To start off the new series of blog posts for this new website I have sent interview questions to some really wonderful people who are either making things, running shops, or generally promoting sustainability. I think you will enjoy reading their answers as much as I have, and I hope they inspire us all with the knowledge that there are people doing good in the world!
To kick us off, I have interviewed the lovely Victoria from Readymoney beach shop in Fowey, Cornwall. I came to know Victoria as she is a stockist for Wyatt and Jack, and since last summer has also become a stockist for Stellen. Running a small shop right on the beach she can see first hand the need for more emphasis on sustainability, here she talks us through some of the things that are most important to her as well as some of the great things she is doing with her shop.
How has working sustainably impacted your non-business life?
My main sustainable lifestyle change in terms of sustainability relates to fashion. At the start of 2019 I made a personal commitment to no longer buy any fast fashion, no more nipping into Primark, New Look or H&M for something I'd only wear once or twice and no more buying three tops in the same colour and style 'just because'! Emboldened by an inspirational community on Instagram, I started "shopping my wardrobe" and only buying second hand.After an initial period where I realised I'd just morphed my new clothes buying habit into an equally multitudinous second-hand clothes buying habit, I started keeping a record of what I actually wear. I use an app on my phone [called Stylebookapp] and have recently completed a full 365 days of tracking my daily outfits which has been enlightening and really helped me weed out what I like and what I just think I like. I've also started "visible mending", inspired by the Japanese embroidery style of sashiko I've been patching up those pesky holes in the crotch of my favourite jeans as well as cross-stitching motifs over those weird little holes which appear in t-shirts (caused by the washing machine?). These items have then become some of my most favourite pieces as I feel I've poured real love and effort into them.
What are you most proud of?
In my business I am most proud of our reusable cup scheme. The combination of my previous career as a personal injury solicitor, a paved area outside the shop and frequent bare footed customers made me somewhat risk averse to the usual ceramic coffee mug idea but I hated how many single use cups we would get through during busy periods. Our reusable cups are made of 100% recycled plastic and are free for customers to use. Sadly more than I would like get stolen or thrown away (I have found them in the public bins in the past!) but my lovely sponsor, Not The Norm Ltd (who make the most brilliant natural plastic free sunscreen) have helped me keep this scheme going. The scheme has been so successful that I bravely introduced a 25p cup charge for using a disposable cup as most of our customers are drinking or or around the beach anyway and this provides an incentive to use our cups instead. This has reduced our unnecessary waste enormously and is such a positive for most customers, it's so much nicer drinking your tea by the sea out of a mug with a handle!
What are your plans for the future?
I am in the process of upgrading my website and my online shop to make the business more profitable during the winter months when tourist footfall is lower. I am also going to start blogging about the local area I am so lucky to call home.
Can you recommend any other makers or businesses that work in an ethical or sustainable way?
One of my favourite's locally is my friend and fabulous jeweller Cindy Ashbridge . Cindy is an absolute genius at taking old, unworn but perhaps emotionally significant pieces of jewellery and reworking them into new pieces with a more contemporary feel. Each piece is unique and often with its own story. She's beautifully reworked a ring of mine which no longer fitted and has done some amazing transformations for other customers. Reuse and recycle at it's very best!
Have you got a particular cause or issue that you would like to raise awareness of?
I feel very strongly about the importance of adopt, don't buy practice for dogs, especially with all the various cross breed puppies so popular these days. Our beagle Frankie came to us aged 5 or 6 after a not very happy life as a stud dog on a puppy farm in Wales. He was rescued by a charity called Many Tears who specialise in rehoming puppy farm dogs and although having an 18kg slightly stinky snoring beagle sleeping on my feet at the bottom of my bed every night wasn't exactly part of my plan, I can genuinely see how happy he is with us and I'm so pleased to be able to give him that life.
What is the most challenging thing about the materials that you work with?
The customers, ha ha!! 99% of our customers are absolutely lovely, I adore chatting to them, hearing their stories and being part of their memories of this special place. 1% (and maybe that's even an overestimation) are absolute rude horrors and sadly, those are the ones which stick with you. 2020 has been a very challenging year for absolutely everyone, worldwide, but the mindset of some people "coming to Cornwall to get away from all that Covid stuff" has been mind boggling. That said, horrid customers aren't a new thing, there are always a couple of stand out shockers every year, there have just been more of them this year. Such is life in hospitality and retail though!
Take me on an imaginary tour of your workspace.
