Briton Becky Balderstone utilised her marketing background and passion for healthy eating to launch her UAE-based organic produce firm
Week in the Life: Food entrepreneur gains from Ripe market
Becky Balderstone, 36, is the founder of Ripe, a company selling local organic produce via home delivery, weekly markets and its own shops. The Briton came to the Emirates to launch BlackBerry Mobile Services, but realised her destiny lay elsewhere and utilised her marketing background and passion for healthy eating to launch Dubai-based Ripe in 2011. With Ripe’s popular outdoor markets re-opening across the UAE, her week just got busier. Here she talks to The National about her week.
Sundays start with a work out on the beach to get me in the right frame of mind for the week. Ripe operates seven days; markets, servicing homegrown F&B concepts, home deliveries, Ripe Organic Kitchen and our retail shops. The Ripe team has been expanding and we have lots of new faces to greet customers through our various services and events. My priority is to catch up with the team. The Ripe ‘rock stars’ operate from many locations; the Ripe farm, logistics warehouse, retail stores, our offices in Al Quoz. Throughout the week I wear many hats; my agenda is never the same. It can consist of merchandising store openings, sewing seeds on the Ripe farm or reviewing new SME businesses looking to join the markets.
I start around 5.30am. I work out three mornings a week, and then start my run of nursery and school drops for my children - Freya (five), Buddy (four), Beau 20 months. We often call grandparents further afield or plan fun things for the school day. I manage most new projects for the company, so I am not as active in the daily running and operations of the business. I have a wonderful team, extremely passionate and proud about what they do. I manage the brand of Ripe and all brand developments. I am very active in store openings; we recently launched three new farm shops - Town Centre, Jumeirah; Park Centre Mirdif; and Shoreline 8, Palm Jumeirah. I’ve been on site for the fit-out process, designing the shops and working with contractors with the support of my husband. I recently developed a new range of Ripe Superfood products and am excited about developing my Raising With Ripe programme, which will launch in 2018 and focus around educating children on healthy eating, enabling them to see our farms for themselves. It’s great to see everything come together after months of hard work from the team.
Our bookings team works with Ripe market members throughout the week taking bookings for all upcoming markets, answering questions, helping new members through the application process. Social media is a great platform, evolving every day, so we encourage all members to shout about their business and Ripe markets; it’s a great way for SMEs to get their name out there and grow sales. We have social media platforms for Ripe Organic, which keeps up to date with events and showcases some market members. Juggling work and being a mum is very challenging; I love doing both but I have a lot of support from my husband, James, which enables me to be flexible.
Market planning, bookings and operations is huge, but totally worth it when you see so many talented people coming together to share their passion and creations. The markets team probably doesn’t receive as much thanks, and credit, as they deserve. Outside of Ripe HQ, few participants and customers are aware of the processes and hard work they carry out, always with a smile.
We have individual plans for each market. Naturally, summers are quieter with so many people travelling, but this year has seen the highest number of market vendors apply to take part. Some outdoor market dates sold out within weeks of opening; a positive start for the new season. There are many longstanding members who joined Ripe in the beginning; it’s great to see how their businesses have flourished and we are excited to see new businesses following in their footsteps.
Our largest market is in Zabeel Park. Set up starts the night before to ensure we are ready for member registration in the morning. I am very involved in the beginning, to ensure everything is set up smoothly and all processes and procedures are followed. Then, throughout the season, I float among the different events, trying hard not to spend too much on the stalls - very tempting with so many wonderful things to buy. I love seeing the Ripe Organic stand coming together; the fresh produce always looks fab. There is always a buzz as members arrive to set up. It’s great to see how creative people get with their tables. With the help of our bookings team new members are prepared for the day; the team help with questions.
My teams are split on Saturday because of two separate markets – Umm Al Emarat Park, Abu Dhabi and Al Barsha Pond Park, Dubai - but everything runs as usual. I am not based at any one market but I work Saturdays, whether it be in one of the markets, retail stores, Ripe farms, office, warehouse - or cooking up a new recipe with my children at home. I like to keep busy and show support across all areas of the business.