Before coming to The Prince’s Trust, and after graduating from university, Ed took a job in recruitment, following a path many of his friends were embarking on. However, the job was not what Ed had wanted for himself, and in 2013 he made the decision to start a career change.
“I felt like I was doing the job just for the sake of it, and that there must be more to life than what I was doing. I’d always felt that I wanted to do something I was really proud of, but I couldn’t see that in the future of the role.”
Leaving his job was a big decision, but it was made easier by an opportunity to play rugby in Argentina. While Ed was there, he started to think about what he really wanted to do.
“I have always been interested in food, my family worked in agriculture and were involved in rural life. While in Argentina, I became increasingly aware that all the food shops were stocked by locally sourced food. This felt in stark contrast to the UK where not only do we import the majority of our food, we actually bring in more than we eat.”
Ed saw this as a big opportunity. Back in the UK, he researched how food outlets were developed and how they were sourcing their produce.
“I discovered only 1% of the food farmed in each county, remains in the county to be eaten.”
During this period, Ed was working as a gardener 2-3 days a week and having decided to set up an outlet that sold locally sourced food, building something on a high street was beyond what he could afford.
“Ease and accessibility is a big reason why people don’t buy locally sourced produce – it’s easier to go to a supermarket chain. But if I could bring the food to them, what could be more accessible than that? This is how the idea of The Sussex Peasant – a mobile farm shop – came about.”
While working as a gardener, he came across a horsebox for sale which was the beginning for his idea. He bought it for £1,000 and paid the previous owner in six monthly instalments from the money he earnt from gardening. With the remaining days of his week, he restored the truck.
“Once I’d built the truck, there were costs I couldn’t afford – fridge, batteries, electricity – and I felt like I was delaying the development of the business as I couldn’t make enough through gardening to pay for everything I needed.
“I went to banks to apply for loans but no one had any interest in the project, banks did not want to lend me money because I wasn’t earning enough through gardening.”
A family friend then recommended The Prince’s Trust as a place to go to apply for business funding.
“The Enterprise course was crucial to the development of The Sussex Peasant. I received a loan from The Trust which enabled me to really get started with the business. Having a mentor was also helpful – being able to rely on and pool all the experience of everyone at The Trust was invaluable.”
One year on, The Sussex Peasant is going from strength to strength, working with a network of Sussex farmers, bringing quality local produce direct to customers. Ed works full time, with three members of part-time staff working between 2 and 4 days a week. The Sussex Peasant has since been nominated for a BBC Food and Farming Award and in summer 2018, plans to open its second truck.
“Fundamentally, the quality of The Prince’s Trust is its ability to believe and understand every individual case. They believed in my business and my idea where others had turned me away and for that I am grateful.”