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Ethnic grocery app, Oja raises $3.3m on its mission to build the first online supermarket for the UK’s growing cultural communities

Oja: bringing the world to your kitchen

Oja – an ethnic grocery delivery service on a mission to give rich and diverse communities access to the very best in cultural produce – has raised $3.3m in Seed funding to develop its app that, it hopes, will make it the UK’s first online-only, ethnic supermarket.

Founded in 2020  on the idea that no matter where people live they should be able to access products from any and every culture, Oja is diversifying the grocery industry by putting ethnic products just a few clicks away. A grocery industry that has historically failed to cater for the increasingly broad range of cultures in the UK, and one that has barely innovated in this space for decades. 

Through the Oja app, customers from a wide, and growing range of cultures can order produce from a selection of the very best suppliers, handpicked by Oja’s team. Oja – which is Yoruba, a Nigerian language, for “market” – then ships orders from its own warehouses and dark stores to homes across London. At launch, Oja is focused on Afro-caribbean cultures, the largest communities in the capital, and has plans to expand further to cover more cultures, and more communities nationwide in the coming year. 

“Food is intrinsically linked to who we are, and how we relate to our cultures. It offers us a sense of familiarity, it stirs emotions and memories,” explains Mariam Jimoh, Oja’s founder and recent Forbes 30 under 30 award winner. “It’s a means of connection between family and friends over shared meals, recipes passed down through the generations, and there are stories behind food. Each one representing a marker of our identity. At Oja, we’re not building just another grocery delivery platform. We’re building an online destination for cultural communities; one that enables people to connect with their heritage and feel a sense of belonging. Wherever and whatever feels like home to them.” 

Making global, local 

In the UK, access to specific food, as well as health and beauty products from specific cultures largely depends on where you live.  It can be a challenge accessing ethnic products. The most common way to get access is via local brick-and-mortar stores, yet even then, the quality and stock isn’t always guaranteed.

Meanwhile, world food aisles in supermarkets have remained largely unchanged over the past 20-30 years and lack the authenticity and variety to suit the wide and growing  range of multicultural needs. Not to mention the difficulties such shops, and shoppers, faced in the wake of the Covid pandemic – difficulties that are set to cause online penetration of groceries to continue rising, and play a role in causing shopping in physical stores to decrease by more than a fifth, post COVID. 

Oja solves these problems by having ownership and transparency over the entire consumer journey. By working with a network of handpicked suppliers and employing a diverse team of people who come from the unique mix of cultures being served; and by having insight into buying habits and demands, Oja is not only able to verify the quality of what it sells, but it helps people get access to what as soon as possible.

Whether it’s a first-generation immigrant wanting to cook for their family, a young professional looking to enjoy the food of their heritage, university students missing home comforts, or expats returning to the UK and wanting to cook with ingredients they enjoyed while abroad.  

What’s more, Oja operates a full-stack system, buying at wholesale, holding this inventory in a central mini-fulfilment centre and dark stores in cultural hotspots, and offering optimising next-day delivery. 

Finding a “home” via food 

The heart of Oja’s mission, says the company, lies at the intersection of grocery, culture and community. Oja’s founder is a second-generation immigrant from Nigeria. Her sense of culture and identity is intertwined with that of her parents, but is also formed by her own experiences. As a result, she wanted to create an app that solved the growing problem of buying cultural and world foods in a way that was accessible no matter how people identify with those foods.  

Oja has been built to increase the number of people currently shopping for cultural groceries, while also increasing access to people who don’t currently shop for food from their heritage.. Outcomes from the app’s marketplace pilot proved with 67% of orders coming from repeat customers, and basket counts and sizes exponentially rising as more and more products were added to the online store. During this pilot, the app’s user base grew 56% from word of mouth alone – again, a testament to the community appeal and reach of the app. 

The Oja team consists of various backgrounds, from Nigerian to Greek to Indian and Turkish, speaking multiple languages, each with direct links to the cultural understanding of the needs of Oja’s audiences and suppliers. The app additionally has community-led features including the option to share recipes and meals with loved ones, to further strengthen these emotional bonds. Each customer is also presented with a unique culturally-specific shopping experience, browsing 1000s of products by bundle or meal, culture, brand or category. 

In addition to funding from Europe’s pioneering Seed investment fund, LocalGlobe, Oja investors also include Acequia Capital; Tiny VC; and black angel group, HoaQ Fund. 

These funds were joined by a number of leading angels including Darren Shapland (CFO of Sainsbury’s), David Vismans (CPO of, Dimple Patel (COO of Trouva), Anton Soulier (formerly Deliveroo, now CEO of Taster), Sharmadean Reid (CEO of The Stack World), Spoken Word poet, Suli Breaks, Azeem Azhar (related to family behind Asian food manufacturer TRS), Riccardo Zacconi (Co-Founder of and more. 

George Henry, General Partner at LocalGlobe comments: “In a sea of grocery delivery services and apps, Oja stands out for taking a new and refreshing approach. One that centres on community, heritage and access, as much as speed, convenience and variety. From the use of technology to her relationship and deep connections with suppliers, and her full-stack approach, Mariam and her team are building a game changing company that is set to raise the bar for the underserved communities across London, the UK and Europe.”  

Sharmadean Reid, founder and CEO of The Stack World adds: “Oja is an exciting and much-needed service that will benefit people that want more choice when it comes to buying ethnic produce and busy professionals who do not have time to visit their local high street. t is great to see VCs and investors backing a woman-led startup. So many innovative tech companies founded by women are overlooked and it is vital they receive the investment and the support they need to grow so the tech industry can reflect the needs of everyone across society. I am proud to be backing a woman-led app and hope this trend continues.”

Anton Soulier CEO of Taster says: “Communities up and down the UK, and across Europe, are crying out for a grocery service that not only gives them access to food from their heritage, but which connects them to their culture in a way that suits their lifestyles. Having deep ties to the cultures and communities it is serving, as well as an acute understanding of the needs of these groups, Oja represents the future of ethnic shopping in the UK and beyond. We’re thrilled to be investing in Mariam, her team and her vision.”

The funding will be used to further Oja’s expansion into new cultures and regions over the coming months. 

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