Seaton Eats Boutique comes to an end

Building a resilient business means being able to dance

“The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.”

Alan Wilson Watts

Its been 9 years since I started up Seaton Eats Boutique. We’ve had 33 events, including Christmas markets. Thats pretty darn good given that there were forces who tried to kybosh it from the get go. It is however time this caravan of traders moved on. Seaton Eats has become financially unviable and we’re off to continue our adventures in other towns along the Jurassic coast. 

I recently announced also that Sidmouth Eats had reached an end too, though for different reasons. Coming to such decisions isn’t easy at all – it will feel like I’m abandoning the community by withdrawing these events. So I want to reframe the sense of loss into something thats positive, and cause for celebration. 


Endings are simply transitions from one thing to another. 


When we started Seaton Eats there were not so many places to eat great food in Seaton. Since then we’ve seen some fantastic new restaurants open up, an Asian supermarket appear on our high street and themed supper nights in lots of venues. We’ve gathered in spaces that were under used and overlooked, and seen our coastline from a different perspective. These incredible community assets are Seaton’s gems and deserve to be used for more community occasions. Hopefully you’ve tried cuisine that you might have felt shy about trying in another setting, and more hopefully, you’ve fallen in love with it. We’ve shown the power of the collective voice by rising together to make these events a success and overcome obstacles. We’ve felt the value of the community dining experience. And you’ve helped me to create 2 businesses- Eats Boutique and The Salty Arms, for which I won an award. Most significantly I have met some absolutely brilliant people through Seaton Eats – I hope you have too. The sense of community ownership that you all have for this event is astonishing. There is so so much to be grateful for. 

This is the end of something wonderful in my home community, but its not the end of my work in Seaton. As many of you know I’m on of the directors of Seaton Chamber CIC, which formed as a direct result of a regeneration strategy project group. There’s a lot of invisible work going on right now but I promise you that this is a movement that is happening. Everyone – businesses and individuals are invited to join us. 

I like the quote by philosopher Alan Wilson Watts because it reminds me that nothing is permanent, and that by trying to hold on to something for ever after makes us stressed, fearful, rigid. When you dance you move your body in a different way. I’ve been dancing a lot this year (literally) and it feeeeels good! I’m sticking with that. I’m embracing change, I’m stepping into something different and I’m hitting that dancefloor.

This is the end of Seaton Eats but its not the end of Eats Boutique. I would love for you to stay in touch and visit us in our other locations – Lyme Regis on the 3rd Friday of the month and Axminster on the 4th Friday (in a new venue – ooer). On the 1st Friday of the month we’ll be popping up in a new community, so keep your eyes peeled for lots of juicy news in the weeks to come. 

So farewell Seaton Eats Boutique, and thank you. Its been an absolute pleasure to serve you. 

Sidmouth Eats Boutique comes to an end after 6 years


Sidmouth Eats Boutique comes to an end after 6 years

Saying goodbye, coming to an end. We seem to encounter the ends of things regularly –  the end of a book, the end of the day, the end of a holiday. Small endings that often have a little regret or sorrow attached to them. 

Recently we had a holiday visiting my mother’s country, Australia. It was a long awaited trip, a joyous reconnection with old friends and ageing family, and a long held desire to travel this land in a camper van. Our 6 weeks was full to the brim and it was brilliant. It was inevitable that it would come to an end, and we were all ready for that. I’ve not often felt ready for a holiday to end – we’re all plagued by the nostalgia of a more dreamy time, that escape from reality and I think I’ve found the golden nugget that 6 weeks is just about the right time for the dreamy holiday reverie to last. Week 7 would have seen bickering turn to arguments, budget turn to poverty, the compact wardrobe turn to rags and all that family become more than annoying. The end of our holiday was sweet and we came home with beautiful memories and relationships intact, ready to face the bracing slap in the face of a British January.

Thats my lesson on endings. All endings are a choice, they are the wrapping paper around an experience. I’ve made the decision to end Sidmouth Eats Boutique pop up street food market and its a really positive move for my business. 

