Meet the Modern Milkman using modern tech to transform his business

·4 min read
The Modern Milkman has used technology platforms to completely change an old-fashioned business.
The Modern Milkman has used technology platforms to completely change an old-fashioned business.

Founded in 2018 by CEO Simon Mellin, fast-growing The Modern Milkman delivers groceries from independent and local suppliers directly to customers’ doorsteps in returnable and reusable packaging.

The company has expanded to 650 staff, including delivery drivers (The Milkies). It is currently making over 350,000 deliveries a week and has raised over £7m in investment as it seeks to go global in Europe and US.

I worked in my family’s butchers shop in the Ribble Valley, Lancashire for most of my early years, from aged six to 17. My dad was the guiding light through it all and, more importantly, to where I am today.

He is a hard man and we didn’t get anything for free.

I don’t get on with him today because of his ways and I haven’t spoken to him for five years. But he gave me the knowledge of the industry, the work ethic and value for money.

Read more: My first boss: BBC Test Match Special producer Adam Mountford

He understood the different methods of farming and how to do it ethically and more sustainably. And I massively respect him for what he gave me, albeit that we didn't get the happy ending I envisaged.

My first real boss came when I branched out to work in motorsport and he was the complete opposite of dad. Runcorn-based Peter Hignett ran a GT racing team called ABG Motorsport and I started off as a basic mechanic in 2007. It’s a hard world to get into and I spent a considerable amount of time posting off CVs and travelling to racing circuits to try and find work.

Simon Millman launched the business in 2018 with ambitions to grow in Europe and the US
Simon Millman launched the business in 2018 with ambitions to grow in Europe and the US

Peter was the man who gave me a chance. He was an understated, humble boss. You wouldn’t normally see that in the motor industry as there is a lot of bravado and ego, but Peter was supportive and great at leading teams.

We were always an underdog team. In a lot of ways that did us a world of good. Peter drove results through collaboration and support. We would have plenty of weekends of zero sleep, cars smashed up, being off the pace and Peter was always on the tools and getting stuck in. He led from the front rather than being a boss.

I got a lot of opportunities at other higher-profile teams on the back of working with Pete, who was supportive of me throughout when I went freelance. He recognised that if I grew, it helped him too.

I set up my initial business Roaming Roosters, a sustainable food businesses, while working freelance after five years in motorsport. When I was in the sport, no one really understood the value of food and how to do better with it, despite the industry being laden with successful and high-profile figures.

It was one of the key reasons why I moved on and set up the food business in 2015, while I also worked in another food processing business specialising in providing online retail in meat. Modern Milkman was an amalgamation of various ideas from a group of friends.

Simon Mellin grew up working in the family butcher shop in Lancashire. Photo: Modern Milkman
Simon Mellin grew up working in the family butcher shop in Lancashire. Photo: Modern Milkman

Part of it was driven by David Attenborough and the Blue Planet, and the recognition to change consumer buying habits around grocery. The other factor was that supermarkets have driven large-basket shopping – driving habits away from the 80s and 90s of buying for a few days – which generates a lot of waste and packing for shelf life.

We now have operations all over the UK and launched in France in January. Milk is a driving force in the UK, bottled water and bakery in France and we have big ambitions to grow the platform out globally and float the business either on the London Stock Exchange or NASDAQ.

Moreover, we have saved nearly 50 million plastic bottles from the environment and that is growing at around two million per month.

Read more: My first boss: Anne Boden, CEO and founder of Starling Bank

Consumers can sign up to the platform, get offered three deliveries per week and build up a dynamic subscription of milk and other products. There is no need for big baskets and the products which are delivered to your door are plastic-free packaging. The beauty of modern technology is that we can also grow our range and so we are far more than just the traditional milkman.

The business started by buying our local milk round, which has around 100 customers. The first thing we realised was that it was impossible to scale. There were texts in the middle of the night and notes left on doorsteps. There was no management around rang and purchasing habits and that’s what made us realise that technology could revive the industry.

We have since invested millions in tech, as well as making the lives of our drivers better and easier to serve our customers.

Watch: Why do we still have a gender pay gap?

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting