Happy International Women's Day! Today is about celebrating achievements of women, which is why we’re spotlighting three female entrepreneurs in sustainability about their journey to celebrate their success and inspire others to do the same.
We’d like to introduce you to the brilliant Entrepreneur Frankie Fox, the founder of two successful sustainable businesses, The Foraging Fox, an all natural condiments brand, and foodloop.earth a biotech company that uses new technologies to upcycle food manufacturing byproducts into new ingredients. Both these brands are ingrained in Frankies personal experiences growing up, with her father's influence, love for the outdoors and learning about foraging, mushrooms, seasonal fruits and different soil conditions.
Frankie’s journey was very unique. After completing a degree in Law, Frankie enjoyed the corporate life in professional services and then banking as she started her young family. However with the passing of her father who was a plant and mushroom expert and played a large part in her upbringing, she felt a sadness combined with a huge urge to pass on all the knowledge and experiences she had acquired from him to her children.
Frankie wanted that knowledge to play an important role in her life too. She immensely enjoyed the process of foraging, growing and preserving vegetables with the involvment of her children. It was a healing process for her. At some point, she found herself with extraordinarily large amounts of beetroots. Believing that “There is no waste in nature, no space for waste”, she tried every recipe under the sun to find a way to preserve them as she doesn’t believe in waste. During this time, Frankie’s children were obsessed with ketchup and while she was frustrated with the monoculture of ultra-processed sugary ketchups in the market. This led her down the unbeet-en path of beetroot ketchup.
Starting at home, she innovated until she passed her kids’ taste tests and then tested out recipes through blind tastings with friends and family. She knew that those close to her would always say good things about her condiments and felt she had to get some independent verification. Either take the plunge or give up. This moment came when Frankie rented a tiny little stall at a big food show, which to her delight turned out to be a great hit and that was the beginning of her entrepreneurial journey. This was a big departure from her former corporate life, which led her to simultaneously carve out a new personal identity and the development of her brand. She enlisted the help of her friend Desiree to join her as a Co-Founder and named the brand ‘Foraging Fox’ as a tribute to her dad.
Foraging Fox grew quickly with the products launching Waitrose and Sainsbury’s at the same time and they had to scale their operations quickly to keep up with the rapidly growing demand. However, looking at the food system from the inside, she realised how unsustainable it was. There's so much waste, and there were so many areas that she felt uncomfortable with. Frozen imported beetroot were much cheaper than locally seasonally produced ones. She also discovered the disconnect between consumers and nature - the colour and taste of beetroot varies seasonally, but most consumers expect everything to be the same like manufactured products. While their team solved these business issues by finding the right suppliers and educating consumers on why their product colour changes and regulating the colours to make it more uniform and appealing to consumers, these issues frustrated Frankie. She found the modern consumer was disengaged, they saw food as fuel. She didn't want to have a synthetic highly processed product or the culture of chasing novelty. “This is so far from the soil, so far from where I started - in the garden with the kids and in touch with the seasons. When I'm trying to defy the seasons and trying to make things all year round, I felt there was a kind of disconnect happening. And I didn't want that disconnect.”
This made her want to learn more about sustainability and so she went on to study horticulture at Writtle University College and Sustainability Management at Cambridge University, where she started looking at the food system and saying how can I make the food system better by working from the soil back? Not knowing what to do next, she signed up to the Carbon13 Venture Builder - a program that works with founders to build startups that can reduce CO₂e emissions by millions of tonnes. Through this she met Abi, who has a background in cellular agriculture and lab grown meat, and Wes, with a background in waste management. The three of them all share a love of food and wanted to create something that would upcycle food waste, something good, something new. They realised that most plant-based proteins are made from 3 crops - soy, wheat and pea, and only a small part of the plants were used and the rest was going to waste. Frankie believes that “Monoculture does not exist in nature. We need to use what we have and being more efficient with it, be more clever with it”
This led them to establish FoodLoop - a business that upcycles byproducts from food manufacturing into sustainable plant-based ingredients for the alternative protein industry, expanding the ingredient landscape beyond the current range of virgin wheat, pea, and soy. Since then they’ve successfully pitched and secured pre-seed funding and support from Carbon13, and are now working hard to grow the business.
Finally, Frankie feels that she is doing something meaningful that brings her back to her roots, the soil and sustenance, that is good for the planet and the people by being part of something more efficient and viable, something that feels good for the soul.
Frankie’s advice for other female entrepreneurs in sustainability is “Don’t be afraid to reach out. I’ve been absolutely blown away by how people are willing to help when you reach out. There are so many people who want to do the right thing and are willing to help.”