Your local Indie Store heroes: part two
Meet the local entrepreneurs who went from garages, kitchen tables and market stalls to become thriving and fabulous Devon businesses.
Mandi and Juliette, Sails & Canvas
2020 was a year like no other, but we have high hopes for 2021 and have been very fortunate to have been able to carry on working with our fabulous artisan team during lockdown times.
We have a real passion for design and beautiful fabrics and this drives us every step of the way to develop our range of products to be in tune with our environment. We care about the future of our planet; #reduce, #reuse, #recycle is the mantra which we hope to become second nature to all. Our products make a difference with less sailcloth ending up in landfill.
Staying true to the nautical roots of our products is equally important to us; all the thread, grommets, insignia and canvas we use is of marine quality and where possible sourced locally – like our rope, which comes from just across the river Exe.
Looking ahead, the new season brings some vibrant colourful new additions to our product range, as well as some exciting British collaborations, launching soon.
Greg Parsons, Sharpham Cheese
The Sharpham Estate has been producing wines and cheeses for over 35 years to local, national and international acclaim. We’d only taken over the cheesery from the Estate six months prior, when Boris announced the first lockdown. We decided not to panic and threw ourselves into making sure we took care of our suppliers. We never stopped marketing and worked really hard, with my wife and daughter pitching in when staff went on furlough, as although we’d stopped producing, our cheeses takes months to mature so what we’d already made need turning and caring for.
In 2019 we won UK Supreme Cheese at the Global Cheese Awards (Washbourne) and British Product of the Year in the Great British Food Awards (Cremet), with Washbourne also reaching the 2020 final. But lockdown had some great achievements too – we created our own dedicated website, collaborated with farm shops and other local businesses like Quickes and Blue Goose Coffee and despite losing loads of orders when the second lockdown was announced in November, we managed to sell out at Christmas! Now we’ve started doing online tasting events, the first one sold out and we’ve got more planned. Come and join us!
Lex and Nick, Blue Goose Coffee
Everyone knows that feeling of starting out on a journey not knowing just how much time and energy you’re going to be putting in and it was no different with Blue Goose where every day really is a school day! So, it means the world when people buy our coffee.
We created Blue Goose to prove micro and small businesses like ours can lead the way in supporting the people and planet over profits by embracing the latest green technology and packaging. We don’t have shareholders to please – unless you count my wife and kids! – and so can make decisions that take us in an honest and environmentally focussed direction.
As well as plastic and aluminium coffee capsules, the standard aluminium-lined plastic pouches used by coffee companies the world over are horrid things. So we created a range of coffees in home compostable pouches to help alleviate our reliance on packaging that uses petro-chemicals and plastic based materials. Plus, we’re still in the exciting midst of launching our bean and ground speciality coffees in compostable pouches. We’re also working with farm shops and retailers to help bring Blue Goose to many more customers across Devon and the South West. So, lots going on to be excited about!
Michelle and Emily, Salcombe Trading Company
We made the decision to relocate to Salcombe in 1992 with our 2 year old daughter Emily (now a director of STC!). We moved into a gorgeous thatched cottage with no plans at all to open a shop. We were drawn to Salcombe by the beautiful scenery and the wonderful people. It was always such a buzz when the Easter or summer holidays came round, and thousands of people flocked to Salcombe. We knew we wanted a way to connect with the locals and visitors. When the first (tiny) shop came up we jumped at the chance and The Salcombe Trading Company was born.
Since then we have moved into bigger premises and also built our online retail side of the business.
We thrive off finding amazing quality products and focus on British and Scandinavian design. We grew to a family of 5 and around 10 years ago ended up moving to Bath whilst keeping the shop in Salcombe. We opened our second store in Bath which closed last year and we are currently working on a very exciting new project on the outskirts of Bath. We can’t wait for the visitors to return to Salcombe, but in the meantime we are focusing on providing the best service we can virtually.
Sarah and Geoff, Sea Arch
Sea Arch Drinks was born a few years ago following our quest to find a sippable, sessionable drink that was alcohol-free but still felt like a ‘grown-up’ option. Having failed to find something that ticked all the boxes, we set to work creating our own. The resulting Sea Arch Coastal Juniper blend is a distilled non-alcoholic spirit with all the deliciousness of gin but none of the alcohol. Full of seaside botanicals native to the Devon coastline, it is sugar-free, sweetener-free and calorie-free.
The Devon coast is very much at the heart of our business – from the seaside botanicals, to the look of the brand and even the Sea Arch name, which was inspired by a stunning sea arch near where my husband and I live. In the same way that the sea has eroded the cliff to create that stunning arch, distilling Sea Arch Coastal Juniper to remove the alcohol really does make it, as our tagline says, more beautiful without.
The past 12 months have certainly brought their challenges but thankfully the non-alcoholic drinks sector is booming. We’ve missed all the foodie events – talking to people about Sea Arch and encouraging them to try it – but by focusing more of our attention online we’ve been able to make the most of a very difficult situation. We’ve even been able to launch our pre-mixed, ready to drink ‘Sea & T’ cans, which have gone down extremely well.
We’ve had some exceptional reviews from journalists and bloggers over recent months, and fantastic feedback from our customers too. My background is in the hospitality industry so delivering exceptional customer service has always been of great importance to me. With Sea Arch it’s the same – it’s about ensuring people have a first-rate experience with an alcohol-free spirit – and that’s why every great review and every lovely piece of feedback we receive makes me feel even more proud of the delicious, award-winning product we’ve created.
Chlo and Nick, G&L Lifestyle
Our brand is built from culture, craftsmanship and community, working with with artisans in a little village Pushkar in northern India set around a holy lake. Everything is sustainably produced and handmade and during our time travelling and living in India all of our suppliers have become friends, so our business is about giving back to this beautiful community of craftsmanship.
With lockdown, and business with our factories in India on hold, we had to step back but it gave us time to think about branding. You go through all those different thoughts – like should we keep going? – but we realised we wanted to support the community, so it was even more reason to keep it going.
We’re emotionally attached to the people there, so when when products did arrive finally this February – an 8 months delay! – it was so exciting and gave us the oomph to relaunch.
When someone buys something it’s such a great feeling. I try and send pictures to show our suppliers in India, and if it’s exciting for us it’s even more exciting for them! It’s a wonderful domino effect.
Zoe Strassen, Natural Spa Soaps
I have a passion for natural products and making things, so even though I trained as a professional chef, if 2016 I started making soaps in a shed in my parents’ garden. Six years on and things have really taken off, with three employees and a 2000 square foot warehouse. We have seven personal care ranges, all plastic-free, ethically sourced, vegan-friendly and great value hair and handcrafted using traditional techniques.
Lockdown was quite different for us, because orders went up 500% almost overnight and I had to double the team! Now we sell to UK and internationally. The conditioner bar is our bestseller because people love how it lasts a good six months, with no plastic bottle to refill. The fave scent is rose, lavender and grapefruit because it’s floral but not too in your face.
Being a vegan myself, it’s essential to me that everything is 100% vegan. I also love being a local employer and am hoping to take someone else soon. Even though 2000 square feet sounds like a lot of space, we might need more of that too. When one person is making up to 600 bars of soap in a day, it takes up a lot of room!