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Entrepreneur Joe Darwen describes Veo as what would happen if Greta Thunberg went into business with Jeff Bezos.

The Blackpool-born founder wants the Manchester startup to be the world’s most ethical online retail destination to help shoppers make more sustainable decisions.

The platform showcases over 50,000 products from over 200 independent brands across fashion, beauty, food, drink and home.

All brands and products have been thoroughly assessed and approved and must meet three key criteria of being kind, healthy and sustainable.

Darwen explains: “You shop according to your values. For instance if you only want organic food, beauty or clothing you can search for that. All the brands we list on Veo are independent. There are no big corporates. We have no nasties, no chemicals or toxins.

“If being zero waste or being plastic-free is important to you then you can shop accordingly. We make sure that suppliers are paying fair wages. We enable shoppers to essentially shop by the things that are important to them.”

Veo has already been awarded a £150,000 grant by Innovate UK in recognition of its industry-changing technology and achieved B Corp certification as part of its quest to make retail sustainable.

Darwen came up with the idea of Veo while helping deliver the Department for International Trade’s ecommerce export programme.

My experience in A&E made me a better founder

He was working in partnership with over 40 of the world’s leading marketplaces, including Amazon, eBay, Alibaba etc, and realised that very few platforms were considering the ‘triple bottom line’ of ‘profit + people + planet’.

“Everything came together and I thought ‘there’s a better way to do this’,” explains Darwen. “I wanted to be more sustainable and then I thought about running a business that was profitable but helps make positive change.”

By the time Veo was launched Darwen had already made changes in his own life, becoming vegan and shopping more responsibly.

“I started to think about how we buy fast fashion,” he says.

‘Eureka moment’

Darwen says his Eureka moment came in December 2017 when he managed to get 12 Manchester traders to agree to sell gluten-free and plant-based mince pies and other festive food on his website.

“I listed them on the site and spent £50 on Facebook advertising,” he recalls “Over the course of two or three weeks it generated about £1,200 worth of sales. That was when the penny dropped.”

The experiment inspired him to set up Veo, the ethical alternative to businesses that put environment on a level footing with profit.

He says: “Veo is an online shopping community for people and businesses to connect, shop, and change the world. Veo is seeking to solve huge real-world problems and empower ethical and sustainable brands. We’ve taken a tech-first approach to building the world’s largest and most sustainable shopping platform.”

During the first 12 months of trading Veo has grown its team to 10 and onboarded more than 200 brands (sellers) and 50,000 products in nine months. It has also raised £400,000 in investment, and currently raising new investment to expedite its growth plans.

“We definitely need to encourage businesses and consumers to produce and purchase better,” says Darwen.

The technology behind Veo is focused on automation and synchronisation and allows online sellers to be set up within 24 hours.

All the products are broken down into four categories – fashion and apparel, health and beauty, food and drink, home and leisure.

Darwen says: “You shop according to your values, like vegan, organic, no nasties, zero waste, independent etc. This is just the start. The future of sustainable shopping is Veo.”

  • Veo’s Joe Darwen has been chosen as the latest winner of TechBlast’s Star of the Week. Every Friday it’s given to the entrepreneur or entrepreneurs who have most impressed TechBlast in the previous seven days. At the end of the year we’ll  publish the full list of 50 names. To nominate someone email [email protected]