Photo credit: Phili Denning

Photo credit: Phili Denning

Now I had received the goods it was time to organise their collection

Really I’d like everyone to come at once otherwise I’m going to be spending all my spare time in the garage but I’m well aware that not everyone is going to be able to make one time. I decided to offer 3 dates, with two hour slots, and then pick the two most popular, two evenings were offered and a Saturday morning.

On reflection, I think giving people too much choice was not helpful and of course I ended up with almost an equal amount of people wanting to come on all 3 dates. Ugh! In the end I decided that for this first round of collections I’d do all 3 times just to see how it went as I felt a bit nervous myself anyway.

I set the garage up with some old kitchen counter, my scales, scoops and so on and a separate table for the cleaning products and was good to go - or so I thought!

My first collection was on a Thursday, 8pm - 10pm, after my other work. During the day, one person cancelled and moved to another day, then another didn’t read my email properly and came at 6pm when I wasn’t even home yet, so she decided to come back on the Saturday morning. So I was down to only one for the first night. In actual fact it was good because the whole process was a huge learning curve! It flagged up several things I needed to refine and do differently, things that you only learn through the process
of doing something. So good that I could do this with just one person rather than four or more!

Issues included the fact that I hadn’t considered the difficulty of accessing our garage in the dark. It’s at the back of our garden, not road facing, and getting people down to it with their large storage containers was not going to be easy from our side gate, let alone out again with their containers full and heavy. This can be easily solved as we do have back access to the garage so I just need to open it up and make sure I sort out some lighting for the way. The builders wheelbarrows will be put to use to cart stuff out so I also need to make sure these are clean (!) and available.

Photo credit: Phili Denning

The measuring of the goods also threw up some questions and will need some refinements. My scales were great, but if everyone was going to put their container into the scales and measure each item separately it was either going to take hours to serve each person, or I was going to need a lot of scales! And getting some of the goods into the containers also took a long time if the neck of a jar was narrow etc - again, going to need to come up with some new ideas, techniques and modifications for this.

I had funnels for getting the cleaning liquids into peoples bottles but some of the liquids were thick and my funnels narrow, so they took ages to run in. Yet another modification needed. All in all it took Donna, my lovely guinea pig member, and I an hour to get her sorted with all her items! And I was left wondering how on earth I would have coped if half the group had come that night.

Luckily she was very accommodating, great with ideas and we had a good giggle over the whole thing. But definitely a huge learning process and while I cleared up the garage, hoovering up thoroughly to clear all spilt bits so there is no chance of rats coming in, I mulled things over. A day and a half till the next collection so time to get my thinking cap on!

​​Read the next stage in Phili's journey: Collection two

Find out what inspired Phili to start her food co-op journey


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