A new initiative in Calgary has been quickly recognized by struggling small businesses elsewhere.
Best of Calgary Foods is a self-launched collective of 24 small businesses. Together they have set up the first owner-operated delivery service in the city.
“We’re really business mavericks,” group president Janeen Norman told Global News.
Norman, who owns Calgary-based Alpine Sausage, started mulling over the idea three years ago. She had met with some friends in San Francisco who were thinking of a similar approach. She soon approached other “foodie friends” in Calgary and began to work on the idea.
“We discovered that while all 24 of us were running around the city — trying to do our own deliveries — what was happening was our shared customers were paying (for deliveries) two-to-three times over,” she said.
“We charge a flat-rate of $10 anywhere in the city, so there’s not even the surcharges.”
Not only will customers benefit from the flat-rate fee regardless of how many businesses they choose from, Norman added the delivery charges being faced by those businesses were also “unbearable”.
This new concept she said, will change all of that.
“Every vendor gets dollar-for-dollar back from the purchase of their product,” she added. “So we’re not trying to deal with distributors or wholesalers or third party delivery companies which can have commissions and per cents up to 40 per cent.”
Teresa Bestman, with The Glamorgan Bakery, has also experienced excessive third-party delivery fees. The family-run business tried to deliver its products itself, but it was time consuming and too expensive.
“We thought it is the perfect way to be able to offer deliveries to the whole city of Calgary, instead of just a five to 10 km radius of the bakery.”
She is impressed with the response she’s received so far.
“I can definitely say I was not expecting to have 60 orders already,” she said. “After just 24 hours. We already have orders for Christmas.”
Other members of the collective are also optimistic. Torill Myre, who founded Torill’s Tablet, spent years perfecting her initial product — a waffle mixture. But getting it out to the masses was tough until now.
Myre added customers are looking for a one-stop shopping solution.
“There’s a lot of customers who want to be buying the entire spectrum of their groceries online,” she said. “And with all of the good quality local products all on one platform, we expect this to be a good upswing for all of us.”
Soffritto Calgary owner Gordon Fontaine also has his hopes up. He said his business, which sells olive oil and vinegar along with pasta and many other things, has definitely seen a lot less traffic since the pandemic.
“It was a no-brainer for me,” he said about joining the collective.
“When you’re a small business owner you need to shift and move and be very, very ready to pivot. And I think all of us are ready to rumble.”
Best of Calgary Foods also has more than a 60 per cent female entrepreneur participation.
The collective’s head office is also in Calgary and Norman said that is a win-win for the city because the tax base, employment opportunities and revenues will also stay here.
The concept is being recognized by others in the industry. Norman said she has received calls expressing interest from at least three other cities, including one in the United States.