We started out in Sidmouth in 2018, on the Ham on a blue sky day in June. I remember there was a big night going on at a local pub too so lots pf people came to see us before their night out at the pub. It was a big change from our Seaton operation – a much bigger space, more traders and expectations to pay on card. Yes, mobile card payments was still very new technology! The seagulls stayed high in that blue sky. They could smell food but couldn’t quite work out what was going on. The next event, in July, and the event after that in August had to be cancelled due to torrential rain storms. I couldn’t believe our bad luck! Up till now there are the only 2 we’ve ever had to cancel because of inclement weather. We returned to the Ham in 2019 with better luck and a shiny new card machine. Then of course there was the year that never was. In 2021 Kennaway House became our new venue, smaller and more affordable for the scale of our operation. Three summers of street food markets, an appearance on Radio Devon, joining the calendar of the Taste Eats Devon Festival, yet another cancelled event the day after Queen Elizabeth passed, and then our first Sidmouth Christmas event at the lights switch on. To cap it all we celebrated our 50th Eats Boutique event in Sidmouth, a milestone of which I’m immensely proud. 

The pandemic was an enormous boost to street food trading. Suddenly the world understood the value of eating outside. Some traders gave up the business but many more started up, seeing the benefits of flexibility in being mobile, and the fun we have serving up great food and drink direct to our customers. Community events recognised that selling a few food and beverage pitches could contribute income to the overall project. Consumers love any chance to grab something tasty to eat or drink. The hospitality industry has bloomed in the last 20 years and although it still faces enormous challenges, as a society we have become accustomed to regularly dining out and finding a coffee wherever we go. Our intimate Friday night events during the summer have enabled new street food traders to find their feet in the business. Many have moved on, shut up shop or expanded their micro empires and very many have stayed with us, becoming firm favourites of yours and friends of mine. 

Street food is one strand of the hospitality industry, and in our rural communities it meets a need. We are able to explore global cuisine with international flavours brought to our table. We can take a culinary journey around the world without having to leave our communities.

So why end it? Well, a pop up by its nature is a temporary thing. It pops up and fills a gap. It never meant to be a permanent fixture. Pop ups are transitory, filling a need that isn’t met by the current offer. Pop ups celebrate entrepreneurship and micro endeavours, they’re on a human scale. A pop up event activates spaces that can often be overlooked or ignored. They activate imagination both in the creators and in the customers, showing potential and hidden beauty. Created on a shoestring, fuelled by the passion and character of those who host them, a pop up is the antithesis of big business, as is a local market. It’s all of these ingredients that give our events their edginess and vibrancy.

Endings aren’t failures. If the community becomes saturated with the same offer it is success. When a degree of complacency sets in it no longer has the passion that drives the vibe. Its a from of gentrification – rents increase and other businesses seize on bigger opportunities. The initial need has been met, imaginations fuelled and its time for the pop up to move on and let others move in. In Sidmouth there are brilliant events in the diary, some longstanding and some new. Street food is in demand both as a revenue stream to keep community events alive, and as a known dining choice. When I first started street food markets I needed to explain to people what street food was – now everyone gets it and you know what you love, and why you love it.

Endings are transitions. My little business started up as an experiment in street food events and has grown to an extent I could never have imagined 10 years ago. I’m excited for new opportunities on the horizon, that I can mould to fit with my life in this very beautiful corner of the world. We’re never standing still, always moving forward (although it may not feel like that much of the time). A wise friend said to me that its important to make time to say goodbye and make the ending well. Doing so is a vital part of moving on to the next chapter. 

If you’re sad to see Eats Boutique leave Sidmouth, then some conforming news! We’ll still be running our community dining pop up events in other towns and gorgeous locations so not all is ended. Do stay in touch, do join us on a Friday evening during the summer to eat fantastic food and savour the community spirit of our Eats Boutique pop up street food markets. We’ll let you know when and where right here. 

Sayonara Sidmouth, adios, adieu, au revoir and farewell. 

sunny autumn

The rhythm of running a seasonal business

sunny autumn

Running an outdoor events business has a rhythm defined not by quarters or tax years, but by nature’s seasons. The summer is my peak trading time and I’m a busy bee producing events, seeing the fruits of my time spent at my desk. When Autumn comes around its time for me to retreat indoors. Many of our Eats Boutique street food traders carry on right up until Christmas, battling wind and rain and the cold to cook up their delicious menus. Gawd, I have so much sympathy for those who continue with outside events in the recent weather we’ve been experiencing.

Over the years we have tried iterations of Christmas and Festive Eats Boutiques but find its altogether a different beast. While successful ones have been beautiful with twinkly lights and warming mulled cider they have also been rare, and rely almost entirely on luck. And we all know that Lady Luck likes to share her good will around. It doesn’t pay to push her for more. 

So then people start to ask me, well what do you do when you’re not running markets? Here’s the answer: everything else. 

