Tabitha Whiting is the founder of Jarfull, helping people start making changes to reduce their personal plastic waste. She is also the organiser of the Oxford branch of the Rebel Book Club. Tabitha studied English Language and Literature at Corpus Christi College in Oxford.
At Jarfull we think there’s too much plastic on our planet, and we want to do something about it by helping people start making changes to reduce their personal plastic waste. At the moment we’re running a 5 week plastic-free challenge to help people who are struggling with where to start. Our long-term aim is to provide plastic-free grocery deliveries around Oxford, which we’re working on developing at the moment.
Rebel Book Club is an established company in London which we’re bringing to Oxford – it’s a different kind of book club, bringing open-minded people together to talk about game-changing non-fiction books on themes like gender, race, entrepreneurship, cryptocurrencies etc.
I studied at Oxford University for 3 years, and didn’t really know what I wanted to do with my career when I finished, but I did know that I still loved books and reading, so I pursued a career in publishing and stayed in Oxford to do so. This led to me working on marketing, which I still do part-time, and I really enjoy the creativity of it, but became frustrated by the corporate nature of the companies that I was working for, and didn’t feel fulfilled in my career. That’s when entrepreneurship began to appeal to me, and the idea of building something of my own, based around my values, and helping real people solve real problems. I became vegan in 2016 and that led to me getting more and more immersed in environmental issues, waste, and climate change, so that’s the area that I want to work in as an entrepreneur – to help consumers understand the impact that each of their day-to-day decisions makes.
For me, entrepreneurship means finding solutions to real-world problems, and bringing those solutions to life. It also means doing something different, making a move away from the traditional career path of working your way up a corporate management ladder, and a move towards having control of your own path and the type of work you’re engaged in.
After having done some customer development and talked to people within my target market (both physically and online) to see what their pain points are around my area, what they were currently doing to solve them, and whether they thought their current solutions were enough.
Communication – as an entrepreneur you’re often working alone and it can be easy not to even see a person for a few days. But connections really are everything, and they come from the most unexpected places: people you haven’t spoken to in years, strangers you meet on the street etc. Being able to put yourself out there, explain what you’re working on, and follow up on connections is key.
Self-motivation – this comes in various different forms for different kinds of people, but if you’re working for yourself and/or with a small team of people, there’s no hierarchy of managers to give you deadlines and put pressure on you. You have to get good at motivating yourself. Sometimes that’s easy because you’re probably working on something you really care about, but other days it can be overwhelming.
Proactive – this was one of my least favourite words in the corporate sphere, but in terms of entrepreneurship it really just means that you need to be able to take action. If you have an idea but do nothing about it, it will just stay in your head, you have to be able to get it out into the world and take the opportunities that come to you.
Working for myself, the freedom, the flexibility, and the ability to focus on ideas that match my interests and values.
Farmdrop or Oddbox. Both working in similar areas to me in terms of food and logistics, but both with different values. Farmdrop focuses on maximising profit for its farmers and on food being locally sourced. Oddbox sells on wonky veg that is rejected by supermarkets. Both have taken really simple ideas but are changing the ways that consumers think about their food, and the ways that they shop for their food.
How they got started: what was the first version of your business? What motivates and drives them? What businesses/entrepreneurs inspire you?
I’m still in the really early stages of setting up a business, so I’m lucky enough to not have any failures yet – but I’m sure they’ll come and I’ll embrace what they teach me when they do. In terms of lessons learned, I think one of the key lessons for me has been that testing your idea and assumptions is more important than perfection. It’s easy to spend a really long time perfecting the first version of your product or service, but if your target market won’t use it, it’s a complete waste of time.
Self-funded, working part-time, low cost MVP.
Good: Oxford is small, it gives you a good market to focus on, and in terms of delivering it can be done on a bike. It’s also a city with lots of research and lots of impact studies going on, and a lot of independent business owners doing really interesting things to connect with.
Bad: there’s always really interesting events going on in London and it’s difficult to make it to them all!
Escape the city (startup side)
You have to start somewhere. If you have an idea, just think about the first tiny action you can take to bring it to life. Then keep doing one tiny step each day.