Run a shop
Since Organic and Natural opened around the corner from my house about two years ago, it has made a big difference to my life as well as countless others in the neighbourhood. Abdullah Solak is the entrepreneur behind the idea. He spotted a growing appetite for organic goods in Palm 2, the supermarket which he’s been running for 14 years on the Lower Clapton Road. So, when a friend who was running a Turkish men’s club in the site that is now Organic and Natural told him he was struggling, Abdullah saw an opportunity to expand his business and took over the lease.
When it first opened in August 2006 the shop stocked little more than a few dried goods and some cosmetics. On the counter was a box asking for suggestions and Abdullah, and his assistant Miranda, who runs the business day to day, have listened very carefully. Now, the shop is packed with delicious organic goods and fresh vegetables, there’s fresh bread daily, you can refill your Ecover goods, buy green nappies and even have an organic cappuccino.
Although the profits aren’t huge, Abdullah believes they will come and is happy to be patient. Palm 2 took a year or so to get going and is now hugely profitable. Organic and Natural is making money slowly but Abdullah is delighted with the other positive effects he is seeing from the business. “All my family eat better since we’ve opened this shop”, he tells me. He even connects his brother giving up smoking with his business. “The customers are really friendly” and don’t make trouble unlike some of the clientèle of his other shop, which he adds, sells a lot of alcohol.
I love the genuine and unpretentious nature of this business. When I asked Abdullah what the philosophy of his business was and how they decided what to stock, he said that he trusted his customers to tell him what to sell. At the same time, simple touches like using energy saving lightbulbs in the shop, recycling fridges and shop furniture, collecting used carrier bags and offering them to customers rather than new ones, make the whole operation seem to be concerned with protecting the environment. They also do their best to undercut the competition on prices, rather than trying to milk as much as they can out of ethically minded consumers. I really do love this shop!
What’s the message for others who want to make a difference like this? It’s not a way to make fast money but Organic and Natural is helping many people to live healthier, more environmentally responsible lives and because of this, it’s very rewarding for those in charge.