I catch up with my house jobs, I invest time in volunteering, I spend time with my family, I re-discover my social life, I sleep. I clean, I organise, I file, I plan. Running a business as a sole trader means there isn’t a stop, there’s just a change. I’m gravel that the pace can slow down but there’s still plenty to do. 

Right now I’m looking at my systems – I’m beyond excited to be meeting with a book keeper next week to help me untangle what for me is a tricky job. I’m considering event templates for new ventures. I’m really hoping to create a proper home office to replace my corner in a family room. That’s going to involve moving a lot of furniture around, getting rid of a broken sofa and re-wiring the telly. My computer needs attention. I’ve got new tech to learn to make things run more professionally next year and some new working partnerships  to explore.

The 2024 Eats Boutique street food markets start now. Planning is an essential part of putting on events and the event itself is the culmination of months of work. In order for the events to start in May my work begins now. I’m thinking about the contracts I’ll make with my cohort of 2024 street food traders. I’m building relationships and contracts with the landowners of our venues. Deadlines for print marketing come around quickly after the new year so disseminating information for glossy magazines and tourist guides is a priority winter job. Its important that these press releases and adverts contain the right information, so all that needs to be confirmed.

mobile bar hire flexible bespoke packages for indoor and outdoor use
Bonny Anne can sail into private events

A new area of business I’m exploring is getting The Salty Arms out there as a bespoke mobile bar for hire. Are you having a party? Do you need a mobile bar? I can do it staffed or unstaffed – we can work out a package that suits you. We can generally get anywhere because The Salty Arms doesn’t require power (though its nice) and we can carry every single bit of kit into the corner you want because we’re not set up in a vehicle. There’s my sales pitch – contact me to talk more about your party and how I can help take the load of hosting off your shoulders so you can go out there and enjoy your event.

In the OFF season its time to re-imagine, re-use, re-purpose and re-pair our bar set up. I’m re-designing some of the pop up pub’s menu boards and Bonny Anne (The Salty Arms’ mermaid figurehead) needs a lick of paint to tidy her up. A mobile bar take some battering during the ON season and I’ve made a list of screws that need replacing, wood that needs repairing, coats of paint that need applying, kit I can create from re-purposing, and kit thats just beyond repair.

Running a business on your own is a tough game. Wearing lots of hats requires agility. You have to be able to zoom in focus with one skill set, then switch to a whole other thought process and skill set. From accounting to marketing, contracts to content to networking, goal setting to reflecting and strategising, there are  a lot fo hats. I love most of it but its easy to get overwhelmed. So this time, the autumn, the withdrawing is exceptionally valuable to me as a way to manage this overwhelm. By tidying up from the activity of the summer, and lining up the ducks for the 2024 season I’m able to stand back and reflect on my business, to get an overview of weaknesses and successes. Getting personal stuff in order too is about re-centering and re-balancing. Working intensely for 6 months of the year is draining because I don’t have the time to do the things that fill my cup. What do you do to maintain your pace?

Keeping that cup of emotional energy at a level that sustains me through intense output is really important to keep me energised. It’s the difference between walking up a hill and trying to run up a mountain. Mental wellness is something we all need to aware of, starting with our own. It’s also important to be aware of the mental health of those around us, and I’m proud to be a trustee of a charity that seeks to help organisations improve their culture around mental health provision in the workplace. Its called The Mental Health Community and you can do a short questionnaire to discover where your workplace stands here. Whether you’re a sole trader or a business leader we can all create a better, more open and more accepting culture around mental health.

Before the 2024 season of Eats Boutique pop up street food markets gets underway I’m off to replenish my cup with a 6 week family holiday to Australia. Its been 16 years since I was last there and its high time I went back, the time with my family in tow. We’ve got a packed itinerary of exciting outdoorsy things to do and some of my favourite people to catch up with. The Aussies really Do Food so I’m excited to get inspired on our travels. Our Eats Boutique events were prompted by a trip to France – read that story here. Who knows what I might come back with this time. See you all in 2024.

Seaton Eats, Sidmouth Eats, Axminster Eats reaches milestone of 50 events

50 events!

Seaton Eats, Sidmouth Eats, Axminster Eats reaches milestone of 50 events
Eats Boutique started in 2017 and now has 3 event series


Having started a business accidentally its more than surprising that we reached the milestone 50th event. Take a look at this article in south west industry leading publication Rise and Shine Hospitality that talks more about how it happened.