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Ethnic grocery app from London, Oja wants to fuel expansion with £2.5M funding

In the UK, access to specific foods, health and beauty products from certain cultures largely depends on where you live. It can be highly challenging to access ethnic products in the region. While the most common way to get access to these products is via local brick-and-mortar stores, the quality and stock are not always guaranteed.

Needless to say, there were difficulties that these shops and shoppers faced during the COVID-19 pandemic. This led to the online penetration of groceries, a trend that continues to rise and plays a role in the reduced shopping that takes place at physical stores, post the pandemic.

Oja, a food delivery startup based in London is a one-stop-shop for cultural groceries and world foods that revolutionises access to cultural & ethnic produce. It gives diverse communities across the UK access to the very best in cultural produces.

Funds to fuel expansion plans

The ethnic grocery delivery service just announced that it has bagged $3.4 million (nearly £2.5 million) in a pre-seed funding round. The financing round was led by LocalGlobe along with participation from Tiny VC and black angel group, Acequia Capital, and HoaQ Fund.

Also, a stellar list of leading angels including Darren Shapland (CFO of Sainsbury’s), David Vismans (CPO of Booking.com), Dimple Patel (COO of Trouva), Anton Soulier (formerly Deliveroo, now CEO of Taster), Sharmadean Reid (CEO of The Stack World), Spoken Word poet, Suli Breaks, Azeem Azhar (related to family behind Asian food manufacturer TRS), Riccardo Zacconi (Co-Founder of King.com) and more joined the round.

The funding will be used to further develop Oja’s technology and fuel its expansion into new cultures and regions over the coming months.

“Food is intrinsically linked to who we are, and how we relate to our cultures. It offers us a sense of familiarity, it stirs emotions and memories,” said Mariam Jimoh, Oja’s founder and recent Forbes 30 under 30 award winner. “It’s a means of connection between family and friends over shared meals, recipes passed down through the generations, and there are stories behind food. We’re building an online destination for cultural communities; one that enables people to connect with their heritage and feel a sense of belonging. Wherever and whatever feels like home to them.”

George Henry, General Partner at LocalGlobe said: “In a sea of grocery delivery services and apps, Oja stands out for taking a new and refreshing approach. One that centres on community, heritage and access, as much as speed, convenience and variety. From the use of technology to her relationship and deep connections with suppliers, and her full-stack approach, Mariam and her team are building a game changing company that is set to raise the bar for the underserved communities across London, the UK and Europe.”

Sharmadean Reid, founder and CEO of The Stack World said: “Oja is an exciting and much-needed service that will benefit people that want more choice when it comes to buying ethnic produce and busy professionals who do not have time to visit their local high street. It is great to see VCs and investors backing a woman-led startup. So many innovative tech companies founded by women are overlooked and it is vital they receive the investment and the support they need to grow so the tech industry can reflect the needs of everyone across society. I am proud to be backing a woman-led app and hope this trend continues.”

Anton Soulier CEO of Taster said: “Communities up and down the UK, and across Europe, are crying out for a grocery service that not only gives them access to food from their heritage, but which connects them to their culture in a way that suits their lifestyles. Having deep ties to the cultures and communities it is serving, as well as an acute understanding of the needs of these groups, Oja represents the future of ethnic shopping in the UK and beyond. We’re thrilled to be investing in Mariam, her team and her vision.”

Diversifies grocery industry

Founded in 2020 by revered black female founder, Mariam Jimoh, to let people access products from any and every culture irrespective of where they live, Oja diversifies the grocery industry. It lets users access ethnic products in just a few clicks.

Through the Oja app, customers from a wide, and growing range of cultures can order produce from a selection of the very best suppliers, handpicked by Oja’s team. The company ships orders from its own warehouses and dark stores to homes across London. For now, Oja is focused on Afro-Caribbean cultures and plans to expand further to cover more cultures, and more communities nationwide in the coming year.

Oja not only verifies the quality of what it sells but it helps people get access to products as soon as possible. What’s more, Oja operates a full-stack system, buying at wholesale, holding this inventory in a central mini-fulfilment centre and dark stores in cultural hotspots, and offering optimising next-day delivery. Each customer is presented with a unique culturally-specific shopping experience, browsing 1000s of products by bundle or meal, culture, brand or category.

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