I am so lucky that my shop is right on the beach at the beautiful Readymoney Cove in Fowey. The shop itself is a very basic utilitarian concrete box dating back to the 1930s which until I converted half of the building into the shop was the beach toilets. We now maintain the remaining public toilets for general use. This rather ugly concrete box is joined onto a fabulous Grade 2 listed stone building with three iconic pointed turrets topped with scallop shaped metal shingles. Originally built as a limekiln in 1819 for the Rashleigh estate at Menabilly (the nearby grand house famously associated with author Daphne du Maurier) this imposing building now holds rather unglamourous sewage plant machinery but the views over this secluded and stunning cove really are second to none. The shop itself is clad inside with white painted timber, a bright yellow shop counter and bright yellow industrial style lights from Fowey shop Any Old Lights. The shop was designed by an interior designer friend and has a rustic industrial feel with scaffold board shelving and concrete floor. For a small space, the shop is packed with everything you could need for a family trip to the beach including buckets, spades, kids' wetsuits and a great selection of local art, cards and other gifts. Our fantastic Cornish ice-cream comes from two small scale producers and is popular all year round, even in winter! Our bespoke blend of coffee was created for us and roasted by Mevagissey Coffee, just the other side of St Austell Bay and comes in entirely zero waste reusable 2kg tubs of beans. My shop really is an extension of my home and my personality and customers regularly comment how different it feels to usual beach shops. I think this is a good thing!
Do you have a motto or quote that defines your practice?
We currently have an A-frame board up outside the shop which says "Things are different. So please be patient, be considerate, be kind and be safe. Thank you". Although this was written specifically to reflect the changes in our practice due to Covid-19 the sentiment should be one that remains even once Covid is long gone.
Do you have any advice for people trying to shop more ethically?
Instagram is your friend! Personally I find that Instagram enables you to build networks, make connections and 'find your tribe' in a way that other social media sites do not. Start following hashtags relevant to the changes you want to make and above all else, try and shop as locally as you can and support your small independent businesses.
That does a typical day look like for you?
My alarm goes off 6am to get the eldest boy up in time for his 7am train to school then get the other two boys up and out to their school just down the road. If I'm not on the rota to work that day then I will still usually be down at the shop for opening time, delivering cakes freshly baked by my friend and neighbour Fiona, delivering other stock or sorting out online orders. I will then usually do some rearranging of shelves (we seem to be adding new lines almost every day at the moment) and take some photos for social media or new products. I will inevitably end up chatting to customers, whether my loyal regulars having their morning swim or visitors with questions about the local area. This always sucks away time like some sort of vortex so by the time I get home, it's time to eat or take the dogs for a walk. Then there is always more paperwork and admin to do, sorting receipts, managing payroll, the staff rota, or general life/family admin before the first school run. Then time for a bit more paperwork or reading with the boys if I can lure them away from their devices. I swear I feed the cats about a million times a day and I do enjoy a nice little chat with our rescue hens most days. My second school run is at 5pm to collect my eldest from the station. I quite often then have to drop something back to the shop (usually that I've forgotten in the morning!) and then it's home to make dinner and parent for a bit! Kids in bed followed by social media (work and play) and finally feet up on the sofa for some Netflix and maybe some cross-stitch or crochet until my eyes start to seal over at midnight. I am not very good at doing nothing. I should do more exercise though, just need to work out how to fit that in!
What’s your favourite thing to do with your free time and why?
Recently as a family we have started walking The Saints Way, an ancient pilgrimage path leading from Padstow on the north coast to Fowey on the south coast. My husband and I used to do loads of walking before the boys came along which went out of the window once we had three small boys. However they are all now capable of managing a decent walk (powered by bags of Haribo). Our walks along the Saints Way have been lovely, with beautiful scenery and hardly any people. Hopefully our Sunday long walks will become a regular fixture, the dogs certainly appreciate them even if the children do not!
What piece of advice would you give your younger self?
Don't sweat the small stuff. And nothing has to be forever. I loved my legal career until suddenly I didn't and I'm totally fine with that.
What would be the top thing that you would change about the way we treat the planet if you could?
I wish people would think about what actually happens to their waste. Although recycling is great, I don't think it teaches any lessons about reducing waste, it just allows consumers to pass the problem on to someone else. We act as a crisp packet collection point at the shop for the Walker recycling scheme with Terracyle and I recently sent off 17.6kg of crisp packets. As great as I think the scheme is by turning this waste into new products, I don't think it encourages the reduction of unnecessary packaging waste and the 'out of sight, out of mind' approach takes over.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
Thank you for allowing me to be part of this blog. Blogging is something I'm about to start on my own website and having initially insisted that I don't actually have anything to talk about, I've realised that perhaps I do! :)
Thank you Victoria, you definitely do have a lot to talk about, I would love to read your blog!Photographs by @readymoneybeachshop