Alex Beer admits she initially had some trepidation about turning her local farm shop into Feed the Soul – a health food shop and café. The 27-year-old says: “The first day we opened I was really worried this was the worst idea of my life.”
Her 24-year-old brother Nick, who co-owns the business, adds: “Opening a vegan restaurant in the middle of the traditional Dorset countryside did feel like a bit of a risk. The first three months were terrifying but the locals were just so supportive.”
Two years on, the duo say Feed the Soul has gone from strength to strength. Situated just outside the village of Godmanstone, around five miles from Dorchester, it has earned a loyal local following and is also becoming a destination for people from further afield seeking out fresh, organic, plant-based food.
The concept behind Feed the Soul is a blend of Alex’s passion for and knowledge of unprocessed, natural food, and Nick’s enthusiasm for local produce and fine coffee. Alex and Nick grew up in nearby Charminster and both have a background in hospitality. A trained chef, Alex had recently honed her skills in Sydney, Australia, and Nick was working for a coffee roasting company when the pair began running a food stall in towns across the South West.
That was when they were approached by the owners of the organic farm shop, which the family frequented. When they were presented with the opportunity of taking it over for their own business venture on the site of Green Valley Yurts, they had to move quickly.
Alex says: “We went on a really long dog walk and thought ‘Let’s just do it. What’s the worst that could happen? We can be really creative and do whatever we want to do’. So we did. We only had two or three weeks to get in the kitchen, decorate the place and organise suppliers.
“We set up the business at just the right time. There’s such a change in how people are eating these days. It’s nice to see so many people passionate about what we do.
“All our food is organic and plant based. We use the most natural and purest ingredients in everything and we make it all from scratch. We put a lot of time, effort and love into everything we make, which I think does show.”
Nick adds: “Lots of our customers like their traditional meat and veg and love cheeses and breads which is great because we’ve got lots on offer in the shop. If anyone comes into the café to try our food, we like to think it’s tasty for everyone.”
Alongside the café area, the shop stocks fruit, vegetables and eggs from local suppliers as well as health food products. It includes Feed the Soul’s own growing range of nut butters, granola, chocolates and fermented products. Nick, who focuses on the shop, has plans to grow Feed the Soul’s product lines to supply local shops and cafés
The pair say that family support has been crucial to them in setting up their first business at such a young age. They have also benefited from ongoing advice from Cornish Mutual, who have insured Feed the Soul from the start.
Alex says: “The whole experience of dealing with Cornish Mutual has been really easy. I didn’t know anything about insurance when we set up but they made the process really straightforward and were very clear about what insurance we needed. They’re really lovely, honest people and are very supportive of small, independent businesses, so we feel like we’re getting that one-to-one attention. I also really like the fact they’re a mutual, so we’re not dealing with a huge corporation.”
Cornish Mutual Field Force Advisor Nick Bunting says: “Alex and Nick are genuinely so passionate about what they do. They are extremely knowledgeable about what they sell and are really excited by what they are doing. They have ambitions to grow, but for all the right reasons; because they really believe in everything they produce. They deserve every success.”
With the café and shop now well established, Feed the Soul runs a monthly supper club as well as events, such as hosting performances from local singers, yoga courses and food workshops. Nick and Alex now have a vision to take the ‘earth to plate’ concept a stage further by using a patch of land behind the shop to grow their own produce.
Alex explains: “Our number one plan is to start growing here on this land so we can bring more of that element of being super local, which I think should be more celebrated.”
Nick says: “I think people can see we’re doing everything on a small scale, preparing everything fresh and they really appreciate that. There’s a lot of produce today that’s mass produced on such a large scale. The idea behind Feed the Soul has always been to go back to our roots, making everything homemade and full of life and energy. That one little seed of an idea has grown into a thousand possibilities.”