Wholefood Heaven are David and Charlotte Bailey, a husband-wife team who are cooking up a storm with their healthy street food. We first became aware of them thanks to their pitch at Whitecross Street Market, where their souped-up van consistently attracts the largest queue. And it’s easy to see why. Their now legendary Buddha Bowl is super delicious and super healthy. Then we noticed that they’d published a book. And then another!
So we decided to ask David and Charlotte about their recipe (sorry) to business success. Here’s what they told us …
Tell us about Wholefood Heaven
Our main business is high quality and lovingly made vegetarian street food for markets, events and festivals. But we’re also recipe book authors and teach vegetarian cookery classes. We started about 7 years ago.
Describe the ‘lightbulb moment’
We saw a Citroen H van parked in Notting Hill and thought it would be perfect for converting into a food truck. Next thing we’d bought one and had to come up with a plan!
What’s your typical day?
It’s never really the same! But usually involves a lot of loading and unloading vans!
Were there any pain points when starting up?
Choosing the right kind of jobs. In the early days we ended up very disheartened and a little out of pocket through mistakes such as thinking ravers would want brown rice and through putting too many resources into big events we maybe weren’t quite ready for at that time.
What’s been the high point so far?
We were so honoured when we won the People’s Choice Award for favourite food at Glastonbury and seeing our recipe books in the shops always make us feel very happy!
And what about a low point?
There was one year when it just didn’t stop raining all summer. Every event we went to was a total bog and it was very depressing – but we just hung in there and ended up with a lot of unexpected winter jobs that went brilliantly and gave us confidence to attempt another summer, which that following year was blessed with abundant sunshine!
Did you get any support along the way?
We’ve pretty much just made it up as we’ve gone along but other traders are always good sources of tips.
What’s the best thing about being your own boss?
The freedom it gives you.
How has your life changed since starting your own business?
It’s certainly given us confidence and has also enabled us to really shape our life how we want it to be. We’ve particularly been able to travel more which we find so inspiring and we’ve been able to have a dog which is a dream come true!
What advice would you give to someone thinking of starting a business?
Just go for it if you’re passionate about it. It’s obviously a good idea to give it a bit of thought but too much thinking it through can easily put you off even starting. We’ve found that once we just got going it seemed to have a momentum of its own which we would have never been able to force.
You currently have a stall in Whitecross Street Market, London – are there any plans to expand in the future?
We love Whitecross Street, we have the best customers in the world there and we enjoy going there so much. We’re pretty happy with how it all is for now, we have a nice mix of a regular market and all kinds of other events – and that keeps it interesting for us.
We always want to get better at what we do but we’re pretty content with things as they are for now. It’s all at a comfortable level where we can enjoy it. That said, we’d love to write another book and Charlotte is also a yoga teacher and so we’re quite interested in the idea of opening a retreat or wellbeing focused B&B kind of thing in the future.
How did your books come about?
We were so lucky to be approached by our amazing publisher Pavilion, who were keen to work on a vegan book and that resulted in The Fresh Vegan Kitchen. We were then thrilled to have the opportunity to work on a second one, Wholefood Heaven in a Bowl, which really celebrated our bowl food style of eating and passion for travel and for the outdoors
What advice do you wish you were given at the beginning?
That for every down there’s usually a bigger up. And in every down, there’s usually a very valuable lesson too.
What qualities are needed to run your own business?
Enthusiasm, stamina and commitment.
What helps you wind down in your spare time?
Travelling is our favourite but Charlotte loves yoga and meditation and multiple spa days! While David loves getting into the outdoors especially if it’s on a bicycle. And we both love taking our dog for a walk on Hampstead Heath.
A massive thank you to Charlotte and David for taking the time to talk to us.
Interested in finding out more about Wholefood Heaven?
- Visit wholefoodheaven.co.uk
- Follow Charlotte and David on Twitter: @veggie_heaven
- Follow Charlotte and David on Instagram: @buddhabowlvan
- Buy The Fresh Vegan Kitchen
- Buy Wholefood Heaven in a Bowl
Finally, don’t forget to try out a Buddha Bowl at Whitecross Street Market on Thursdays and Fridays (lunchtime)!