This millennial quit a financial analyst job to become a food warrior with S$30,000

Jennifer Widjaja and university buddy Srikanth Katikala invested S$30,000 into the venture. (Photo: Just Dabao)

By Prince Lee

SINGAPORE — Ex-fiscal analyst Jennifer Widjaja did not foresee that she would turn into a meals squander warrior halfway via her occupation.

In fact, the co-founder of Just Dabao — a social business launched in 2020 with her university friend Srikanth Katikala that can help reduce foodstuff waste by redistributing unsold surplus food items by connecting individuals and eateries — was spurred by the struggles foodstuff-and-beverage (F&B) companies have been experiencing for the duration of the pandemic, where by flawlessly edible, unsold food was thrown out day by day.

Just in 2021 alone, the complete amount of money of food squander produced was 817,000 tonnes, 23 per cent a lot more than the 665,000 tonnes generated in 2020, according to facts from the Countrywide Ecosystem Company.

This, coupled with the consciousness of not losing meals — anything ingrained in her by her mother due to the fact she was younger — enthusiastic her to perform toward a easy and scalable resolution that turned out to be a acquire-get partnership for each buyers and companies.

Maximise revenue and societal advantages

Now, Widjaja has motivated a developing eco-acutely aware group of above 20,000 persons to enjoy the system of preserving foods, and has assisted above 450 F&B businesses embark on their eco-friendly journey. As of August 2022, Just Dabao has saved more than 10 tonnes of meals.

“This calendar year we have been constantly increasing double-digit month in excess of thirty day period. We have also just introduced our mobile app, which will add to further more advancement,” Widjaja explained, noting that July was one of their very best months this year. This could also be an sign that buyers are on the lookout for avenues to defeat inflation, and are eager to also turn into far more eco-aware at the identical time.

With the app, people will obtain it less difficult to find out surplus food, as the application will notify consumers immediately when there is surplus food items —due to diverse explanations these as extra in stock or cancellation of activities — near them. Consumers will then be equipped to get their favourite meals at a fraction of the price, even though saving the earth.

In general, eateries in Singapore throw out 9 million kg of unsold foodstuff each calendar year! On a for each working day foundation, this is about 50,000 perfectly edible Nasi Lemak platesJust Dabao

Prior to launching the application, Just Dabao relied entirely on its web site. In a related style, buyers search the web page, make a buy at one Just Dabao’s partner merchants, and decide on up a “Shiok Bag”, a surprise bag of foodstuff objects.

“This way, organization get again their sunk cost, and individuals get delightful foods at a fantastic price tag. With a 4.5-star normal ranking from 2,000+ reviews, I can say that Singapore loves enjoyable surprises,” the 30-calendar year-old claimed.

But it was not generally easy sailing. When she to start with started out, Widjaja did not have the “right connections”, so her network experienced to be “built from scratch”. With each other, Widjaja and Katikala also invested S$30,000 into the venture, and as of push time, the business is “not but profitable”. Each co-founders have also just started having to pay them selves.

Also, fundraising as a social organization was not a walk in the park.

She lamented: “Investor sentiments to social enterprise startups are ordinarily these of conservative and involve a prolonged run-way in advance of creating a massive crack. It is a challenge to connect with traders that a social organization can be as scalable and worthwhile to a regular startup.”

Thankfully, Just Dabao was a grant receiver of programmes under Organization Singapore and Singapore Centre for Social Company, whilst the Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment and Countrywide Setting Company have usually been supportive.

“When we hosted our first function, a banquet of surplus meals, senior minister for point out Amy Khor quickly agreed to go to and showed her guidance,” she recalled.

Growing food stuff charges

Widjaja claims Singapore, which imports 90 % of it food, can strengthen foods safety by commencing with the “lowest hanging fruit” by reducing meals squander at household and in offices, as this has a “direct and instant impact”.

“Food rates have greater by 3.3% in 2021 in comparison to 2019 (pre-pandemic), and meals waste disposed greater by 10% because 2019. In outcome, by squandering additional food stuff, we are contributing to a rise in price ranges,” she explained.

Even so, the situation of foodstuff squander is complex, as it entails several stakeholders across the foodstuff chain with differing priorities. This is a thing Widjaja feels the governing administration can assist additional — to promote collaboration across industries and hook up stakeholders in the motion to decreasing meals squander.

“From the discussions that I experienced with numerous business entrepreneurs, measurement of impact is a large challenge. The federal government can help in measuring development at a customer amount and compiling the fragmented details into a person source,” she elaborated.

Still, she is heartened that extra F&B proprietors have an understanding of the worth of sustainable strategies, but points out there is a “huge gap”, the place some nonetheless believe that they have to forgo commercial gain to choose a much more sustainable solution.

“It is really far more lucrative to be sustainable. For instance, when compactor dustbins replace standard kinds, assortment charges can be minimized by 80 per cent, even though minimizing carbon emissions,” Widjaja reported.

But systems and patterns will need to transform, and Just Dabao is striving to continuously educate and collaborate with F&B corporations, customers, governments, educational institutions, NGOs and corporates to push impact at scale and accomplish its zero waste target.

“If we can ingrain into the minds of hundreds of thousands of people to adopt a greener follow but at the exact same time, defeat inflation through this period of time of time, we can build a actually sustainable and circular way of living,” she claimed.

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