I am now able to run my business full time. I make most of my income through workshops and 1:1 foraging sessions and I mainly work for myself but also freelance for some outdoor dining and adventure companies. I also work with some online brands to bring in some extra income.
My advice to someone interested in starting their own business would be to learn as much as you can about marketing!
When I decided I wanted to run foraging walks full time, I got a job as a market exec for a year, while running my foraging walks at weekends. It was an office job and although my bosses and co-workers were the loveliest people you can imagine, it was pretty horrible.
But it was so worth it. Being able to market my business has helped me connect with as many people as possible and has been key to helping my business grow.
There are so many people offering amazing products and services out there, but they just aren’t being seen by enough people.
Also just go for it! So many people have ideas and dreams and they don’t lean into them because they’re worried it’s not safe or sensible.
But, we live in a pretty unstable economy anyway, even with a steady job working for a big company, you never know where you might end up. Why not give it a go?
I still just use my iPhone 8 for photography and video content creation at the moment. I have used a Canon M50 for some Youtube videos but I prefer to use my phone. For someone starting out, I’d say don’t worry about spending money on kit. You don’t want blurry photos and bad quality videos but a decent phone and a tripod (if you’re filming yourself) will do.
I think people on social media love seeing a regular person doing what they love. It doesn’t need to look shiny and polished, as long as you’re delivering quality content that helps people achieve or learn something, you’ll be golden.
Connecting through nature
“Foraging is not only a way to utilise the free food and medicine that grows around us, but it’s also an activity that’s beneficial for mental health and wellbeing.”
My main aim is to help bring people closer to nature through foraging. It’s important to me that my business is real and authentic, that it helps people step away from their phones and make a real connection to the world around them, to their families and to their communities.
I would love to build an outdoor community centre where people can come and learn about foraging and other slow living and outdoor crafts. It would have a little forest school for children, a community kitchen and a camping area. We’ll have traditional festivals for the community and make the most of all the food that goes to waste around us. I would also love to build an online community which provides the same results to people outside of Sussex and create resources for people to learn how to forage. Whether it be books or activity boxes.
It’s also important to me to make foraging really accessible. Foraging is not only a way to utilise the free food and medicine that grows around us, but it’s also an activity that’s beneficial for mental health and wellbeing. It shouldn’t be reserved for white middle-class people. I’d love to see more diversity in foraging and to be able to bring foraging to people who need it and would benefit from it most by working with local charities and food waste projects.
I think foraging could definitely become mainstream. I have considered whether that might cause disruption to wildlife and our wild spaces, but having experienced the shift in peoples’ way of looking at nature after getting into foraging, I don’t think it would be a problem.
Foraging isn’t about grabbing what you can from the countryside to make a huge feast for you and your family. It’s about forming a connection to the wild plants around you. Learning their histories and their uses and taking a little here and there to add into a dish. The more people learn about wild plants, the more they value them and want to protect them.
Also, foraging for food in today's world is really about adding little foraged additions to your regular meals, rather than to create a whole dish out of wild ingredients, which would be completely unsustainable and unrealistic for so many people. Wild foods are much more nutrient dense than shop bought foods, so even a handful of nettle (which thrives from being cut back and grows back more densely) is an amazing way to get foraged foods into your diet!
I think connecting people to nature in today’s world is imperative. Rates of depressions and suicide are out of control and we can see strong links between this and the rise of social media. (It might seem a little counter-intuitive for me to say this, seeing as I use social media as a platform to spread the foraging message, but it’s a means to an end.)
In Japan, doctors even prescribe forest bathing to those who are stressed and overworked. We’re so out of touch with where our food comes from and how to live in a sustainable manner, as part of the natural world, I think any activity that can bridge this gap is a wonderful thing.
We’re facing a huge natural crisis, such as from global warming and melting of the ice caps, because we are fast becoming a world full of consumers. Taking time in nature helps you realise what’s important and the more mainstream activities like foraging and forest bathing become, the more we will begin to nurture the wild spaces around us and heal the planet in general.
