Off to a Flying Start...How we've grown the business

"The business has grown at lightning speed,"exclaims Rob Smith, who turned down a promotion to a senior management position to invest in a Riverford Organic Vegetables franchise. From a flying start with 116 customers, secured via leaflet drops and local media coverage, Rob and his wife Rachel have grown the business to 2,300 active customers in just 16 months.

With three vans, the Smiths and their team deliver to 750 regular customers in Northamptonshire each week, in addition to one-off and fortnightly orders. 'We have a retention rate of between 40 per cent and 45 per cent,' Rob reports.

'We're aiming for a very specific type of customer that understands the dynamics of an organic vegetable box and who enjoys cooking from fresh.' Rob and Rachel enjoy 'exceptional' support from Riverford and find the franchisee extranet particularly beneficial. Rob adds: 'It's a fantastic pool of information and has won an award for being the most user-friendly system on the market. Riverford is a very forward-thinking company and delivers what it says it will and more. The level of ongoing support is unbelievable.'

Riverford franchisees are encouraged to grow their businesses as much or as little as they want. Rob says the challenge isn't growing the business but controlling the growth. By Christmas Rob and Rachel are aiming to grow the business by 33 per cent, which will be a thousand deliveries per week. 'By our second anniversary we're aiming for 1,250 deliveries per week, turning over a million pounds,' Rob furthers.

'When we first met the company my initial impressions were of a good business based on sound ethical principles run by fantastic people - we've not been disappointed.'