Supporting local businesses during COVID-19: Interview with Mattia, from Marvellous Greens and Beans
Marvellous Greens and Beans is based in Honor Oak and has already become a firm favourite with locals. We caught up with Mattia, one of the founders, to discuss the highs and lows of running a business during the pandemic, what support they’ve received from the Council, as well as their plans for Christmas and beyond.
What inspired you to set up a business during the pandemic?
We had always talked about starting a business together. The opportunity came up at the start of the pandemic when Mat and Berouz, who both worked in the hospitality industry at the time, lost their jobs. It gave us the push we needed. We were really keen to do something that was fulfilling for us all while also being “pandemic-proof” and although none of us had any retail experience we kept coming back to the idea of a greengrocers. Every community needs a place to get good quality fresh fruit and veg, doesn’t it? It’s an essential business. There wasn’t anything like that in Honor Oak. That’s why we started Marvellous Greens and Beans.
What is Marvellous Greens and Beans?
We are a fruit and veg shop and delivery service based on Brockley Rise. We’ve tried our best to create a friendly local hub where you can buy the freshest seasonal produce and grab a great coffee at the same time. Provenance is such an important part of it. Our produce is locally sourced. We know and have really good relationships with all our growers. Often we are on a farm in the morning while the produce is being picked and by the afternoon it’s being sold in our shop. It’s so fresh and we’re proud of that. It’s like we bring a little slice of the countryside back with us to South East London.
How has the pandemic affected your business?
I’d say there have been both positives and negatives to come out of it for us. It’s probably made our supply chain more complicated than it might otherwise have been. At the end of the day, our suppliers are human beings who have all had their own struggles since the pandemic hit - both personal and professional. Obviously this has a knock on effect with there being delays and bottle necks. Worse still, some of our suppliers have had to stop trading which is really sad.
There have definitely been positives too though. The pandemic has given us a really good opportunity to connect more closely with the local community. For example, during lockdown, while we were out doing our fruit and veg deliveries we also picked up and dropped off prescriptions and groceries for customers who were either having to isolate or shield. It meant we got to know people much better.
Any tips for adapting a business during COVID-19?
We started our business during the first lockdown so having a delivery service which meant that, come what may, we could continue to serve our customers was always a no-brainer. But beyond that, we are here for the community. It sounds a bit disingenuous because, yes, we are a business but in all honesty it’s never been about massive profits for us. We know full well our success is down to the phenomenal support of the local community and so every opportunity we have to give something back, that’s what we do. It doesn’t always have to be about grand gestures. It’s the little things sometimes. We put out a basket of fresh fruit during the school run each day and encourage school children to help themselves to it, for free. It’s very popular with primary-aged kids and their parents. And we are starting to make progress with older, secondary-aged kids too.
How has the Council supported you during the pandemic?
They gave us loads of help and advice while we were trying to set up the business, including helping us identify the right space so we are really grateful to them for that. The Shop Local tote bag initiative during the Spring was really feelgood and extremely popular with our customers as well. But I think probably the cherry on the top was being nominated for a Mayor’s business awards. Community is so strong around here and we love being a part of it and have really thrown ourselves into it. We don’t expect to receive any special recognition for it so to have people put us forward was a huge honour.
What are your plans in the run-up to Christmas and for the New Year?
It’s all about fulfilling those Christmas orders at the moment. We had a pre-orders system last year which worked really well so we're doing it again this year. Customers have already filled in their order forms and we’ll have their food ready to collect on 23rd December so we’re very busy with that.
Looking slightly further ahead to next year, we’ll be thinking more about our community outreach projects and are in conversations with lots of local primary schools about becoming part of their healthy eating programmes. We are currently partnering with Dulwich Hamlets FC on a healthy eating initiative and so are looking into the possibility of supporting local children’s football teams too. Watch this space.