x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Man gives up teaching to sell soup in a trailer in Yorkshire

The Life: A schoolteacher based in Dubai decided this year that a change was a good as a rest and left the UAE to start up his own business - selling healthy, home-made soup at UK events.

Simon Cave, in his custom-built catering trailer, has developed a range of seasonal and healthy soups he will be selling in the UK. Bob Collier for The National
Simon Cave, in his custom-built catering trailer, has developed a range of seasonal and healthy soups he will be selling in the UK. Bob Collier for The National
On New Year's Day this year, Simon Cave, a Dubai-based secondary-schoolteacher, decided he needed to shake up his life. He logged into Facebook and promised he would do whatever the majority of friends voted on: either signing up for another three-year teaching contract or quitting education and launching a business selling soup from a trailer back in the UK.
The update was left up for a month and with the post going viral, the fresh start won hands down and Blitzed Soup was born.
Mr Cave has spent the past seven months preparing furiously, and he'll be dishing out his first batch of soups at the end of the month, before hitting a range of festivals and fairs across Yorkshire over the summer.
The flavours will change with the seasons, but they'll all be about surprising mixtures of ingredients. He's recently been experimenting with a celeriac, pear and goat's cheese soup; and another that uses beetroot, horseradish and honey.
After the summer, he will be ladling out his creations at Christmas markets and winter fairs, and if all goes to plan, he would like his soup to be sold in farm shops, and then supermarkets. The 32-year-old former history teacher says that he wasn't scared to put his life in the hands of Facebook friends.
"It was exciting," he says over the phone from his home in Mirfield, outside Leeds, where he is tinkering with recipes. "A new adventure."
While still in Dubai in early spring, he set up a website and Facebook page for Blitzed Soup and began trying out recipes on colleagues and students. And during a holiday to the UK in April, he designed labels, hired staff, booked events and ordered a trailer.
Then on July 3, after the school term had broken up, he left Dubai for good.
"My dad's an accountant, so he's been doing the accounts," Mr Cave says, "and my mother's a vicar, so she's been praying for me."
There were various inspirations for the project, which he'd been turning over in his mind since long before January. "I love the thrill and the atmosphere of a kitchen," he says, adding that it might have something to do with watching the BBC cooking programme Ready Steady Cook in the late 1990s. He saw a gap in the market for soup that was healthy, seasonal and ethically produced without being packaged in a way that he saw as pretentious, and was interested in launching a start-up. "I quite like the idea of having regular career changes," he says. "I fancied doing something different."
Something about Dubai rubbed off on him, too.
"People take risks there," he says, adding that he enjoyed his time in the city. "Dubai is full of entrepreneurial spirit. It was very motivating. It's a very young place; there are a lot of outgoing people, and there's a real can-do attitude. People want to get on and that atmosphere definitely had an impact on me."
Having had his working life regulated by school bells for a decade (seven years at a school in Leeds and three in Dubai) he is now getting used to managing his own time and organising all the tasks needed to run a business.
"There have been some quite surreal moments," he says. "One Saturday morning, I woke up thinking, 'I need food containers'. I had completely forgotten I needed something to sell the soup in. I got up at five in the morning and ordered 5,000 soup containers." There's not a moment, he says, when his mind isn't churning with to-do lists.
While the economy in Britain is far from booming, the entrepreneur thinks this can be turned to his advantage.
All his experience teaching history has exposed him to stories of businesses that launched in chilly financial climates. "If you have a good idea and you can survive tough economic times," he says, "you know you have a strong business."
However, he knows there's still plenty to learn. "You've got to be incredibly self-disciplined, you have to be good at time-managing and juggling different sorts of problems," Mr Cave adds. "But it's absolutely fantastic. If there's something that makes you happy then sometimes you just have to take a risk. You don't regret the things that you do, you regret the things that you don't."