Tessa Clarke is the Co-Founder and CEO of Olio, a free app that tackles the problem of food waste and, in turn, climate change. The app aims to connect neighbours and communities so that surplus food can be given away rather than thrown away. Since its conception in 2015, Olio has grown to over 7 million global users and has won Tessa many accolades.
She is a knowledgeable, engaging, fun, personable, and passionate speaker, talking on various subjects surrounding innovation, entrepreneurship, and sustainability.
Contact Great British Speakers today to book Olio food waste app creator Tessa Clarke for your next event.
Tessa Clarke believes her love for food and sustainability came from growing up on her parent’s UK farm. From here, she developed a keen appreciation for the value of hard work, the value of farmers, the power of nature, and the importance of food waste. Whilst she didn’t go into the family business of farming, Tessa’s passion for societal issues influenced her education. she went on to study Social and Political Sciences at the University of Cambridge, followed by an MBA from Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business – it was here that she met Olio co-founder Saasha Celestial-One.
After studying, Tessa Clarke climbed the corporate ladder and soon gained impressive job titles at some of the world’s most influential companies. She has since been the Managing Director for EMAP and Dyson, Partner for the MSM (Mustard Seed MAZE) Fund, Board Member for B2B company Contentive, Chair of the Management Board for St George’s Palace in Bulgaria, and a Mentor for nCube Smart Home, KidRated, and Virgin StartUp.
As well as these, she has been named a Fellow of the Society of Leadership Fellows at St George’s House, founded by Prince Phillip in 1966, and a Fellow for Unreasonable, an organisation dedicated to supporting entrepreneurs break down barriers to help social and environmental challenges.
And then, in 2015, she became the Co-Founder and CEO of Olio, and the rest, as they say, is history.
At its heart, Olio aims to combat the throwaway culture at scale and to swap surplus foods rather than simply throwing them away. As well as its 7 million global users, Olio has over 80,000 volunteers who help collect unsold food from local businesses and distribute it to communities in need.
The lightbulb moment for Olio came when Tessa was moving countries; having bought food for the moving men, she was left with a lot of surplus and didn’t just want to throw it away. So instead, she took to the streets hoping that someone would want it, but to no avail. This sparked this idea of combatting food waste and, in turn, the creation of Olio.
Since then, Tessa Clarke has worked hard to make Olio a beacon of hope for the community and a happy, sustainable workplace. She is proud to say that they have an employee satisfaction score of 8.5 and above and is a truly diverse place to work – currently, OLIO’s workforce is 59% female, 38% neurodivergent, 29% LGBTQ+, 24% from a lower economic background, 24% from a minority ethnic group, and 6% with a disability.
Olio’s success means that it has been recognised and awarded several accolades. The United Nations highlighted the company as a “beacon” for the world and awarded it their Momentum for Change award, and Vivatech named it their “Next European Unicorn”. They have since been recognised by The Chivas Venture, Sustainable Cities, Feel Good Brands, The Europas, and the Digital Agenda Impact Awards.
Tessa Clarke speaks at the TED@BCG: Brighter Future(s). TED World Theater, New York. September 15, 2022. Photo: Gilberto Tadday / TED
Thanks to her entrepreneurial spirit, Tessa Clarke is one of the UK’s most accomplished business and sustainability speakers.
Tessa Clarke has become a popular guest on a wide range of podcasts, including Wellness With Ella, where she spoke with Deliciously Ella about food waste and climate change, Go Jauntly, raising awareness of the importance of food sharing, and Sustainable(ish), speaking about why fighting food waste is essential and how to make it easier.
Tessa is also dedicated to talking about a lot more than just food waste, but also is passionate about how we can borrow, lend and reuse everyday household items.
In February 2023, Tessa gave a TED talk entitled ‘The Surprising Climate Benefits of Sharing Your Stuff’. In this talk, she explains why sharing food and wasting less food is an underrated solution to helping reduce the effects of climate change. It has since been viewed by over half a million people.
– How to go from 0 to 1 – giving up my corporate career to become a startup founder
– The Olio story from inception as a proof of concept via WhatsApp to a global movement of over 7 million users
– The food waste problem, and the climate and sustainability crises
– The importance of technology for good, and profit for purpose
– The role of individuals vs the Government vs businesses in solving the climate crisis
– How to live more sustainability as an individual and/or family
– What is innovation and how to do it well – applying the lessons from the startup world to the corporate world
– How to build a brand at scale, rooted in community and volunteers
– The challenges and opportunities of being a female-founded business, in particular, related to fundraising
– How to build a truly diverse business
– How to build a remote first business with a world-class company culture
– Inspiration and motivation to change yourself/your organisation/the world for the better
– An understanding of the role individuals can play in solving the climate crisis
– How to take an idea from 0 to 1 to scaled
– Lessons on innovation from the front line of entrepreneurship
– Lessons in how to truly embed sustainability into the DNA of your business
– Lessons on how to build a mission-obsessed, inclusive, diverse, high-performing business culture
Your explanation of the problem Olio is designed to help solve and how it’s doing this were compelling, as was how it’s becoming more than a food sharing app to those who use it, with far reaching and unexpected social benefits. The notion of Selfish Altruism and the denial-despair gap was a particularly powerful way of putting across something some of the leaders there are clearly struggling with – how to engage their employees and customers positively when many might prefer to put their heads in the sand. Sharing the Olio story shows how doing things differently leads to different results and if we’d had more time it would have been interesting to explore the business model and what it is like to run a virtual organisation.
Jessica, Reset Connect
Following the client webinar yesterday afternoon, Jen has been in touch wanting to say a BIG thank you for being part of the project over the last couple of months or so. Jen said you were, “as ever, was a formidable force. A huge thank you from us all at RBC for her time and insight, we could have listened all much longer as it was such an engaging conversation”.
Rebecca, Royal Bank of Canada
Thank you so much. That was wonderful. No better way to spend a Wednesday lunchtime than hearing you inspiring and uplifting everyone with the Olio story and your vision for the future of the business and sustainable living more broadly. I particularly loved the discussion around mission-oriented employees, remote culture and conviction investors. I’ve already received so many messages of FF team and founders blown away:
“Best fireside chat yet”
“What a woman!”
“I want to work for her!”
Alice, Founders Factory
Tessa, it was a really fantastic event, the feedback has been phenomenal – a few examples below:
“Well done! You’ve set the bar very high for the next session.”
“That was a brilliant session.”
“Tessa was a fantastic and inspiring speaker.”
A heartfelt thank you for joining our CP Women Leader’s Distinguished Alumni Panel this morning.
You are a true role model for what success looks like inside and outside of the firm. You brought a unique perspective that we don’t often get to hear – of the resourcefulness, talent and peer network that entrepreneurship demands. The impact you are having on your community, and the world, through Olio is truly inspiring and we wish you all the success. Your genuine candor and perspective this morning were appreciated by all of us on the call.
Sajdeh, Boston Consulting Group