Hi all, I was chatting with our wonder woman here at the Canteen, Caroline about the power of small businesses coming together to support each other and find ways to work together. She wrote to me about he take on this and I just had to share it with you all…
“So... I've been reading a book by Mary Portas called 'Rebuild'. It's all about conducting business in a slightly different way, as opposed to blindly chasing profit no matter what. It's about being kind. Developing local partnerships. Putting what you have achieved back into the local community. When I started reading the book, I was unsure about what she was on about. But gradually I realised that I've always run my businesses in this way. Because it's part of me, it’s what I do, stubborn as I am! And I'm not alone… It has never been anything I've consciously done, or tried to do, it's just about connections. What's the point of running a local business if you don't get to chat, share, and enjoy other people's stories, opinions and achievements? What a boring, plastic world?
I never ever want to be part of that plastic, false ‘woke’ world.
In our little provincial town, I can see that the interconnectedness runs deep. Everyone knows each other, either pretty much instantly or after literally a few sentences, through parents, friends, events, or jobs. This has run through the generations. For example, someone amazing who I've employed on an ‘on and off’ basis for about ten years and seen him grow, and someone else who has just started working for me found out they went on family holidays together every year until they were about five. That sort of thing lights up my life.
This is what Mary Portas talks about in her book; the ties that bind us together that are just not there in large cities… the web of the local community, the ripple effect we all feel when something changes. The closeness we feel when we stop to think, when the beautiful soul who we see every day who struggles with dementia, looking a bit thin, makes our day with his lovely smile and has his free meal, happily given.
That's what it's all about.
The kindness economy.
I have just heard the news that our very favourite fresh fruit and veg supplier has had to call it a day, hang up his apron strings so to speak, and close the doors permanently. We are all disappointed, I am particularly sad for him, being a business owner myself, I can understand. Also, we don't get to see his ugly mug any more! Almost every day for the past five years, his customer service was second to none, and the quality and freshness of the food was fabulous. And he was local. Literally a few hundred yards away. I'm sure I'm not the only one to feel the ripple effect of his closing down.
When I set The Canteen up more than ten years ago, I looked at what I could find around me. I saw that the freshest, tastiest, most high quality food was literally there on my doorstep. It was easy, I thought, just deal with the most local of farmers, growers and producers. And then the food can't fail to be delicious, right? And here I am ten years later still getting the majority of food from within 10 miles. Sure, there's always room for improvement of course. But I'm sticking to this. Surviving Covid has made me grateful for that ethos. Buy what you see that is fresh, local and good value. Cook your food around this, and your menu will be delicious. I’m sorry to those customers who are cross when I'm not cooking with avocados at the moment. They're not in season, yet something else equally as delicious but in season? Our locally grown mushrooms perhaps, from Stroud? With kale now it's in season? Or local turmeric bread?
Oh and I'm not being ‘woke’, I'm not reinventing the wheel, I'm just doing my own thing. I'm using what comes naturally to me, a woman in business using her so called 'soft' skills. I don’t know any other way, I'm just being kind. Luckily people seem to like it.”
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