The 2020 lockdown changed most people’s lives in one way or another but one seven-year-old went from home-schooled little boy to pint-sized entrepreneur over the course of a few months. And, for Archie, the chicken did come first!
It began as part of a home-schooling project. Amy Frost bought a few chickens for her stepson Archie. The aim was to teach seven-year-old Archie about animal welfare and husbandry, as well as where food comes from.
Whereas some families found children resistant to home-schooling, this project turned out to be perfect for Archie. He threw himself into looking after the chickens and was soon collecting far more eggs than the family could eat. So, his entrepreneurial journey began as he decided to sell them locally. With the country in lockdown, eggs were difficult to get, and very soon Archie had a waiting list of 30 people wanting his eggs.
Next, he did his maths, and persuaded Amy to buy 6 more chickens. Still he struggled to keep up with demand, and then customers started asking if he sold other local produce too!
Rather than sticking just to eggs, Archie was inspired to expand his venture and look around for more local produce to sell. Together he and dad, Mark, and stepmum, Amy sourced a variety of local products, starting with Alderholt Flour – straight from the local historic Mill. And Archie’s Produce was born.
Having learnt his lessons well about the importance of local food, Archie was keen to get his produce from local producers only, and that gave the business the local edge it needed to succeed. Within a few days the young man had a website up, running, a two week waiting list and orders started pouring in.
“I needed to find a new way to get Archie excited about maths whilst also helping him understand how it could be transferred to real life. Archie loved the chickens we had recently introduced to our home, so we decided to run a home-schooling project about the hens. For example we wanted to teach him what they need to survive, how many eggs they can produce in a year, why it’s important to care for the chickens with kindness and love, and the difference between ‘free range’ and battery hens. I felt there was an enormous amount of education surrounding just this one project.” explains Amy.
“It was Archie who suggested we try to find other families who keep chickens and see if we could buy from them to fulfil the customers! What’s been wonderful about sourcing the local produce is meeting new people, and how enthusiastic and helpful they have been about helping us to educate Archie about how they grow, produce, and make the food. Many have been kind enough to show him around and demonstrate how they work. We hope to bring that education to all our customers in the future.”
Archie’s Produce sources all its food from Dorset, Hampshire and surrounds. Most of that produce is grown locally, and other artisan items are created by local producers. There are a few products that cannot be grown in the UK, for example bananas and avocados, so these are sourced internationally. However, if the product is grown or produced locally – then it is sourced and bought locally. No exceptions. All orders are delivered by hand, following strict no contact rules to avoid spreading the Covid19 virus.
“Many locals couldn’t get a delivery at the height of lockdown and were left relying on neighbours to do their shopping, so although not financially viable at the start, we made a conscious decision to deliver to a wider area so that people were not left without food. If they asked, we delivered, even if it was outside ‘our area’.” explains Mark.
“One customer who now orders every week, is 40 miles away, but she told us she had not left the house for 66 days. We couldn’t leave her, so delivered the next day. Her neighbours have kindly been buying her food shopping, but she felt guilty to ask for too much, so by us delivering to her, she can have treats without the guilt and know that the food is also from local suppliers and supporting other local families.”
“We have been overwhelmed with support from the community – from suppliers, customers and even other local businesses. We have customers sharing our website with friends and neighbours and buying produce as gifts, we have suppliers who have sadly lost so much of their catering trade during Covid and are open to working with start-ups like us, and then we have other local founders who are sharing their equipment to help us grow. For example, Outside Bars Dorset has provided us with a static chiller so that we could expand and hold enough stock to grow, without taking on the huge costs attached to buying one. They understand that there are risks attached with starting a new business at the best of times, let alone in the middle of an uncertain pandemic! This is where we have most definitely seen the best of our community and we are grateful for the support we have been shown.” says Amy.
You can find out more about Archie’s Produce here: https://www.archiesproduce.com/