By Sandhya D’Mello
Khaleej Times, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Female entrepreneur Becky Balderstone, founder of “Ripe Organic” hopes to spread the benefits of going organic and supporting local farms. Balderstone also gives high praise to the city of Dubai for facilitating the growth of her farming business.
The UAE is a fantastic place for women to live, launch a business and raise a family. I would never have been able to achieve what I have if I didn’t live in Dubai, said Becky Balderstone, founder of Ripe Organic.
“The city offers so many opportunities for women and you can easily implement support structures that allow you to balance a career and family. I have launched a business and since launching, I have also had three children,” she said.
Ripe Organic aims to spread the benefits of going organic and supporting local farms. It’s all about getting back to basics by growing, eating and supporting local.
“Ripe initially started when I realized I couldn’t source seasonal, organic, local fresh produce in the UAE, like I could in the UK. After meeting my husband, a landscape architect, we saw a gap in the market for locally produced, organic food, which was readily available from UAE farms, yet there were few retail channels bringing this to consumers,” said Balderstone.
“Launching the markets was a natural progression. I wanted an informal setting where you could not only shop for organic produce but also support local businesses. I wanted to create a relaxed atmosphere that was welcoming for everyone. I wanted people to come to the Ripe Markets and feel at home in some way and feel like they belong.”
Today, Ripe Organic retails through the Ripe Farm Shop, takes online orders for home delivery, conducts Ripe Markets and does pop-up events.
The company also works with corporate clients to ensure they serve local seasonal fruit and vegetables on their menus. The Ripe Market initiative continue to grow and now has four weekly markets as well as a number of pop-up markets and events.
As part of Ripe’s commitment to providing high-quality organic fruits and vegetables to customers in the UAE, the company ensures every farm they work with is certified organic.
All of the farms Ripe works with have local certification from the Emirates Authority for Standardisation and Metrology, or Esma, and many of them have international certifications too. Ripe processes are certified organic by Esma too.
Balderstone initially moved to Dubai to be part of the launch team with BlackBerry in 2006, but soon realised her passion lay elsewhere. “I knew it was time to start out on my own. I have a marketing background, but I have always been concerned with healthy living and healthy eating and so launching my own businesses around this idea was always a dream,” she recalled.
Supporting local agriculture is something that both Balderstone and her husband felt strongly about. “After visiting the farms here, I had no idea how advanced organic farming was and the produce was amazing, so it just made sense to start a company supporting this. I loved having access to markets and local produce back home and I felt that many other people probably felt the same. so, I launched Ripe,” informed Balderstone.
Win-win for entrepreneurs
She said the UAE offers fantastic opportunities for entrepreneurs. If you have an idea for something you believe will work, you should find a way to make it happen, she advised.
“At Ripe Markets, we work with many SMEs. It’s so inspiring to see a new business launch, use the market as a platform to showcase their brand and grow over time. It’s very humbling to have them attribute their early success to the exposure received at Ripe Markets. It makes what we do worthwhile, bringing the community together to support local SME businesses,” explained the former Blackberry employee.
“With Ripe growing so fast over the past five years, the team has expanded too. I wouldn’t be where I am today without the support, passion and dedication of my team. The Ripe team has a number of exceptionally talented women at all levels,” said the marketing graduate from Nottingham Trent University.
“We have a fairly flat organisational structure. I am not a massive fan of fancy job titles and I believe every person in my organisation has an equally important part to play.
“I like to spend time with each team member individually to make sure they understand the overall objectives of the business, how they contribute towards the success of Ripe, we brainstorm and share ideas and develop strategies and plans to implement. I encourage open communication between team members and we do regular team brainstorm meetings — so many great ideas come from sitting around a table and sharing ideas,” said the former marketing consultant to Art Dubai.
Ripe Organic also offers internship opportunities to students and those looking to expand their work experience across a number of different channels, including retail, marketing and event management.