Building a mobile app takes a lot of time and money, even if you can do most of the technical work yourself.

This is why Reuben McQueen and Ibrahim Mizi launched software development agency OpenKit – to create a revenue stream that could help fund their sustainable meal planning platform, Food Forage. Now, with the support of Durham Ambitious Business Startups (DABS), the two entrepreneurs are beginning to see their two ventures take off.

Key to the success of some of the world’s largest companies has been their ability to sell into both the business-to-business and business-to-consumer markets.

Microsoft, for example, brings in the majority of its income from business software platforms like Office365 while consumer-focused digital devices and gaming platforms play a supporting role.

This is not a coincidence but rather a realisation that operating in both the B2B and B2C domains helps companies diversify, limit exposure to market shocks, increase innovation and give a more wraparound service to their customers.

Following in the footsteps of tech titans like Microsoft, Durham University graduates Reuben McQueen and Ibrahim Mizi co-founded bespoke software development company, OpenKit, to build a revenue stream in the B2B space that could supplement start-up costs for their B2C-focused sustainable meal planning app, Food Forage.

Reuben explains: “Alongside our interest in entrepreneurship, one of the big things Ibrahim and I have in common is we’re both interested in sustainability and the impact we’re having on climate change.

“We set up Food Forage because we realised there wasn’t a system in place that makes it seamless to reduce the carbon footprint of the foods you eat in a way that doesn’t inconvenience you.”

Food Forage is an all-in-one app that lets users plan their meals by searching for recipes to create an exact shopping list that they can then purchase and have delivered through one of the big supermarkets and cook at home.

“The app helps people reduce their environmental impact by promoting seasonal, plant-based meals and meat alternatives. Our smart shopping list reduces food waste by ensuring you’re only buying what you need.” adds Reuben.

Reuben and Ibrahim set up Food Forage in their first year at university and quickly learned that if they wanted to scale the business successfully, then launching a full-stack web, app and product development agency would be a useful way to fund their endeavours.

Ibrahim says: “We always wanted to build our own projects but also use our skills to build out a business and generate revenue from it, which is where Openkit came in.

“Our capabilities are very broad and one of our ideologies as a company is to make use of all the technologies available – things like AR, VR, machine learning and blockchain – that can be integrated into web and mobile applications.”

Reuben adds: “We’re in a unique position to be that tech partner for businesses because we have experience of running our own tech start-up, so we understand the pitfalls and problems people face.”

Since being founded in 2020, OpenKit has worked with a number of clients on websites, mobile apps and products launches, providing technical knowledge and integrating with in-house teams on development projects.

Reuben and Ibrahim also sought the support of DABS at an early stage to learn more about business and what it takes to build a thriving start-up.

Reuben says: “A lot of start-ups tend to look purely for financial support, but because we could build our product in-house, we needed support on how to structure and build out the business side.

“I called up James Croft from DABS and he got us in to the early start-up programme because we were pre-revenue at that stage.

“We attended some great webinars about mind mapping the business and customer journey and creating as much value as possible, and we also had Judith Wheatley as our business advisor.

He continues: “We had calls every fortnight where Judith would be really constructive and honest with us about where we were, making sure we were setting KPIs and holding us accountable, which we really appreciated.

“Because we’re now at a stage where we’re a fully-fledged business with employees, it’s been nice to have Judith see us go on that journey.”

Looking ahead to the future, the priority for Reuben and Ibrahim will be to continue attracting more clients to work with OpenKit and get Food Forage to a place where it is generating its own revenue.

“There are quite a lot of options for us because we’re very flexible and we’re very excited about the future,” says Ibrahim.