Searching for an answer to “sustainable delivery”…

How not to create something that pollutes this planet

I had been providing “intangible” goods like digital content and events, and when I thought about shifting to providing “tangible” goods like food, I really felt that no matter how great the product may be, if it’s something that ends up polluting this planet, I didn’t want to create it.

It may be difficult to produce with zero waste, but that point where you compromise and say “this is how far I can go,” is it really the farthest point you can go to minimize damages to the environment?

Business is not sustainable without profit. To make a profit, you need to secure revenue and/or minimize cost.

If you keep going down that road, it’s obvious that the damage to the environment increases along the way. So you need to find an optimal point where a certain level of profitability can be achieved to make the business sustainable while minimizing damages to the environment…

Initially, my thoughts were along those lines, but then I realized how inward-looking my thoughts were and that they were not growth oriented.

At that point, once again I returned to my mission, which is to deliver a piece of richness of life to anyone who wants to make healthy choices in their life, and felt that I needed a mindset shift.

Selling online

Ecommerce market is expanding rapidly every year, and Amazon is, arguably, now an essential part of everyday life infrastructure. Whatever you want is only a click away on your phone and it gets delivered to your door step the next day. That is the kind of life we are used to now.

For me also, since I live in the mountains and there are things that local stores don’t have, I use online shopping almost daily and my life is greatly dependent on that. So, I have no intention to deny the convenience and greatness of online shopping.

On the other hand, it is also true that, as people spend more time at home in this pandemic era, human interactions have been decreasing and the energy that is being consumed to deliver things, however small they are, to each household individually has been putting a new kind of pressure on the environment.

If one were to produce a new “vegan cheese” product, selling online and delivering the product to customers is so simple and probably is the cheapest way to start.

What if there were other ways to distribute your product?

“Pickup model”

As I pondered upon different ways to distribute my product, the image that came into my mind was a picture of an old-school mom-and-pop shop – a small shop that stocks things that locals in the community need, where locals connect with the store owner and other customers when they come to shop.

If I were to create such a shop, maybe I can manage to open one tiny shop but to establish multiple locations would take time, energy and most importantly money.

What about wholesale or outsourcing the selling function to existing stores? Since all the duties associated with selling, such as receiving orders from customers, stock management and sales, are transferred to the stores, the hurdle for stores to accept my products is quite high, and even if they do accept my products, I will have to pay them either in the form of wholesale discount or sales commission.

That’s when I thought of a “pickup model” – a hybrid between selling online and selling at a real shop.

This is how it works: A customer who wants to purchase TOKYO VEG LIFE faux-mage, orders from my Website and chooses a “pickup location.” After placing an order, the customer simply goes to the pickup location shop after the pickup date to pick up the product.

To buy products online, in most cases, customers have to pay for shipping, but with the pickup model, customers use that money that they would have used for shipping to buy something or eat at the pickup location shop.

There is added inconvenience to customers as they need to go pick up the product, but they can shop more sustainably and also receive goods or service in return for money that they would otherwise have used just for shipping.

For shop owners, with a minimum amount of added duties, namely storing the products and handing them to customers, they can expect to get new customers and also expand the product lineup without any added cost or investment.

As for me, the seller, I can deliver the products to my customers efficiently with minimum effort and damages to the environment. I can also contribute to building a community in the area around the physical shop.

“Open model”

I’ve discussed the pickup model with several shop owners and have received positive feedback. But it will certainly take time for me to secure pickup location partners across Japan.

While working to expand the network, what I also wanted to work on was an “open model” meaning to create a digital recipe book for sale.

You could treat your recipes as a trade secret. Once the recipes become open, some may think that they don’t need to buy the product because they can just make it on their own. Some may even think about copying the recipe to make a product to sell.

From a different perspective, if people can just purchase my recipe book and make faux-mage on their own, then I don’t have to spend any time or energy to manufacture and transport the products to them and I can essentially achieve my mission to deliver faux-mage to people with zero waste. Profitability actually is the highest in such a business as there is almost no added cost (this is essentially what I’ve been doing on YouTube, providing cooking videos.)

Also, even if the recipes are available for purchase, there will be a certain number of people who want to just buy the finished product rather than going through the hassle of making it. Even with the same recipe, the end product will of course be different in a different environment, so there will also be people who want to eat the vegan cheese produced by TOKYO VEG LIFE.

In other words, offering an option to buy a digital recipe book will not necessarily lower the potential for product sales.

If others want to get their hands on my recipe to create vegan cheese to sell, the market will be explored more and grow, so that’s actually a positive thing for a place like Japan where the market is so nascent that it’s virtually non-existent.

Once the market expands and “vegan cheese” becomes more common, there will be enough demand to serve, and all I have to do is create high-quality products and serve the market.

Instead of focusing on securing my own profit, how can I involve different people and establish a business that is growth oriented, that creates profit for others?

I feel that the answer to that question may be the key to my pursuit of sustainable delivery.

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