In 2020, like most people running a business, I’ve found lockdown to be the biggest challenge! Although it has given me some time to focus on producing online content (which has been great) I can’t wait to get back out with my foraging groups. When I'm feeling the pressure to produce high quality content regularly, I try to remind myself that it’s what I’ve chosen to do. When you start viewing what you’re doing as ‘work’, it can quickly begin to feel laborious and stressful.
“Don’t take things personally, and remember that you are there to grow and to learn. You will always make mistakes and people will call you out on them, but that’s okay! You’re only human.”
But at the end of the day, I’m filming myself doing what I love. I guess it’s mindfulness in action. You have to watch your thoughts and steer them in a positive direction. Sometimes I would rather be doing something else, but I’m pretty lucky that this is what I get to do.
My advice to someone considering becoming a content creator and/or social influencer is to remember that your online presence is not you, or is not the entirety of who you are.
Don’t take things personally, and remember that you are there to grow and to learn. You will always make mistakes and people will call you out on them, but that’s okay! You’re only human.
Also, it’s so very important to take a social media ‘detox’ now and then. It’s proven that social media isn’t good for your brain. Don’t make it your world, instead use it as a tool. Make sure you have a life outside of social media which is infinitely more valuable to you than your online life!
There are two things that make me feel really proud. One is when parents tell me they watch my foraging videos with their kids and they think that I am a good role model - so heartwarming! The second is when I feel a sense of community in my foraging groups. I love seeing a group go from a little gathering of strangers, feeling slightly awkward in each others company, to a happy community of foragers, sitting around the campfire, chatting about the things they have learnt, sharing food and exchanging numbers.
The support of my community and the support of my family and friends have been so important on my journey. In the early days, my friends and my Mum would come along to workshops and help me cook over the fire for guests, which was the only reason the food wasn’t burnt to a crisp!
My community has been beyond amazing too. I have incredible people who attend workshop after workshop, who spread the word about my business and who allow me to use their land and advertising spaces because they love what I do. I have been incredibly privileged and am eternally grateful for all the support I’ve received.
There’s one moment I quite often come back to. I had a young man come along to a mushroom hunting workshop with his son a few years ago. The Dad looked pretty overwhelmed and tired and quietly took me aside before the workshop and apologised in advance for his son's behaviour. He explained he had ADHD and wouldn’t be able to focus. He assured me that if he was being too disruptive, he would take him home.
“Now, I feel much more balanced. I take time to live slowly and tune into nature, but I’m also more focused and goal orientated which has allowed me to do what I love for a living.”
Granted, the boy was pretty outrageous and loud but my god, he was amazing at finding mushrooms! He spent the whole workshop diving under the thorniest thickets of brambles and returning with huge penny buns.
At the end of the mushroom hunt, just before we were going to head back to camp and cook up our finds, he shouted ‘THERE’S ONE!’ and pointed at a prize oyster mushroom high up on the side of a beech tree, perfect but surely unattainable. Before we knew it, he scaled the tree like an expert climber and threw the mushroom down to his Dad. He came down the tree to a huge cheer from the group and added his prize to the basket (which was pretty much full of his finds). He was definitely the man of the hour and almost single-handedly fed a group of almost 12 adults!
It was so special to see the Dads’ and the boys’ faces glowing with pride by the end of the workshop. They seemed a little closer. I had an email a few weeks later from the Dad, telling me that his son had asked to go out mushrooms hunting again and he thought it would be their new favourite father-son activity.
I’ve had to change a fair bit since deciding I wanted to run my own business full time. I’m a firm believer that a change in your situation has to start with a change in your mindset. A few years ago I was pretty non-committal, flaky and particularly bad at making myself do anything I didn’t want to do. I loved foraging but just wouldn’t have been able to turn it into a viable business. I read a lot of self development books, worked on my goals and habits and started getting into cold showers and meditation. It was probably quite strange from my friends and families perspective but it was really important for me.
Now, I feel much more balanced. I take time to live slowly and tune into nature, but I’m also more focused and goal orientated which has allowed me to do what I love for a living.