- Ripe is one of the entrants in Flying Colours, a competition for UAE-based start-ups. The competition offers SMEs the chance to win flight tickets worth Dh100,000 on Emirates Airline.
- You can follow the progress of entrants on the Ideas Runway, which is a partnership between REACH by Gulf News and Emirates Airline
Soon after arriving in Dubai from the UK, Becky Balderstone realised there wasn’t enough variety of locally grown organic produce readily available like she was used to back home. Yet demand was high.
With a marketing background and a business management degree, Balderstone had a real passion for healthy living and eating, so she launching her own business seemed like a logical step.
Her husband was working on an agricultural project back then, so she knew there were some fantastic organic certified UAE farms growing top notch produce, but was unable to find a retail outlet to sell them. And so, the idea for Ripe took seed.
“After visiting the farms here, I had no idea how advanced the organic farming was, so it just made sense to start a company supporting this,” explains Balderstone.
“The Ripe markets started as a platform for us to bridge the gap between local farmers and customers. Later Ripe became twofold, with Ripe Markets and Ripe Organic operating as separate brands with their own objectives.”
Ripe Organic focuses on organic produce and supporting local farmers while Raising with Ripe is a fundraising initiative that helps educate parents and children about the benefits of eating organic food.
The company now employs 70 people across both businesses.
One challenge that had to be overcome was the limited range of vegetables that were grown in the UAE, so Ripe worked with local farmers to help develop several new varieties such as different types of kale, watercress, and heirloom tomatoes.
Having launched Ripe in a bid to bring organic fruit and vegetable markets to communities across the UAE, Balderstone was keen to find a permanent home for the company’s weekly market.
The weekly market offers an opportunity for local SMEs to market their products.
“We have designed and built a new park at Dubai Police Academy that encourages SME businesses to develop and grow,” says Balderstone.
Running every Friday and Saturday from 9am to 7pm, more than 100 SMEs display everything from food concepts and locally made retail products to jewellery, fashion, home decor, and arts and crafts.
The Ripe team has also partnered with several larger businesses who share a passion for a healthy lifestyle and support SME businesses. These include Noon, X Dubai, Adventure HQ, Chevrolet Bolt EV, Careem, Just Play, and Fixerman.
“Every city is made up of SME businesses, but they can only survive if we support them, encourage them and appreciate them. They have incredible stories to tell and talents that need to be celebrated,” says Balderstone.