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

Endings

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. 

Devon Women in Business award Winner Eleanor Carr Sole Trader / Freelancer of the Year 2023

Awards – is it vanity to nominate yourself for an award?

You are putting your self forward for recognition, highlighting successes and celebrating your achievements. You create an application that consolidates your work and lays out a plan going forward. 

Heck – that’s not vanity. That’s what the employed might call an annual appraisal. And winning that award might just be your annual bonus. 

Last autumn I was delighted to be shortlisted for the Devon Women in Business Sole Trader of the Year Award, and bowled over to receive Winner at the awards ceremony in November. It was a little prompt to friends, colleagues and customers for an outpouring of commendation that has been truly humbling. And with the start of 2024 I have revisited my DWIB application to remind myself what goals I laid out for this year – a useful little nudge. 

When you’re self employed there’s no boss to give you the pat on the back for a job well done. You don’t get the annual appraisal to discuss what went well in your performance and reflect on professional development. Instead perhaps that one hiccup that happened takes centre stage. Like many people that pesky thing called Imposter Syndrome has a habit of creeping up to tap you on the shoulder at 3am. According to a wise friend of mine our brains are hard wired to focus on problem solving – a form of survival, so its common behaviour to default to the fault. To behave then against this wiring and to instead turn our attention to the stories of success can feel like a guilty pleasure. 

Nope. I’m not falling into that trap anymore. Just like a delicious chocolate or a drink during dry January, I’m going fully enjoy the glow of achievement, relish the experience of writing the award application and use that document as a promise to myself and a road map for the next steps in my business. Is that vanity? Not in my book. 

Hitting the submit button is a little daunting I will confess, but once its done you’ve put out into the world an affirmation that what you do day to day has value. Folks will only understand the full extent of your value if there’s someone to tell the whole story. And the person best placed to tell that story is the one who’s right in the middle of it. 

Louise Jenner The Dream Coach present the award
copyright Poppy Jakes Photography
Winner logo 2023
Fellow winners at the Devon Women in Business awards 2023
Fellow winners photo credit Ed Hunt