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.

the Seaton Chamber logo shows the white chalk cliffs, red sandstone and blue Iias rock that make up the Jurassic coast. Only in Seaton can all 3 rock types be seen together. The logo exemplifies hit s in its colours, and represents Seaton Devon's independent businesses and community.

Breaking news: the Seaton Chamber has re-formed

Having accidentally started up a business in my local town, its opened my eyes to the economic tensions that exists in our seaside and rural communities. And its time to do something about it.

the Seaton Chamber logo shows the white chalk cliffs, red sandstone and blue Iias rock that make up the Jurassic coast. Only in Seaton can all 3 rock types be seen together. The logo exemplifies hit s in its colours, and represents Seaton Devon's independent businesses and community.
the Seaton Chamber logo shows the white chalk cliffs, red sandstone and blue Iias rock that make up the Jurassic coast. Only in Seaton can all 3 rock types be seen together. The logo exemplifies the unity of this town and unique identity on the UNESCO World Heritage site Jurassic coast.

Seaton gets forgotten about because its on the edge – of a constituency, of the county, of the district, and of the land itself. We like that very much about Seaton (so did Jack Rattenbury our notorious local pirate) but there’s being left alone, and there’s being ignored.

Decline in small towns and rural communities is happening across the land thanks to the last 20 years of national and global political currents. Without balance the life blood slows and our communities stagnate. Seaton has suffered as times change. A way of life expired and the town’s potential got buried. Absolutely everything has a part to play in creating thriving towns and its time to uncover it. So a small group of forward thinking business owners, including yours truly, got together to resurrect the Seaton Chamber of Commerce. to make Seaton shine again, in a way thats fits 21st century expectations.

Seaton Chamber reformed because: 

  • there are people who are motivated to make Seaton realise its potential
  • things happen when people work together
  • councils are cash strapped
  • We’ve decided that we want to shape our town to be the place we want to live
  • No one else is going to do it.

So far we have:

  • set up a new organisation with an exec committee of 15, an updated constitution, registered our CIC legal status, designed a new logo and set up a social media presence.
  • supported local business by voicing concern to Aldi, to school bus companies, safeguarding Seaton Eats 2023 and organising a workshop to upskill business owners.
  • supported community by opening the Community Fridge in the library, creating a plan to enhance the Grizzly weekend, and driving forward plans for a cycle route to Axmsinter.
  • thought about the future by surveying visitors and shop owners, preparing better and more resilient communications to visitors, and launching the Shipshape Festival for April 2024.
  • and already activated big projects for everyone’s benefit – namely the asset transfer of 2 public toilet facilities in the town that have been permanently closed.

Pretty impressive list so far!

In all the communities in which we pop up with Eats Boutique there are incredible groups f people driving positive change: Vision Group for Sidmouth, Light Up Axminster, Love Lyme Regis, to name just a few, plus their Chambers of Commerce. So here’s a big shout out to all these people who give their time freely and willingly to make our communities better and stronger.

If you’d like to keep up with Seaton’s rejuvenation then follow us on social channels:

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.

sunset street food markets

Hello 2023

sunset street food markets

Hey we’ve got exciting things going down here at HQ. This time of year is all about planning and I’m sitting here at my computer wrapped in layers and dreaming of summer. Its a mixed bag of looking forward to it because then I’ll be waaaaarm… but also knowing that I’ll be working my socks off to keep up with ordering stock, posting content, washing cups, keeping the trailer in order, keeping my house in some semblance of order and trying to cook dinner for feeding time at the zoo (in other words, my family).

January and February becomes the time to lay the seeds, and as every good farmer knows, good soil makes better crops. Like the soil I need a rest, so its time to catch up with friends and family and films and books and fitness. I also start to negotiate contracts with landowners and pitches with traders. I think about the menu at the pop up pub The Salty Arms, I think about what kind of support and staffing I’ll need. I think about what tech we’re gong to need, and I think about how I’m going to advertise the events.

So although its resting time its thinking time too. What I’m saying is that even as a small business that has only summer events, I am in fact working all year round. Right now I’m negotiating and setting dates, trying to get an overview the year ahead.

Seaton Food festival

Sum up 2022

We found our mojo

Seaton Food festival
Chrissie, like us, found their mojo at our 2022 events

The sun beat down on us as we set up.
And the people came.

Our street food markets were brilliant, and thats all thanks to YOU.

