27th December 2015
Tessa Cook, who was once the Managing Director of payday loan lender Wonga has undergone a career makeover. December 2015 saw Cook launch her brand new app OLIO. The app was released across London and aims to help people to reduce their food waste. The app does this by giving the users a chance to connect with their neighbours to share unused food. Despite the career change, getting away from the Wonga brand name is appearing to be tough.
Her affiliation with the payday lender is a worry due to Wonga’s growing unpopular reputation and she fears it could hinder her chances of building her new company with a strong foundation in honesty and ethics.
As the face of Wonga Tessa had to deal with a flood of comments and criticism even when she was pregnant, she faced horrific comments about her unborn child. Cook joined the Wonga team in the height of the payday lender crackdown when the company was forced to refund £220 million to customers that could not afford to repay to make their repayments. During her time there her job was to kick-start the ‘turnaround of the business- she took a number of steps to try and achieve this. Firstly, she changes the advertising campaign to get rid of the unpopular puppets that once dominated the advertising campaign. She also issued a public apology for the fake Wonga letter scandal in which customers were receiving intimidating letters from fairy tale law firms.
However, Cook is determined to turn things around and sees herself as a ‘mem on a mission’ who wants to ‘save the world’ leaving her old career in the past.
OLIO is a far cry from Wonga’s business, it has a clear mission to connect people to local shops as well as their neighbours to reduce the enormity of the food waste problem.
Food is a topic that is quite dear to Cook as her father was a farmer, which is why she wanted to get involved and make a change. Tessa’s app, OLIO, launched early in 2015 in the North London area and was a hit, climbing the Apple charts before its expansion to the whole of London.
How it works is that people can post a picture of the unused food and their neighbours can see it and choose to come and collect it. The app boasted over 100,000 downloads in just four months from people living in ‘mansions to council estates’. She said in an interview that she always wanted to do something that would have a positive impact on the world and understands the importance of food waste having grown up with little money herself.
The issue of food waste is enormous and has been emphasised by the War on Waste TV campaign. The series highlighted the fact that around one third of all food bought across the globe is wasted and thrown away. Cook says this costs the average family in the UK over £700 a year, with 25% of each shop ending up in the bin!
So now instead of trying to help through payday loans, she is hoping to save people money with her idea!