by Hibi Racs | 3 January 2017
"Amazing meetup! It is not usual to have this good vibe among meetup attendees" -- Guillermo
Hibi Racs is a blogger, cookery teacher, community worker, and is training to be a nutritional therapist.
After a diagnosis of Crohn’s disease, she underwent a series of physical and financial challenges that left her wanting to challenge the idea that eating healthily is expensive and difficult. As part of her work with the Shoreditch Trust, a charity based in the East End of London which works to reduce social and economic disadvantage, Hibi started writing about food and nutrition.
She decided to turn her knowledge and experience into a business, so starting in September 2015 she set up the How To Eat For Less website.
The key issue, as Hibi saw it, was, very simply, to help people understand how to achieve better dietary practices on a limited budget.
Many writers and bloggers on the subject of food make assumptions about unlimited budgets and time, access to ingredients, and technical skill levels that most people simply don’t possess.
She wanted to start growing a community of real people, who wanted to join a genuine conversation about healthy eating and living, and who were committed to making a series of small, manageable changes to their lives. Providing recipes is only a part of the jigsaw: Hibi wanted people to start cherry-picking tips and tricks to improve their day-to-day lives.
As well as the website, Hibi has started a Meetup group called The Recipe Club which has attracted almost 350 members in under a month.
She is also creating a series of guided London market tours, where she can take groups round places like Smithfields, Brick Lane and Borough Market to explore the exciting atmosphere and produce available at different locations in the capital.
Part of the challenge for the business has been in terms of measuring success. Typically, improvement in people’s diets is very difficult to measure, even in longitudinal public health studies. This means that demonstrating the benefit of the business is not as simple as “x products sold = £y profit”. Success for this idea is very much around the creation of a vibrant, dynamic on- and offline community which will grow organically, and have a positive effect on people in those people’s lives.
Hibi wants the community to be as inclusive as possible, and to that end hopes to have something for everyone on the site. As membership increases, products offerings such as the market tours, cookery experiences and lessons will come to the fore. The website already has a shop function set up, and site traffic analysis has demonstrated that visitors are keen to explore product offerings. This augurs well for the point in the future at which fully-realised products are available for customers of the business.
Key focuses for the future of the business have been around devising those product offerings. Hibi hopes that as the community grows, the direction of travel for the business will become more apparent, and monetising both her and the community’s activities will be easier. Diversification will contribute to rich offering for the community, and may open up avenues that hadn’t previously been in view.
An important advantage of organic, community-based growth is that startup and maintenance costs are low. Apart from the cost of the website design, little has been spent so far, making external investment a real ground-floor proposition, if that’s a route the business chooses to take. The key budgetary focus for the rest of 2016 will be around marketing and community visibility.
No hard budgets have been set yet, so spending will be on an “as required” basis for the foreseeable future. Hibi is also focused on developing high-quality relationships with potential community partners and suppliers, which may become more important than volume- or cost-based relationships.
What’s unique about How To Eat For Less is the combination of lifestyle branding and low cost. The lifestyle space is occupied, at the top end of the market, by sites like Gwyneth Paltrow's Goop. The budget cookery space has been covered most recently by writers like Jack Monroe and Jamie Oliver.
But where Hibi has spotted a gap is in bringing these two things together. Driven by a genuine desire to improve people’s lives, the site, the community and the product offerings will come together to create a brand which will touch the lives of ordinary people in a thousand tiny ways.