work been affected by the ongoing pandemic? Like all organisations during this current time we have been affected, especially working within the hospitality and retail sectors, but this has enabled us to adapt. We have been working with our partners who are still operating in a takeaway capacity and helping a lot of businesses increase the amount of covers they do by offering them a local support service. Similarly, we’ve had wholesalers and manufacturers get in touch with us which has led us to work in a much more comprehensive capacity with these businesses further up the supply chain, by helping them with their food surplus. Recently we worked with a cheese manufacturer in Cornwall to help them redistribute 10 tonnes of cheese through our platform!
We are currently providing this solution to an array of different food businesses; it has been really exciting to see the impact we have had in this regard, but similarly, a lot of our retail partners and our partners in convenience stores have still been operating so we’ve still been helping them to reduce their food surplus. Going forwards, we are going to continue helping these new businesses alongside the traditional businesses we worked with before the pandemic.
What are some of the challenges and rewards of starting your own company? Some of the challenges, which I alluded to earlier, is that there isn’t always a financial return from the offset and there are lots of struggles of getting the traction that you really need when starting out. For us it was a challenge to grow our user base for people to download and use our app whilst also growing a portfolio of food businesses – all the while operating on a budget. However, going through this journey and discovering ways of scaling the operation was in itself very rewarding. We have learned so much in the past four to five years, much more than we would have done in any other sort of conventional job sector because we had to learn in a very vocational way. We’ve come across all different types of challenges for which we’ve had to find immediate solutions and this has only made us stronger.
Have you found an increased interest in, and an increased market for, Too Good To Go given the fact that people are more socially and consciously attuned to the environment and global warming nowadays? Yes. If we look back over the past few years we can see greater awareness around sustainable issues in general, for example how everyone has got on board with the battle against plastic. At the same time there has been a huge level of innovation and interest and behavioural change when it comes to food waste, whether that’s supermarkets and retailers introducing wonky veg boxes, or people having to be creative with the ingredients they had in their cupboards at the start of the pandemic when people were bulk buying, people are really appreciating and understanding the value of food. Research has shown that food waste during Covid has been reduced in homes. There is this tide and this food waste movement which is gaining more and more momentum as time goes on and which greatly influences the work that we do at Too Good To Go.
What does the future of Too Good To Go look like? We’re really focusing on the above movement at the moment. A lot of people know us for the platform and the marketplace for which we connect consumers with businesses who have surplus food for sale, but what we’re also doing is working very closely with schools. We are trying to educate young children about the meaning and the value of food so that they don’t make the same mistakes we have. We want to work closer within the public affairs area, whether that is trying to influence policy around food waste, or working closer with various different brands and educating their consumers around what their labels mean.
How did your time and study at CCLS and Queen Mary help your career and development? A lot of the skills you develop during a master’s degree stay with you - your ability to present an argument, your research, your analytical skills - these are all things that you bring forward into your professional career. At the same time, Queen Mary gave us a lot of support in terms of funding through their QIncubator programme; they gave us seed funding to really get us going and bring what was an idea and something we were incredibly passionate about, into a reality.
Is there any advice you would give to current students or recent graduates considering their career options? Or considering starting their own company. Be a sponge, absorb everything and try to go to as many different talks and undertake as many different modules as possible, to really get a wide breadth of experience and knowledge to build and develop upon once you graduate. If you are trying to start your own business, just jump in, there is no point in hesitating, you’ve really got to have that growth mind-set and try to develop an idea from the bottom up.
What was so special about your time at CLLS and Queen Mary? I have made some friends for life and having a good support network is incredibly important in order to keep yourself grounded and to be able to bounce ideas off of. Great memories that spring to mind would be some of the awards that we won through Queen Mary when it comes to innovation and ideas – this is something that we are incredibly proud of and it is great to see that the support we had during those early stages has been truly validated over the years. Overall, when I look at the best things I got out of Queen Mary, it was starting Too Good To Go and the level of support I received there, so whether that was through award programmes where I met the daughter of Stephen Hawking, or through funding and mentoring, there was an array of support that came through.
This profile was conducted by Alumni Engagement Officer, Nicole Brownfield. If you would like to get in touch with Jamie or engage him in your work, please contact Nicole at firstname.lastname@example.org.