Entrepreneurs Steven Ingley and Darren Hudson are launching a delivery venture to support Liverpool small businesses – months after a similar idea admitted failure – so will this one work? Tony McDonough reports
Steven Ingley and Darren Hudson are the latest Liverpool entrepreneurs looking to take on the might of food delivery giants such as Deliveroo and Just Eat.
Barro, named after the ‘barrow boys’ of old who would sell groceries from horse-drawn carriages, is looking to launch a pilot venture in south Liverpool in the first quarter of 2024.
It has secured £25,000 of matched funding from the Liverpool City Region High Growth Innovation Fund. Now Steven and Darren are looking to raise a further £65,000 from an online crowdfunder over the next few days.
They have already signed up eight businesses in the Allerton and Woolton districts of Liverpool, including Booker Flowers & Gifts, Boungiorno Italian Deli, B Shrigley and Son Fishmongers and R and H Fine Wines.
Steven told LBN: “We’d like to have at least 20 local businesses on board, but the more the merrier really – it just means we can help more people that way.”
Barro aims to create an ecosystem of local independent businesses, delivered sustainably by a workforce of personal shoppers and a fleet of electric vehicles.
From fresh fruit and vegetables, meat, beverages, and confectionery, to fresh flowers and homeware, Barro is using artificial intelligence (AI) to make shopping local easy, allowing people to order from multiple local businesses in one single order.
Local businesses using big brands such as Deliveroo are typically having to pay 30% or more commission on each sale. Barro will charge zero commission to the retailer. So without commission, how will it generate revenue?
Steve explained: “If a retailer sells something for £10 through us, we guarantee they’ll get the full £10 from that purchase. We have an AI pricing model that allows us dynamically change the selling price of that item based on various factors.
“So it might sell for £11 on Barro to cover the cost of picking the item up. But if the customer orders multiple items from the same retailer, they’ll get a discount on all those items.
“It’s like a marketplace but because we can control the pricing, we can offer discounts when customers make purchase decisions that are better for the environment, and where it costs us less to provide the service.
“Compared with Uber Eats and Deliveroo, who charge 30% or more commission, it will mean cheaper prices for customers too. For smaller orders there may also be a small delivery fee, which we should be able to keep under £5.”
If this venture sounds familiar then its probably because it is not very different in philosophy from another tech-based delivery business, Peepl, which sadly had to throw in the towel last year.
Peepl was launched in 2018 by entrepreneur Leon Rossiter with the same aim of keeping money flowing around the local economy.
In November 2021 Leon persuaded Liverpool Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram and the Combined Authority (CA) to back the venture to the tune of £700,000. Only £433,000 was eventually paid out but it left local taxpayers out of pocket.
However, Peepl failed to take off and in November 2023 it was revealed the business was filing for insolvency. Steven acknowledges Barro is attempting to tread a similar path but believes his and Darren’s model has a good chance of success.
He added: “We’ve had numerous conversations with people who have tried to make it work in the past, and where it went wrong.
“We’ve developed our own electronics system that goes on the shelving in the back of the van, and this is supported by some novel AI algorithms and tech to make it possible for customers to order through us from multiple retailers.
“They can have everything delivered at the same time and that’s never been offered before. It was always a one retailer to one customer type of relationship.
“We’re employing drivers (who are also your personal shoppers) directly, so nobody is being forced into gig economy work and everyone is getting a fair wage.
“Our economies of scale comes from how efficient it is to sort and aggregate the items in the back of the van, instead of taking them to a physical warehouse like other businesses have tried in the past.”
Barro has set up an office in the Baltic Triangle and has prototyped a mock delivery van. Steven said: “We’re hoping the crowdfunding campaign will help us get our first van to service south Liverpool, then we want to expand into north Liverpool and Wirral.”
To kick start its community support efforts, Barro is supporting local food banks by delivering donations for free for every crowdfund donation they receive at £10 or
“Crowdfunding will help us get things off the ground as we launch our Liverpool pilot in the first quarter of 2024 and will make a lasting difference to our community and the local businesses at the heart of them,” added Steven.
Barro’s crowdfunder is now live on Indiegogo. It is offering a range of limited edition merchandise, perks, discounts and rewards until its close on Tuesday, January 9. Click here to donate or find out more.