“Deliverwho?” says Alex Fitzhowle, 26, when I ask him if he’s a fan of Deliveroo.
“The only delivery service you need to know about in the capital is Farr Out Deliveries”.
This new business, which calls itself “Edinburgh’s raddest cargo bike courier outfit” offers an alternative to the ubiquitous delivery services - the ones who have been accused of exploiting riders and restaurants.
“We’re an ethical employer and care about our riders,” says Fitzhowle, who set up his lockdown business with his friend David Farr Squire, 30, when both lost their contracts, as an events producer and bike builder respectively. “In contrast to the big multinationals, Farr Out Deliveries is worker owned and run by individuals that live and spend time and money in this city. We care dearly about where we live and want to see Edinburgh prosper as a sustainable and pleasant place”.
Their team, all of whom are paid more than the living wage, ride branded electric bikes around the capital.
Although they also deliver clothes and books, their clients are mainly in food and drink, so there’s bar, Hey Palu, dessert company, Considerit, Tasty Buns Bakery, Barney’s Beer, Aye Pickles, and loads of other much loved independents. They now work with 30-40 businesses on a monthly basis, and have just launched a booking system on their website to allow anyone to book collection and delivery of a single package, from “an envelope to a bookcase”.
Thanks to their expanding client list, they hope to create a permanent home and hub in the coming months.
Many of the crew, who all, so far, seem to be moustached men, are the entrepreneurs’ friends. They had pre-covid freelance jobs ranging from sound engineers to hospitality managers. Without Farr Out, they would otherwise have found themselves unemployed over the last year.
Now, the business is taking on more experienced couriers, seasonal workers, students and postgraduates who are looking for “something exciting to do in a challenging job market”.
“Lockdown caused the need for new employment, but also provided a significant boom in delivery demand,” says Fitzhowle. “We were in the right place with time on our hands and a willingness to try and help the local community. People love having their deliveries arrive by cargo bike. It has been awesome so far to be able to contribute positively to the local environment and change people’s perceptions about what’s possible on a bike”.
They have to be fit, as each cyclist transports about 150kg, cycles 30-60km daily, and has to climb tenement stairwells. According to Fitzhowle, one of their rider’s smart watch regularly tells him he’s done more than 18,000 steps and 150 floors, in addition to pedalling.
Then there are all of Edinburgh’s hills. It’s a physical challenge, though worth it to help this green business thrive.
Their success is one of the positive things to come out of the last year.
“You’d be a monster to wish more lockdown on anyone,” says Fitzhowle. “If we could go back we’d definitely sack the whole thing off for more unadulterated free time outside joyously riding our bikes in the Highlands, but it did unexpectedly throw up a conducive atmosphere to try this thing out”.