Meet Josh. Josh Gray is a current Carleton International Business student studying finance and German. He is also the co-founder of Guelph Box, a contactless delivery service that offers a range of products from local businesses in Guelph, Ontario.
Amazingly, Guelph Box was conceived and launched in a matter of days as a direct response to the COVID-19 crisis.
“When COVID started to ramp up in Canada, my girlfriend and I started to talk about what we could do to support business owners and our community. My sister, Emily-Kate Gray (BIB/19), suggested that we focus on the local context,” Josh explains.
“The idea came together quickly from there and we got our website up and running right away. Within 36 hours, we had launched Guelph Box.”
Each week, Josh and girlfriend-turned-co-founder Genevieve Sutherns select a handful of products from local vendors to create two curated box options: regular and vegetarian/vegan. This allows different vendors to be featured every week and provides a diversity of offerings—including cheeses, bread, produce, household items and even flowers.
“Guelph is a very locally-driven community. We had existing relationships with a lot of small businesses in the area; we talked to several owners about our idea just prior to the non-essential services shut down. Those vendors were included in our week one box.”
From there, word of mouth took over. With many small and local businesses having to rapidly pivot to find new ways to offer their products and services, the interest from vendors was immediate and powerful.
“We typically have two or three new vendors reach out to us every day asking to get involved. We have about 40 vendors in total,” Josh notes.
To ensure the safety of both vendors and customers, every step in the supply chain is contactless.
“I pick up products from outside vendors’ businesses, we assemble the boxes at home while wearing protective clothing and equipment and the boxes are dropped off by drivers at customers’ doorsteps,” Josh says.
Delivery, which Josh and Genevieve originally planned to do themselves, is now handled entirely by volunteers. Thanks to businesses and friends who have stepped up to take on delivery duties, Josh and Genevieve have been able to donate the original $5 delivery fee to local charities.
“We allow the delivery drivers to pick the charity each week. So far, we’ve made donations to Hope House, Women in Crisis and Wyndham House,” Josh shares. “We’ve donated about $5,000 this month alone. When disposable income decreases during times like these, charities take a huge hit. It’s nice to be able to give back.”
When asked about his motivation for launching the Guelph Box, Josh didn’t skip a beat. “I have always been a big supporter of local businesses. I think they’re incredibly important to the community.
“Some businesses in our area have had to shut down as the result of this crisis, and that’s been sad. I think a lot of people have wanted to support local businesses, but they just didn’t know how. That’s been our goal from the start: to help people support local while staying home and staying safe.”
For Josh, it has been particularly rewarding to see the impact that Guelph Box has had.
He says: “I had one vendor tell me that we’re helping her pay the electricity bills. I have another who is nearly in tears every time we pick up product from her because she’s so thankful. It’s those reactions that reassure me that we’re making a difference and doing something good.
“I see it too in the way that others have tried to pay it forward. Some customers have reached out asking to buy a second box that can be allocated to a health care worker. It’s amazing to see the community come together and support each other.”
When it comes to the crisis and what he’s learned, Josh has some very simple advice: “It doesn’t take much to be kind. It doesn’t take much to look out for each other.”
If you’re in the Guelph area, check out Guelph Box here.
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