Experts by Experience: Profiles of entrepreneurs at different stages on their journeys, identifying and sharing some universal truths along the way.
We’re sitting in a busy coffee shop in central Cambridge [declared interest – my daughter works there, but no free drinks I’m sorry to say]. I resist the temptation to devour the rest of my chocolate chip cookie sitting enticingly in front of me as I learn about healthy eating, and much more, from Amanda Keel.
Amanda has cooked up FullSpoon – an enterprise which aims to show different, mostly vulnerable, groups across Cambridgeshire how to prepare healthy low-cost meals for themselves and their families. Two groups with whom Amanda is currently sharing her expertise are young families and adults with learning difficulties and disabilities.
The parents are involved with their under-fives – the children learn where food comes from and the parents learn to cook. Amanda explains that some of the young mums come out of school with just basic domestic science. “They may not even know how to peel a potato – but they’re keen to learn.” I innocently ask if dads are welcome…“Some get involved, but they tend to take over!”
We talk about the role of cafes in providing work experience for adults with learning difficulties. “All the adults I work with would be capable of working in cafes” says Amanda. “They like being involved with other people – so often they’re isolated, and it makes them visible.” It’s then Amanda alludes to FullSpoon’s ‘unique selling point’.
“The learners really get involved and like being part of the group. This is the important thing about FullSpoon – it’s not just about cooking skills, healthy eating, health and hygiene, and budgeting, it’s also about sitting down as a group and eating together.”
I say this reminds me of the slow food movement which originated in Italy – growing, preparing and eating slowly to savour the flavour and increase the pleasure. Amanda is quick to point out that time is one thing she doesn’t have. “Which means many of my recipes are like healthy take-aways!”
While food is a part of childhood for all of us, for Amanda is was even more ever-present. “I grew up surrounded by food because my dad was a chef. We lived in hotels and restaurants and pubs – they were my earliest memories. I now see food as a springboard – it’s easy, everyone loves it, gets passionate about it. It’s a starting point, from cooking and eating to other learning – English [Amanda is trained as an English language teacher] Maths, Science.”
Thinking of her own experience, Amanda’s advice to others starting a business is to stick with it. “You’ll have a huge idea at the start, with blurred surroundings so you can’t see how to get to destination. But be guided by your achievements and successes.”
Amanda assures me she has a destination and a map (her business plan) – but there’s so much need and work to be done and so little time to digest all the ideas [including ‘helpful suggestions’ from people like me] it can be daunting.
She tells me there are lots of other groups she’d like be working with, including older people. I mention my personal interest in the wellbeing of older men (a focus for my own enterprise development) and I’m delighted to hear that Amanda has classes for men who have lost their wives and know relatively little about cooking.
We finish by talking about food waste and so, as Amanda leaves to fight her way out of Cambridge, I sneak the remainder of the chocolate chip cookie into my mouth. I hope no one is watching and promise myself a run later that evening.
To find out more about FullSpoon, contact Amanda at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call her on 01223 926221
Amanda is in the 2013-14 cohort of learners with the School for Social Entrepreneurs on
the Lloyds Bank Social Entrepreneurs Programme at the Eastern Enterprise Hub in