Interview with Nourish Founder, Sarah Martin
Day 6 in our countdown to Christmas featured micro businesses round up! Today, we’re talking to Sarah Martin who owns two zero waste grocery shops. Running her business was quite the change of direction from a 15 year career in teaching! In a year that has seen a whole host of challenges (particularly for bricks and mortar retailers) we were keen to find out from Sarah how she’s adapted and what she’s loving the most about building her zero waste business.
We're always thrilled to see eco friendly businesses featured here. And Nourish is a brilliant one, bringing zero waste grocery shopping to two areas and helping people cut their waste and shop in a more planet friendly way.
Over to you, Sarah.
In a nutshell, what do you do?
I own two award-winning zero-waste shops in Topsham and Magdalen Road, Exeter.
Who do you run the business with?
I have an equity partner, Stavros Stratas. He does not have any involvement in day to day operation of the business.
What makes you different to competitors?
Nourish Zero Waste began as a packaging-free, zero waste provisions store in Topsham, Devon, providing an eco-friendly shopping experience with top quality products.
- The business model is based on 4 main principles:
No plastic packaging – food is displayed in bulk and customers use their own containers or paper bags.
- No fixed amounts – customers are able to buy as much, or as little as they need.
- Ethical sourcing – products are sourced form environmentally friendly and ethical companies with transparent supply chains.
- Local products – there is a focus on products sourced or made locally.
What inspired you to start Nourish?
After 15 years of teaching science and a spell as Assistant Head, I took a year out to study for an MBA with the intention of returning to teaching.
The sustainability and entrepreneurial focus of the MBA programme rekindled a passion for working towards a more sustainable future so I decided to start my own business in this sector.
2020: What a year! How have you coped through Covid?
During the first lockdown both shops were closed. I became actively involved in webinars and Zoom meetings to continue bringing our promotion of zero waste shopping plus the need for businesses to be mindful of the environment as they reopened.
I used the time to create a new website which provides a better showcase for Nourish, including a downloadable PDF of products.
Not long after reopening I implemented a campaign ‘All You Need is Local’ with four neighbouring independent businesses to reward cyclists visiting us by way of discounts or additional points on reward cards.
Business has picked up really well, we have remained open during the second lockdown and now offer click and collect to help customers, especially our more vulnerable ones, feel safe.
What do you love the most about running Nourish?
My customers! They are so passionate about making changes to help secure a better future for their children and grandchildren.
The best thing about this kind of shopping experience is that it allows for wide ranging conversations – I have learned so much from listening to my customers’ stories, experiences and knowledge.
What are the biggest challenges you face in your business?
The ongoing challenge to convince people that shopping packaging free is not expensive or elitist.
My incredible team and I work very hard to make sure that the shop is welcoming, friendly and fun.
Our customers are pleasantly surprised when they realise that their shopping is actually cheaper than they expect, and that we don’t expect them to be experts on saving the environment.
What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to anyone considering ditching the day job and starting a business?
Don’t underestimate the power of working with other independent businesses. Over lockdown the pulling together of small independents has been uplifting, empowering and has meant more of us are able to keep going through these extremely difficult circumstances.
Learn More About Nourish