August 20, 2020
This podcast is part of a series of case studies in which we speak to small business owners. Find out about the challenges and advantages of owning your own business, and pick up some advice on how to get started.
The Eco Larder is a Community Interest Company (CIC) based in the Haymarket area of Edinburgh. Opened by Matthew and Stephanie Foulds in November 2018, it's the city's first zero waste supermarket. They aim to put planet and purpose before profits.
Read the full case study here - www.gov.uk/government/case-stu…/the-eco-larder-cic
Companies House host: Hello and welcome to our latest podcast. We're here with the Eco Larder Community Interest Company in Edinburgh and welcome to Matthew and Stephanie and baby Jasmina. How are you guys?
Matthew: Very well. Thank you.
Stephanie: Yeah, really good.
CH: Thank you for welcoming us here today to talk to you about your company. So if we get straight into it, why did you start the Eco Larder and what inspired you?
M: So we started the Eco Larder well, it was an idea that had been with us while Stephanie was pregnant with Jasmina and we became increasingly aware of the additional waste we were going through preparing for a little baby and just how much it was going to take to try and live without plastic for her and we just decided at that point that we were going to make a stand, we're going to do that ourselves and then that blossomed into well, there's an opportunity to do that for Edinburgh and create a zero waste supermarket.
CH: Okay, and is it just the two of you or is it kind of you and family and volunteers?
S: Well, we have my mum as our biggest volunteer looking after Jasmina and taking care of all the details helping in the shop and then we've also got an amazing team of volunteers.
M: Yeah, we've had lots of people just willing to offer their time doing shifts, creating websites, fixing doors and sending boxes. We will always find someone, it's just been a wonderful experience.
CH: That is so nice and I guess to already feel that you've kind of got a community of people that you know are really passionate about it and want to come and support the shop and what you're trying to achieve.
CH: Amazing. In terms of kind of finding your premises and stuff. Was there a reason why you chose here? You're sort of just off the Haymarket aren’t you in Edinburgh?
M: Yes, so we're nice and central here, but we also live in this area. So we wanted to be fairly close to where we live, but also it is a great spot with what we hoped would be accessible for everyone who is coming in on the trains, but also very central in Edinburgh. Lots of people live around this neck of the woods, so we’ve looked around for a little while and checked out a couple of places and then we stumbled across where we are now.
CH: Brilliant and I know you've been open since November 2018 so you're sort of a few months in now. Where did it all start? What were the first things that you kind of did in terms of, I guess setting up the business?
S: I think we just thought let's go for it. You know and one day we sat down and launched a crowdfunding campaign. It was near the end when I was heavily pregnant. We couldn't move anyway, we were stuck in the house and Matt said I'll do the crowdfunding and I did the website and we did that and thought we've got nothing to lose and it went from there.
M: Yeah, then we got the crowdfunding. We thought ‘oh crikey’ now we've got to do it and yeah, it all just kept going one thing after another.
CH: Brilliant. So that was kind of I guess the starting point. Where did you go next?
M: Yeah, and so once we started to look at actually setting up the company we came across all the other options for how we would register and the best fit by far was the the CIC because we were taking on more than just creating a business for ourselves. It was you know, really going to be a shared effort for the Edinburgh community.
CH: Yeah, the really strong sort of social purpose I guess and that fits great into to why people go down the sort of community interest company.
S: Yeah, I mean our moto is planet and purpose before profit and we stick by that through everything that we do and that ethos is just really important to us because we want to not only change shopping behaviours, but also improve society and the entire system that we live in and make it a fair world and we really believe that a social Enterprise is the only way to create that fairness.
M: So yeah, we'd like to see lots more social enterprises exist.
CH: Yeah, and I guess with Jasmina as well. It's about thinking about her future kind of how you want her to kind of grow up.
S: Yeah definitely.
M: In terms of other help as a result of that we have a government backed agency up here called FirstPort and they help social Enterprises to get off the ground so we receive a lot of help from them.
S: Through that I guess we work with a lot of social enterprises, like we worked with the Edinburgh tool library in terms of getting the shop fitted out and then bread share they supply our bread to another social enterprise, Hey Girls, they fight period poverty and we stock their products as well and so we support other social enterprises.
CH: That’s really nice. That's bringing everyone together, that’s the reason for what they are doing and its great that they integrating it with your business.
S: Yeah Definitely.
CH: That sounds great. In terms the business side of the Eco Larder you sort of first registered your company and then was it a fairly easy process to convert to CIC?
M: Yeah. It was a really simple application. We went through a, I don't know what you would call them, it wasn’t through Companies House directly.
CH: Was it a formation agent?
M: A formation agent and yeah, once we had registered we just had to apply for the social enterprise or the community interest company. It's just really easy.
CH: Great, yeah, and I know obviously, you know you’re still really new so luckily you haven’t got to worry about filing anything in terms of the accounts and things for at least 21 months, which is great it gives you sort of real chance to get the business up and running.
CH: Did you look for advice from accountants and things to help you with that side of things?
M:Yeah, we're not accountants so we needed the help on that. But you know, it's nothing to be scared about.
S: It’s not expensive either.
M: It’s fine to find an accountant who is willing to just do the you know, the final accounts, it's not a worry.
S: But it's a must have.
M: It's a must-have, Yeah. We would leave it.
S: We wouldn’t do it.
CH: Yeah and I think that’s something to think about it’s, you know we have to do this but I'm not great on that side of things. I know you've also got your yoga company, haven't you as well?
CH: Has that been a help kind of in terms of experience?
