No the OFN doesn’t actually operate hubs, we just provide the software for enterprises such as food hubs, and producers to use. We do have lots of experience in running food hubs though, so understand the unique challenges and needs facing food distribution enterprises.
Food hubs come in many different shapes and sizes, and include food coops, buying groups, farm gate stalls, CSA schemes and more. You can chose how you want to run your hub, but essentially a food hub sources and sells to its community. Each hub is configured differently, and each chooses who they will source from, who their customers will be, how delivery or collection will be organised, payment methods, mark ups, fees etc.
We think the OFN is pretty great, and unique to other options out there!
- Networked- The OFN differs from private online shops in that they can be networked with other enterprises. Food hubs stock the produce of multiple producers and customers can always see where their food has come from.
- Exposure- The OFN has a directory functionality, so customers landing on our homepage may be driven to your store if your offerings match their search terms, or if you’re located close by to them. The OFN is a centralised place for people looking to access great, local produce, giving participating enterprises exposure to a wider customer base.
- Food enterprise specific- The OFN’s shopfront capabilities are also designed especially for food enterprises, so it saves you from having to develop your own software from scratch (which can be a lengthy and costly process, trust us!).
- Flexible- The OFN is flexible in accommodating all kinds of shipping/collection and payment methods. Some online store offerings are restricted in the kinds of shipping and payment methods that can be accepted (for example, limited strictly to postage).
- Room to grow- Hubs can start with a profile, and easily build up to start selling to others, opening their own online store and starting to connect with growing numbers of suppliers. Once you have a profile, you can easily open your own store, and link with other groups, like customer buying groups, something that most software options cannot offer.
- We have soul– The OFN is a social enterprise, which is owned by all of us. It’s non-profit and continuously working to facilitate improvements to our food system. All revenues are reinvested back into the software, so it can be more useful to more people. So you can feel great about being part of the OFN!
The OFN functions as a directory, advertising platform, and an online marketplace. People can choose which functionalities of the OFN they want to use, according to their needs.
- A Profile.
A profile on the OFN is the simplest option, and offers a way for enterprises to market themselves. The profile can be used to promote your products and services, share your story and provide contact details. A profile makes you visible and contactable to customers and other enterprises who might wish to trade with you.
- A Shopfront
You have the option of adding an OFN shop onto your profile, giving you all the functions needed to run an online store. This includes the online shopfront with full checkout capabilities as well as behind the scenes tools to aid in administration, such as reporting of payments and inventory. The OFN works as a network, so all hubs are connected to the profiles of their supplying producers. It’s also designed to accommodate all different hub models, from the small and simple, to the large and complex.
You can create a profile on the OFN which links to your existing store. This will raise the visibility of your enterprise and allows you to connect with the audience on the OFN.
Check out our feature list page, which describes the full functionalities of an OFN shopfront. Our functions and pricing are competitive, so perhaps you’d consider switching to an OFN store, and being part of the OFN movement.
The OFN doesn’t dictate a payment method, and you can use any arrangement that works for you. Current payment options which are integrated into the checkout process include Paypal, Pin Payments and EFTPOS (through a payment gateway). Enterprises can also use manual methods including invoicing, cash on collection and direct deposit.
The OFN is operational in Australia and the UK and we have partner organisations getting local OFN’s set-up in the France, Norway, South Africa and Canada. We’re always looking for like-minded and capable international partner organisations to help spread the OFN to more users around the world. Talk to your local food movement about the OFN to see if it could be a solution for producers and enterprises in your region.
Hubs choose who they source from and who they sell to. They may chose to only source and supply organics, or they may choose conventional, or a bit of both, depending on their customers’ needs.
The OFN doesn’t ‘match-make’ hubs with farmers. Rather we make connecting easier, by making it possible for groups to find one another and connect and trade. Check out the OFN map to find producers in your area, and view their profiles to find contact details.
In regards to embedding an OFN shopfront into your existing website, at the moment you can link customers to your OFN shopfront from your website, and then redirect them back to your website after checkout. With lots of features to develop, further embedding hasn’t been a top priority.
As a wholesaler you could certainly get set up on the OFN with a profile, and an online shopfront if that’s what you’re looking for. On the OFN we class enterprises that distribute/sell produce produced by others as “hubs”. This includes wholesalers, as well as lots of other kinds of enterprises, like buying groups, food coops and retailers.
Yes, the OFN is designed to make the processes of taking and managing orders and stock easier. A food collective would be established as a hub on the OFN, with its own shopfront. In contrast to taking order through email or online forms, the OFN’s checkout process is very easy to use for customers, and has the added advantage of generating order reports, which reduces the administration burden for the hub.
Each hub is different and set up times will depend on whether they hub is new, or simply transitioning to the OFN. It will also depend on the complexity of their sourcing, sales and distribution activities. Creating profiles for your suppliers who are not on the OFN can take some time, as can adding in your product range. But these are once off tasks, and once complete, administering day to day activities on the OFN is very efficient.
Yes, OFN store operators will receive an email each time an order is placed. Additionally, a number of different reports regarding sales will be downloadable from your store. Including stock management (inventory, variants, descriptions), order management and more.
Here’s a few things to check:
- Has the product been added to the order cycle? Open the order cycle and double check that all tick boxes next to your products have been selected.
- Is there enough ‘on hand’ inventory? If the ‘on hand’ inventory value is zero for a product, then it will no longer appear in your store. If you have products which are always ‘on hand’, you can check the ‘on demand’ box corresponding to that product- then it will never be out of stock.
Yes you can. When you set your shop to private, only customers on your customer list will be able to login to see your shopfront and place orders. Details here.
- You can also make your shopfront invisible. This way only people who have been given the URL to your shop will be able to see it. This can be done by selecting ‘not visible’ in your profile settings.
- You can use the shopfront message (instructions here) to let visitors to your store know that they need to be members to shop with you, or need to make contact with you first.
Yes, you can select the order that each category of food is displayed in your shop, then within each category the products are displayed alphabetically. For instance, if Meat and Fish are your most important products, you can select to have them show up first, with your secondary Oil and Spreads products below. You can do this in your profile settings, under ‘shopfront category ordering’.
There is the option of adding a ‘shopfront message’ to your shop. This message is clearly visible to customers when they visit your shop and you can add as much or as little detail here as you like. Instructions for inserting a ‘shopfront message’ can be found here.
OFN doesn’t currently have the option of blocking checkout until a customer’s order reaches a defined threshold. An alternative option is to add a shipping fee with the ‘price sac’ fee calculator. This calculator will apply one fee value if the total is below a given level, and another fee value (possibly $0) if the order is over that level. See here.