Young Innovators Success Stories: Zhimin Zhang, Veeego, North West

Posted on: 30/03/2022

Community network connects farmers to local buyers

Zhimin Zhang’s first major business decision on winning the Innovate UK and The Prince’s Trust Young Innovators Award was to shift her original idea to a more scalable approach.

Zhimin’s initial innovative business concept was to develop an online marketplace where gardeners, individual growers, and allotment owners could sell their produce directly to consumers.

But, through working closely with her Innovate UK EDGE Innovation Champion in the initial stages of the Young Innovators programme, Zhimin pivoted her ambitions.

She says, “My Innovation Champion led me to evaluate my situation and identify a new market. Eventually, we changed to building a community group buying platform that connects farms with consumers.”

Global growth

Zhimin, who is originally from China, secured the award from Innovate UK and The Prince’s Trust when she was 24. After travelling extensively and carrying out agricultural volunteering in Kenya, Zhimin developed a vision for opening access to healthier diet choices while reducing waste.

Over the course of the programme she has transformed Veeego, which trades to consumers under the ShuMei brand, from a still nascent idea into a rapidly growing business entity.

“Veeego has its own warehouse, delivery van and WeChat mini programme where people can place orders. We have also worked closely with the University of Liverpool to secure another £5,000 funding and three funded internships,” she says.

From its initial base in Liverpool, the company is now expanding to surrounding areas such as Wirral, Wigan, and Chester.

Alongside local growth, Zhimin is also developing connections around the globe, building contacts across Thailand, China, and Vietnam.

Rising revenues

Veeego recently reached its first half-year point, hitting £60,000 of revenue, and Zhimin now has ambitious plans for the second half of the year, including expanding the workforce.

“We are looking to recruit an IT technician, two part-time delivery drivers, and one marketing specialist,” she says.

“In terms of customers, Veeego aims to achieve an average customer growth rate of 20% over the next six months, and based on this, our annual revenue is expected to be £195,000 by the end of the first trading year.”

Leapfrog forward another 12 months and her aim is to start expanding to additional cities, such as Leeds and Sheffield.

Dual support

Zhimin says the grant funding and living allowance awarded to her by Innovate UK gave her a unique opportunity to test her business assumptions. It provided a solid financial base from which to rent a warehouse, create the app, and purchase key equipment.

This, supplemented by the close support of her Innovation Champion, provided a dual level of support that has led to both positive business outcomes and personal development.

“My Innovation Champion from Innovate UK EDGE, and from the Young Innovators cohort has had a critical impact on my business and my personal development,” she says.

Through the programme, Zhimin says she has been able to improve her communication skills, which has had a direct impact on her business.

“The Innovate UK KTN bootcamps and weekly meetings with my Innovation Champion have made me a better listener and a clearer speaker. I have the opportunity to listen to others’ stories and inspirations while sharing my own ideas,” Zhimin says.

She adds, “I now have the capability, resources and confidence to bring my business to the next stage.”

 

Join us and become part of the Young Innovators community. Find out more about the programme here.

Read the other Young Innovators’ success stories here.

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