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Soul Soup: Why I started a plant-based business

Maya Clark is the founder and owner of social enterprise and vegan restaurant Soul Soup in Lewes. She shares what inspired her to start the business.

I started Soul Soup, my own business for good, a little over a year ago at the age of 25.

For someone who never got around to going to university, it’s been really inspiring to learn that a get-up-and-go-attitude is often all you need to really make a difference.

I knew I wanted a career where I could have a positive impact on the world, and Soul Soup has provided me with the opportunity to raise awareness for one of the biggest challenges facing society today – the food waste scandal.

What is Soul Soup?

Soul Soup is a plant-based social business that creates nutritious dishes using rescued produce.

Rescued produce is food that otherwise would go to landfill, so we’re actively reducing carbon emissions in the process. Soul Soup has grown rapidly and we now have two premises with a team of six, cater for events and run community cooking workshops.

It’s crazy to think that this all started as a dream a few years ago when I started watching harrowing documentaries about climate change and decided to become vegan. 

Adopting a plant-based diet

More and more research is showing that adopting a plant-based diet can significantly reduce your carbon footprint, as well as providing enormous health benefits.

As for food waste, roughly one-third of all food produced ends up in landfill, which of course represents a huge loss of increasingly scarce resources. The scale of the problem means that if food waste was a country it would be the third-highest emitter of carbon emissions worldwide, coming just after the US and China. 

Finding a gap in the market

I saw that we desperately need affordable, sustainable plant-based food across the world.

Even though I did plenty of research before starting out, the sheer quality of the produce we’ve been able to intercept at Soul Soup has shocked me – it truly defies belief. Forget what you think you know about food waste; there’s so much more to it than wonky veg and best-before dates.

We work with organisations FareShare and UK Harvest to intercept food from major supermarkets and their farms in the UK, as well as partnering with allotments and independent businesses in the area.

Every week we rescue big quantities of fresh, fantastic quality fruit and veg, as well as everything from cashews to vegan cheese. My favourite part of the job is definitely getting inspired by the produce we rescue and creating new dishes.

My advice to you

If I was to give an aspiring entrepreneur advice, it would probably be the very cliché that I myself originally fobbed off for so long! It’s not complicated and there’s no secret to it. No matter what your idea, all you have to do is just start somewhere.

Most likely you won’t start off exactly how you envisaged your business or project but that doesn’t matter, once you’ve started on the journey you are far more likely to get there.

My first step was going to an international networking event and talking with a few people about my dream. That evening I emailed the organisers and proposed I cater for their next event. I evidently really like a challenge because catering for the next event of 350 people was the start of Soul Soup!

I built Soul Soup on my breaks and days off from my full-time chef job at the time and ran a successful crowdfunding campaign for £3,000 to help us get started. Seven months later, we opened our first premise.

I have been blown away by our customers’ support and the support of other local entrepreneurs- if you are reading this and would like to learn more please feel free to get in touch! 


Charlotte Harding
Charlotte Harding
Charlotte is a journalist and the co-founder of The Women's Work Collective.


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