OzHarvest is Australia’s leading food rescue organisation. But it’s also very much a not-for-profit business, helmed by an operational superstar who keeps it running efficiently and successfully. So, we were doubly excited at DC when we had the chance to hear directly from OzHarvest founder Ronni Kahn when she spoke recently at Brissie-based start-up heaven, The Capital.

We walked away with a clearer sense of the mission of OzHarvest and the difference it’s making – and, a huge added bonus: six key business lessons from Ronni that we can apply to our own professional lives. But before we get to those lessons, here’s an overview of how OzHarvest came to become the vital link between food waste and food relief that it is today.

In 2003, Ronni had an idea to tackle the growing food waste problem in Australia. She found herself calling into question her own values and purpose in life. So, instead of looking the other way, she took action, and founded OzHarvest.

Creating OzHarvest was far more than a logistical exercise for Ronni – she treats the organisation with the respect usually accorded to a corporation, and generates results that have a similarly massive impact. One example? To date, OzHarvest has delivered over 60 million meals from rescued food.

Today, the organisation employs 140 full time staff, and works across several countries to make a difference. No small effort, indeed. Now, on to the six business lessons we’ve learned from Ronni and how she runs OzHarvest:

 

  1. It all comes down to relationships. OzHarvest survives purely on philanthropy. Ronni inspired small and large businesses to give to her cause. These businesses measured their success, not by money, but by impact.
  2. OzHarvest was built like a business (in its operations, marketing, return-on-investment to name a few) but inspired out of love and passion. The organisation follows the same principles of any business, except the return-on-investment is nourishing the country, by rescuing food waste and providing it to those in need.
  3. Don’t re-invent the wheel. Before designing the OzHarvest model, Ronni travelled to other countries to learn from their food waste efforts. OzHarvest rescues food waste (fit for human consumption) from any part of the food supply chain and then delivers this via refrigerated vehicles.
  4. Passion is infectious. With the help of pro-bono lawyers, Ronni and her OzHarvest team changed several civil liabilities acts to allow food waste to be rescued and provided for consumption.
  5. OzHarvest meal delivery service and its supermarket are built on the premise of respect, dignity, non-judgement and love. As Ronni explained: “it takes bravery and courage for someone to seek free food… who are we to judge without knowing one’s story?” At the OzHarvest Supermarket (more here), there are no price tags. But you can pay in hugs.
  6. How does Ronni continue living her purpose every day? She wakes up with gratitude, loves her work and spends time with her loved ones.

 

So, what’s next for Ronni and the OzHarvest team? Tackling international airplane flights (where food waste is exceptionally high). Stand back, airlines – here comes a savvy businessperson on a mission to make a difference.

 

More about OzHarvest here


— By Kate Agnew

— Edited by Laura Byrne