"Oja Secures £2.5M Pre-Seed Funding to Revolutionise Ethnic Grocery Shopping"

November 11, 2021

Author: Karan Bodh
"Oja Secures £2.5M Pre-Seed Funding to Revolutionise Ethnic Grocery Shopping"

London-based startup Oja has secured an impressive £2.5 million pre-seed round led by LocalGlobal, with contributions from Acequia Capital, Tiny VC, and HoaQ Fund, among others. This funding marks a significant milestone for the company as it aims to carve a niche in the online grocery market by catering to ethnic communities.

In a landscape dominated by super speedy on-demand grocery delivery services, Oja stands out with its focus on slowing things down and providing a unique shopping experience tailored to specific cultural preferences. The company's mission is to serve London's diverse cultural communities by offering a wide range of ethnic produce through its online supermarket.

Founder Mariam Jimoh envisions Oja as more than just a marketplace; it's an essential service for multicultural communities seeking familiar ingredients and home comforts. Jimoh, who bootstrapped the MVP and previously founded the WCAN social enterprise for black women, understands the importance of addressing the specific needs of underserved communities.

The startup's name, "Oja," meaning "market" in Yoruba, reflects its commitment to serving communities like London's African and Caribbean population. With plans to expand its inventory and app to include products from other cultural backgrounds, Oja aims to provide a comprehensive selection of ethnic foods and goods.

During a small-scale pilot with 200 users, Oja observed a strong demand for its service, with 67% of orders coming from repeat customers. The app's user base grew by 56% through word of mouth alone, underscoring its community appeal and potential for scalability.

Jimoh emphasises Oja's commitment to inclusivity, stating, "The app will allow you to shop by culture as we add more and more ethnicities to the assortment." By incorporating culturally specific nuances and expanding its product range, Oja aims to become a one-stop shop for diverse cultural needs.

However, the startup faces challenges in competing with traditional local markets that have long served these communities. These markets not only provide fresh produce but also serve as vibrant community hubs. Oja's digital platform risks disrupting this crucial link between ethnic communities and local markets.

Nevertheless, the convenience offered by Oja's online platform may appeal to younger generations and busy professionals who prefer the ease of ordering groceries from their smartphones. By bridging the gap between traditional markets and digital convenience, Oja seeks to establish itself as a trusted partner for ethnic communities.

The recent pre-seed funding extension, which includes Premier League star Raheem Sterling as an angel investor, highlights the growing support for Oja's mission. Sterling's involvement underscores the cultural significance of Oja's platform and its potential to resonate with wider African and Caribbean communities.

In conclusion, Oja's success in securing significant funding reflects growing recognition of the importance of catering to underrepresented cultural groups in the grocery market. With continued expansion and community-focused initiatives, Oja aims to redefine the grocery shopping experience for multicultural communities in London and beyond.