Commerce students launch grocery delivery business, The Grocery Runners

Tribune-Post Staff
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Leah Miles does some shopping for the The Grocery Runners, a new business being run by commerce students at Mount Allison University. PHOTO SUBMITTED

SACKVILLE, N.B. – Commerce students at Mount Allison are learning entrepreneurial skills by starting their own grocery delivery business, The Grocery Runners, in their Entrepreneurship class. The Entrepreneurship course has been taught at Mount Allison for more than a decade. Each year the class decides on the venture as a group and then creates and runs the business. 

The fourteen students in the class were broken up into three groups: marketing, accounting, and website. The groups are responsible for establishing the business, complete with payroll, and handing in a business plan at the end of the semester. In the past, students have run businesses such as a gym, a coffee shop, and a mobile BBQ. The class has also paired with other disciplines, such as Fine Arts, to have an art auction, as well as math and computer science students to create mobile apps for local businesses. 

Dr. Nauman Farooqi, who created the experiential-learning course at Mount Allison, says it's important for students to understand that even the simplest of projects require a lot of hard work.

“They cannot succeed alone and they need to communicate and build on each other’s strengths,” he says.

Fourth-year Commerce student Nick Alberts is the chairperson of the Board and is responsible to the shareholders of the company and for running the company meetings. He says this course has taught him that running a business is an enormous amount of work and it requires different perspectives to be successful.

“As soon as you dip your feet in, you are responsible to many different people and you need to be consistent,” he says.

Through the website, thegroceryrunners.ca, customers place their grocery order, which will be confirmed by a student, and then the team's drivers pick up the orders twice a week at Sobeys in Amherst, NS. The service is currently open to Sackville residents, with a possibility of future expansion into other communities. The cost for delivery is $5 for orders under $100 and $3 more for each $50 increment.

Students are also required to invest an agreed upon amount of their own money into the business. Farooqi says that this pushes the students to be accountable to the project.

“It is extremely important to realize that they have skin in the game,” says Farooqi. “Even a $10 investment makes them take it seriously.”

While Farooqi leads the course, he says one of the most important elements is teaching students to make their own decisions.

“They are in the driver’s seat and navigating,” he says. “I am there for help and advice. I will offer choices and not answers and it is up to the students to decide. Even if I see them heading into a wall, I let them crash and fall down, and then learn to pick themselves up.”

There is a $5,000 loan available to the class each year to get the business up and running. The group must go through the process of applying for the loan, just like any small business. Farooqi says that the loans have all been returned, with interest.

The Grocery Runners can be reached at thegroceryrunners.ca, on Twitter @grocery_runners, and onfacebook.com/GroceryRunners.

Organizations: Fine Arts, Sobeys

Geographic location: SACKVILLE, Amherst

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  • Barb Kedzierski
    March 22, 2014 - 06:46

    Although I think the Grocery Runners is an excellent service to offer the community of Sackville, I must say I am disappointed that Sobeys Amherst was the grocery store of choice. It would have been more appropriate for the students to use the grocery stores within the town, Coop or Save Easy. Perhaps Dr. Nauman Faroogi should have advised the students of the importance of supporting their community businesses. Taking away potential grocery store customers from Sackville will only hurt the already struggling companies. The students of Mount Allison would suffer if these grocery stores were not available to them within the town. They would lose the support these stores provide the university , the jobs that many students have , and of course the easy access to shop for groceries. Again I am disappointed , what about " Buy local" . You can't get more local than the stores in your own town.