The owner of Mutiny Deli has praised the speed in which financial help has been made available for small businesses during the Covid-19 lockdown, as the Darlington business celebrates its first anniversary rolling out a different type of service.
Mutiny Deli on Skinnergate was opened one year ago by entrepreneur Anthony Phoenix and his wife Laura who is employed full time in the business to help meet a growing demand for zero-plastic retailers. The business has gone from strength to strength in the past 12 months, building up a regular customer base of individuals keen to reduce their environmental impact through the weigh-based food service, deli counter and sustainable home products.
The couple originally came up with the idea for the novel business when travelling across Asia. After noticing the alarmingly high amount of plastic littering the beaches and communities, the couple wanted to provide a way for people to purchase food items, including dried goods and liquids, minus the plastic packaging.
When the Covid-19 lockdown took hold in March, the husband and wife team were quick to look at ways they could continue offering the popular zero-waste service.
Laura Phoenix comments: “As a new business, being faced with a global pandemic one year into its first year of trading was of course not something we’d considered in our original business plan. But, we looked to manage the situation in much the same way as we set up the business in the first place. We took the time to understand how we could adapt to meet the needs of our customers and make use of all support available to us, from both the government and local business support agencies.”
Although technically a key business permitted to open under the lockdown rules, with a 9-month old baby at home, the couple quickly decided the safest option would be the creation of a new delivery service. This would ensure customers could still receive the products they wanted without compromising on their ethical standards around packaging.
Laura continues: “Luckily we had just set up our new e-commerce platform to allow customers to order online but as we adapted this to support more direct food delivery, customers have been emailing through their orders which we pack up and deliver with a contactless service led by Anthony. All food orders are still delivered using zero-plastic packaging and our customers leave containers for liquids outside their door which we re-fill on the spot. As liquid items like laundry detergents are one of our best-selling products, we wanted to make sure customers could access these products during the lockdown.”
Anthony and Laura have also praised the quick-acting financial support system for small businesses initiated by the government. The grants, delivered by local councils, offer a £10,000 one-off cash payment to businesses claiming small business rate relief to fund unavoidable direct costs during the Covid-19 lockdown.
Anthony Phoenix comments: “The business set up initially with the help and support of Judith Wheatley, a business advisor from TEDCO. Just before the official lockdown was announced, Judith had already been in touch asking if we needed help or any advice about how to manage the business through such a challenging time and we have been incredibly grateful for her support. She helped access grant funding which allowed the business to employ Laura full time and improve our product range, she has acted as a trusted mentor throughout the past year, answering our questions and providing access to help and guidance whenever we need it.
“Darlington Borough Council have also been very quick to issue the £10,000 small business grants which provide us with a financial cushion to tide us over this period and meet all of our fixed business costs while trade is affected during the lockdown. The speed at which we received the grant has been amazing and for a small, family-run business like ours is a much welcome boost to make sure we can not only make it through this period, but look forward with optimism for when the lockdown period ends.”
Mutiny were initially supported in their business start-up with the help and guidance of TEDCO Business Support following attendance at one of the free TEDCO new business workshops held regularly in Darlington.
Judith Wheatley, business advisor with TEDCO Business Support comments: “It is a worrying time for many businesses at the moment. The disruption to trade has been particularly challenging for many retail businesses reliant on foot traffic to get people through the door and this was very much the case for Mutiny Deli. However, with the help of the government grants for small businesses and the ability of Anthony and Laura to adapt and overcome to reach their customers, this is a challenge they are prepared to deal with. The government support has been swift and straightforward to access and I am delighted that Mutiny Deli has the support they need to look ahead with positivity.”