Like so many people, Julia Kirby-Smith found herself taking a blow from left-field midway through the pandemic, but used the momentum to set up the truly great Fridge of Plenty!
An urban farm shop in the heart of Crouch End, not only do the FoP team stock some of the finest produce we’ve laid eyes on, they also run the company on profit-for-purpose principles. They require all decisions to balance profit with people and the planet, have a pay ratio policy and offer employees ownership through shares. They also minimise food waste and donate all unsold food to local people in need. This is our kind of company.
How did you start with your business / how did you come to work with them?
I had an insane 4 months at the start of last year, just as the pandemic was starting. I had been working as a News Editor and Producer at Channel 4 News before being headhunted to a tech start-up just before Lockdown I began.
I worked myself to the bone for the company I'd just joined, whilst also home-schooling two small kids - and then 4 months later got told my entire team was being made redundant. I felt burnt out, deflated and very anxious about the future.
I'm a Trustee of the campaign group Feedback, which works to create a better food system, and I have always loved growing, cooking and eating good food - so I started to think that maybe a career change was needed and it should involve food and retail. It was after the summer in the countryside in Kent that I got the inspiration to start an urban farm shop, with the focus being on locally-sourced, seasonal and sustainable food.
What do you think your biggest learnings have been with the store so far?
We opened our shop in December last year, and it has been a rather *interesting* time – a Christmas opening, January lockdown, lots of home deliveries, gradual opening up of the high street, and now all of the competition from cafes and restaurants. Lots of ups and downs!
The main thing I've learnt is to try and take the long view, not to get too stressed by the small things, to listen to advice, and to put your customers first, always.
How have you and the business had to flex with COVID? What does post-lockdown look like for you?
Post-lockdown we're pleased to be shifting the focus to the shop rather than online and delivery (although we always wanted to do both and will continue to offer veg boxes, local deliveries and a weekly shop service).
We're looking forward to doing tastings and events in the shop, and evangelising about all of the locally-made products and fantastic producers we know. Hopefully Cheese and Wine nights are exactly what people are after in a post-lockdown world!
Where did you first come across H&H? What made you choose to stock H&H?
I did a research trip to Spa Terminus and read about H&H before I went. I spent the day tasting jams, cheeses, charcuterie and beer - then ended up at the doors of H&H. It was clear that you have a passion for quality, provenance and sustainability, and I like that fact it's a female-led business.
What's your personal favourite H&H product?
This might be a bit left-field but I love the Organic Bran Sticks. It reminds me of eating All-Bran when I was little, but it's even more delicious.
What other products from the shop do you think people should know about?
Too many to say! Wildes Cheese made in Tottenham because it's delicious cheese and super-local, Toast Ale because it's made using surplus bread and it's really good beer, and all of the jams, chutneys, kimchis and sauces made by independent producers within a mile of our shop.
What goes into your selection of products for your store?
Our core values are Local, Seasonal and Sustainable so all products have to tick at least one of those boxes - and preferably all three.
What are you currently excited about?
Growing our customer base in Crouch End and North London - and getting people to think about where their food comes from, and who has made it.
I hope that in 2021 people in London start to celebrate and take pride in the fact we have so much high-quality, delicious food being made on our doorstep, which doesn't require huge food miles or damaging industrial-scale farming and production methods.
What do you wish you could have told yourself this time last year?
Working for yourself is great and the food industry is full of lovely people!