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Crowdfunder secures a makeover for Hackney’s TopUp Truck

This trusty milk float struggles to get past 14 miles per hour yet for those looking to live more sustainably in Hackney, it’s something of a legend!

The TopUp Truck was born in lockdown – a mobile zero waste shop selling dried goods, oils and vinegars, larder foods such as sauces and chutneys, household cleaning refills and beauty products. Local Buyers Club members save 10%.

Following a successful Crowdfunder, the 21-year-old electric float is about to get a makeover. Local designer Adam Azmy has constructed a modular structure with lots more storage to make the float weatherproof and secure and there’ll be gravity dispensers too.

Ella Shone, 32, was working for sustainable condiments company Rubies in the Rubble when she was placed on Furlough last year. She decided to put her time to good use and founded TopUp Truck.

(Ella Shone (left), founder of TopUp Truck)

She said: “Seeing how people react to it is wonderful. The nostalgia the float itself brings is very special and it makes people smile. Wherever we go people wave at us.”

The business aims to make shopping a more social experience – to counter the isolation exacerbated through online shopping. Neighbours meet at the truck, make plans, catch up or even meet for the first time.

Ella added: “It is really nice to be doing something that helps get new people into the zero-waste movement in a gentle, community way. We find neighbours who have more experience of zero waste tend to book us and then invite their neighbours and friends to shop with us too.

"It's super easy to book and share a pre-order link with neighbours with no min spend or booking fee - the idea is really to remove obstacles to shopping zero waste without the need to lug your containers too far and so TopUp Truck answers to both convenience and sustainability."

Ella’s recent Crowdfunder, which was backed by both Bulb and Octopus Energy, raised more than £15,000. As well as funding improvements to the truck, it’s helping with the costs of a new warehouse to store the goods in, better IT to streamline stocktaking, bookings and reusable containers to enable a milkman-style returnables service. And they’ll be able to increase their trading days from three to six days a week.

The truck has had some great coverage – from Reuters to the World Economic Forum and even national prime time news in Italy.

(The TopUp Truck has a great team of staff and volunteers)

Ella added: “Every day is a challenge but it’s really fun – whether I’m driving the float or deciding what to do next. It’s a really fun business to run. I’ve had some help with branding and I have a brilliant team of part time staff and volunteers who help.

“It’s completely knackering work – loading and unloading the truck, trying to frantically serve a queue while running through the numbers and answering all the questions people have. At the end of the day, I can hardly move!

“Whether it’s summer or winter running the truck has its quirks – in the summer the chocolate raisins melt and in the winter the olive oil freezes! It can get a bit bleak in the winter when you’re trying to scoop in the freezing cold.”

Among the suppliers stocked by TopUp Truck are the basics from Suma and Essential, condiments from Rubies in the Rubble, Mission Coffee in Clapton, Nibs Etc (Borough Market), bathroom products from Greener Habits in Walthamstow and from Cole & Co and household products from Fill and Sesi.

What is the Local Buyers Club?

We're on a mission to help you discover & support the best independent businesses in London.

Members benefit from savings and perks at hundreds of fantastic restaurants, shops, bars and businesses throughout London. We help promote them and raise awareness of the advantages of shopping locally. We also organise and support community initiatives. The Local Buyers Club is more than just a discount card - we're London's shop-local club.

Join Local Buyers Club and, for just £12 per year, you'll be helping to support local business and you'll receive a discount card to use at any of the hundreds of businesses listed on the site.


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