S: Yeah, we definitely went through about four accountants before figuring out that it's quite a simple thing because felt at the beginning there were a lot of words that I didn't understand so we went with Derek Napier in the end who's fantastic.
CH: Brilliant and he'll help you with all your responsibilities down the line at Companies House and CIC regulator.
CH: That’s really great. In terms of your biggest challenges, would you say the things that if you were giving advice to other people who are looking at kind of maybe a zero-waste shop or something similar what other things would you say? These are the things you kind of need to focus on and the challenges I guess.
M: I think it depends on the space that you're going for and potentially if you're targeting a certain section of food and you really want to make a difference with your own business, if you've got the opportunity because you are surrounded by great farming, very local and that's a chance for you to change.
S: I think you need to be really hands-on, just save costs by doing it yourself wherever possible, that’s the most important message I would put across.
M: Be prepared to have a real tough shift early on.
CH: Yeah. Yeah dedicate yourself to it.
S: Yeah, you are taking Deliveries at 7am And then at 8am you're doing social media 9:00am you're helping customers.
M: I think you have that with any small business.
CH: Yeah those sort of personal challenges that come with it.
M: And yeah, if you're believing in it, and you've got the reason for setting up in the first place. It's so much more rewarding.
S: You need to be driven by the passion because you need to really want to do this because it's a lot of work. Yeah.
CH: And have you been amazed by how you've been received by local community?
M: Yeah, we've had a phenomenal response to the crowdfunding initially and that then built into lots of followers on our social media and because we opened up in Edinburgh and people were desperate for it, it kind of took a snowball really and we were just overwhelmed in the end when we came to opening day. So yeah, that's all been fab we couldn’t of asked for better really.
S: Yeah, we've had a lot of media come in and film and lots of newspapers have taken up coming here as well and writing about us so that's really been helpful, you know being Edinburgh’s first zero waste shop has been a huge thing, which is why the media have really been behind us.
CH: Yeah, That's great.
M: And now there's more following so it's the more it becomes the norm the bigger the change.
CH: Excellent, in terms of things that you're sort of most proud of I know you run other sort of initiatives and things don't you that you're trying out, like your beach clean ups and things like that. Is that something that you're going to continue to do more of?
M: Yeah, so that's a regular part of our social initiative. We also look to run workshops on being more sustainable, making your own things, up-cycling with materials. We are also looking to expand this year into becoming a grower of produce and working with areas of Edinburgh to grow our own.
CH: Wow, and would that be here in the in the shop?
M: That would be a little bit in the shop and other parts of the city so that's a much bigger project that we've got. But yeah a real education piece around growing your own stuff growing seasonal. There's a lot out there in the news now about the diet that we have to live with to sustain the planet.
CH: Really exciting, sounds great. What's been some of the most important things in terms of what you see as your success? Has it been the people, has it been the volunteers has it just been sort of starting and seeing it grow?
S: More I think the people that come in and it's like a sweet shop for adults. So every single adult that comes in gets so excited and you can see it in their faces and their body language and then they say half the time ‘’I'm so excited to be here’’.
M: But the kids then who come in with them and they are really passionate about it as well. So I think they're going to be the generation that sees it as the norm and fixes a lot of where we've gone wrong. Through no fault of well, obviously fault of our own but maybe we just didn't quite understand the impact that we were having and generations gone by so that's been really nice to see.
CH: I guess, you know, you've obviously both got a lot of passion for what you do and what really comes across. What is something that you’d say is the main thing that keeps you going keeps driving me to do more?
S: I think so, I think that's what it is and then little Jasmina, I'm always thinking, we’re doing this for her. She gets to grow up in a world that cares for the environment, for people, for health and well-being. Those are our values that we want to pass to her and I feel that everything that we do every day is for her.
M: And every day is a new day, which is refreshing.
CH: Sure and it comes with a different challenges I guess but that's all part of developing the business. So what's next for the Eco Larder in the next few months?
M: So in the next few months, hopefully, we're in a position to start bringing in some people to help us run it as well and that will then allow us to look to do these other initiatives. It's in terms of looking to do our own growing.
S: We've also created a plastic free Edinburgh badge. It's a scheme that we want to help local businesses reduce their waste and in particular their plastic consumption and we feel that we have some experience in this and we're well placed to go into businesses and give them this advice, but going out and about is really tough right now because we need to run the shop so having people work here will really help us create a bigger impact throughout the city.
CH: Amazing. And is that's something that you're kind of look for some funding for to help with?
S: Yeah, I guess so, but it's largely our time more in like a consultancy basis so just freeing up our time.
CH: Yes, you can get out and about and know that this is all running?
S: Yeah, definitely we want to highlight the companies that are actively reducing their plastic waste we feel that we've got a strong social media following and we really want to shout about the companies that are making a difference so we're very interested in getting partnerships built that way.
CH: To round up then, is there one final thing you'd say to people about you know, if they're thinking about doing it themselves for any zero waste shop. What would you say just go for it?
M: Yeah, I think more and more is going to come along the way so if you've got the opportunity, whatever part of the country you're in and you want to make it then go for it.
S: Yeah go for it, but expect it to be full on, which is good, you know and I feel that there's a lot of people with a passion behind it. From us to the customers, so you know get that community going wherever you are.
CH: Thank you both ever so much for your time. I know there's lots of really interesting stuff in there for people considering and opening up a small business. If you do want some more information, you can head over to GOV.UK/companieshouse
and also the CIC regulator who will have information specifically about Community Interest Companies. Thank you. Thanks for listening.
S and M: Thank you so much.