The Slow Season, the winter, affords me the opportunity to see how far Eats Boutique has travelled since we started in 2015. Come with me and take a moment to recognise our achievements…. and that collaboration has been the name of the game for 2022.

So lets have a look …..

Jubilee Friday feee cocktail
Dubbonet and gin - an aperitif with royal connections

We celebrated the Queen’s platinum Jubilee at Seaton Eats in June with a free cocktail! All those lovely folks on my email list received a voucher and we gave away more than 20 of her favourite cocktail – Gin and Dubonnet. Everyone of course was able to share in this interesting aperitif because they were for sale too. Did you know, an aperitif is a pre dinner drink intended to stimulate your appetite. Well, it certainly stimulated a few things on that June evening because we were super busy and the weekend of celebrations started with us.

In July we launched our our pop up pub The Salty Arms. I needed to revamp our resident mobile bar and to get there I found Chris from the Beer Mens’ Shed. These chaps designed a fascia board to an exacting brief – it had to be light, easy to load into the trailer and easy to put together, but sturdy so that it wasn’t going t be a health and safety risk. They did a brilliant job. With the structure in place it was up to me to paint the name and create mermaid figure head to steer our ship.

The Beer Mens Shed fascia project
The Beers Mens' shed made the fascia board structure
our competition winner collects his Mermaid gin
This chap entered our competition to name our mermaid, and came away with a whole bottle of Mermaid gin for doing so. Well done Alex!

Check out this video of how I made a mermaid- again it had to be lightweight, rain proof and sturdy enough to withstand the bashing about a mobile bar takes in its life. Then we had to find a name for her and more collaboration followed with our friends over at the Isle of Wight Distillery. They donated a bottle of Mermaid gin as a prize to our competition, and Bonny Anne was born (and Alex was tickled with his gin – “I never win anything” he said). We set sail in style at our July event, with a visit from the Lyme Bay Moonrakers shanty choir.

pop up food fair Axminster
Axminster Eats Boutique 2022

At the end of July we launched another project: Axminster Eats Boutique. We were delighted to make new friends (thanks for the coffees Leigh) and with the turnout. I’m pleased to say that our collaboration with Axminster Guildhall will continue into 2023 with 4 dates for Axminster Eats Boutique, taking place on the last Friday of the month.

We had a powerful moment in Axminster – click on the pic for the video. We pledge to continue our efforts to reduce our environmental impact. This year the Salty Arms stocked more locally produced drinks, and where possible we replaced bottles with cans – less weight to transport and more easily recyclable. We continue to work to improve our bins to maximise recycling.

One minute silence for Climate Emergency Day
There is no planet B. Protecting our environment is one of our priorities.

Sidmouth is lucky to have some visionary people who lead on sustainability, such as the Vision Group for Sidmouth. Another little feather in my hat for 2022 was to be asked by VGS to be a judge for their 2023 Sustainability Awards. I’ll definitely be talking more about this in 2023.

Darts Farm: the venue for the launch party
Eats Boutique for Taste East Devon festival
Vicky and Eleanor, the team at Eats Boutique attuned the launch of Taste East Devon Festival

During September Taste East Devon took place. This 2 week festival is a collection of events across the region, doing exactly what its says on the tin. It’s a chance to get to know the flavours of our region, and Sidmouth Eats Boutique was delighted to be part of the festival by honing in on the many links our events have to East Devon producers.

However with the passing of Queen Elizabeth we felt – traders, Kennaway House and me, that it was right to pause, while the nation gathered its thoughts about how best to mark this moment.

Instead we held our event in November, our first Festive Sidmouth Eats, and our 50th Eats Boutique. As a way to mark this milestone we wanted to give away more booze! This time it was Pick the Golden Paddle to win your round at the pub. This was so much fun I reckon we might run this one again…

Eats Boutique - our 50th event held at Kennaway House on 19 November.

You know, when I look back on this, phew, what a lot happened!

We got back into the swing of things after a complete stop in 2020 and tentative steps in 2021.

We celebrated Queen Elizabeth’s 70 years on the throne shortly followed by the end of her reign.

We were inspired by the sea and launched our pop up pub, The Salty Arms.

We made new friends by collaborating with organisations creating their own social impact, and producers who make amazing food and drink from the land around us.

We took our amazing event series to a new community


we celebrated a grand total of 50 Eats Boutique events.

Not too shabby.