Friska does Feel Good Food. Each month the forward-thinking eatery funds a Deki entrepreneur through sales of their special ‘Deki Dish’. We chatted to Co-Founder Griff Holland about Friska’s fresh ideas.
ELLA: Hi Griff. Good to speak to you. So how did the partnership come about? Why did you choose to support Deki?
GRIFF: Ed and I both went to Bath Uni and did Economics, so we were aware of what microfinance is all about and understood its impact. When we were invited to an event by DO SMITH we became aware of Deki as they were the case study for the evening. Ed and I were keen to get in touch with them and find out more, and that's how the conversation started.
We weren’t entirely sure how the relationship could work from the off, we just knew that we wanted to be involved and contribute something towards its causes. Eventually we decided to tie this to the sales of one of our dishes. We needed an easy way for us to give proportionately to Deki, and the best way to do that was with the Deki Dish. We picked our Vietnamese Pho noodles and decided that ten pence from every sale would go to the Deki fund.
We started this towards the end of 2014 and since then we’ve lent over £12,000 through Deki, and have funded 91 (and counting) people.
ELLA: Excellent. And just for the pedants out there…how do you pronounce ‘Pho’?
GRIFF: Some people so ‘fo’ some people say ‘po’, some people say ‘fu’! ‘Vietnamese noodles’ to people like you and me!
ELLA: Does the Deki Dish attract more customers than others due its ethical credentials?
GRIFF: I don't think it does! I don't think a lot of people know about the Deki partnership to be honest. I mean we’ve got a Deki wall in each store and we update it with chalk pen saying who the borrower is. But it’s like a nice little surprise when you find out about it.
ELLA: Do you feel that supporting a charity is beneficial for business and team morale?
GRIFF: I think it has a massive impact actually. I tell you what I can talk it up all you like…but why don't I pass you on to Levi, our Head Chef and you can ask him what he thinks.
ELLA: Levi appears to be the happiest chef in town. He speaks after a brief explanation as to why he has suddenly found himself being quizzed.
LEVI: Hello! It really helps with team morale. With the Deki thing, we don’t like to push it in people’s faces too much. And it’s not because we don’t care or anything like that. I think it’s because we do care, and we want people to ask us about it. As a staff member when everything is explained, it’s very much like “Here it is guys – familiarise yourself with it” and for me I look at the Deki thing and I think it’s absolutely amazing. When you see these people and you see what it does for them and how it helps…as a regular team member that makes such a big, big difference. I think it’s one of the best things we do here.
We do things like organic produce…free range…we go the extra mile with the food, but we go even further with everything else. Griff had a presentation in London on Tuesday and he gave me a preview of what he was going to do. When it came to the Deki part of the presentation I got really emotional! I’m not normally an emotional guy but looking at the pictures, hearing the stories about how it has genuinely changed people’s lives…I just find it utterly incredible.
ELLA: Levi hands back to Griff…
Thanks Levi! Griff: how much involvement do you have in deciding who receives the loans?
GRIFF: It depends on how much time we've got really. Sometimes I call it, sometimes I ask someone else to, and sometimes it’s a team vote. It all depends.
ELLA: What business advice would you give to a Deki entrepreneur?
There’s a long pause. The disparity between business opportunities here in the UK and for Deki entrepreneurs is making the cogs in Griff’s brain grind to a halt.
GRIFF: I’m just trying to make it relevant to a smallholding or that kind of scale, because I would say: “Focus on developing robust systems and growth” but can they think about that? Or is just a case of getting the stock in? Ummmmm. Oh this doesn’t make me sound like I know what I’m talking about does it?
ELLA: We point out that he must do, given Friska’s success, and that his struggle to answer the question highlights a valid point anyway.
GRIFF: How about: “If at first you don’t succeed, try again”? Because we didn’t and we’re doing alright now!
ELLA: As an entrepreneur you can obviously recognise the need for investment and business loans. Did you have to use a loan model to start Friska?
GRIFF: Yes! We borrowed money from both of our parents. And the bank. And then we borrowed some more money from our parents again. And then we sold some of the business. So we definitely borrowed to get going in the first instance. And then when things weren’t going so well we asked for some more!
ELLA: Why is doing ‘the right thing’ so important to you?
GRIFF: Life’s too short not to! We want to be proud of what we’re creating. Having integrity and values and acting in line with them is what we believe business should be about. Because when you do that you harness and galvanise people’s enthusiasm and their passion and energy. And you need all those things in abundance if you’re looking to grow a business.
ELLA: The way you support Deki is quite unusual. What advice would you give to a business looking to support a charity or cause?
GRIFF: A one-off payment is a bit cynical. Charities aren’t going to say no to that, but you’re probably only doing it stick on your CSR report. There’s nothing wrong with that but we thought it was a great thing to give support by building it in to our business. I mean we’re talking about 10p on the sale of one product: we’re not saintly entrepreneurs who are giving it all away, that's not what we’re doing. We wanted to start and develop an ongoing partnership with Deki and we did it in a way that was aligned with our business growth. The more we sell the more we support them. We’ve made out contribution sustainable.
ELLA: The arrangement you’ve got with Deki is great for you, for them, for your customers and most importantly for the entrepreneurs who receive the loans.
What plans do you have for supporting Deki in the future?
GRIFF: Keep on going with Deki Dish. If it ain’t broke don't fix it!