Zowie Rees and her husband Gareth had built a successful plumbing and heating business over the past 12 years, but had always dreamed of running a company which incorporated their love of outdoor cooking.
Fast forward to the national lockdowns of the COVID-19 pandemic, which restricted their ability to work in people’s homes, and the couple realised that they finally had the opportunity to set up a new business which initially they thought would hire BBQ equipment out to customers.
“We thought that we would give it a go and see what happens,” explained Zowie, who with her experience and qualifications in design and communications, along with Gareth’s practical construction skills were, well-equipped to launch a company build around their dream.
We started to research the outdoor cooking industry and it became obvious that potentially we could have a stronger business if we installed equipment using some of our skills from the previous company,” stated Zowie. “The mission of Heart Smoke & Soal is to transform every client’s unique outdoor space, striving to provide the highest quality of service and workmanship, offering premium cooking, entertaining and living products.” The company name was partly inspired by their son Soal’s name along with their love of preparing food and eating outdoors.
The couple heard about the GetSet Grow Devon programme offered as part of the Community Renewal Fund, delivered by YTKO and funded by Devon County Council and the UK Government, through a previous colleague of Zowie’s at Holsworthy Town Council.
“Through the programme, we accessed 1:1 sessions with a Business Advisor, who visited us several times to get a real understanding of the business and how we worked. We also learnt about the grants on offer to Devon businesses and whilst we had previously written a business plan, the team helped us to refine this and complete the required paperwork for our grant application,”
Zowie & Gareth also attended digital marketing workshops to build knowledge and skills. “We wanted to get the grant to help set up our cooking school as well as potentially produce a cookery book and a move to bigger premises at some point and the team helped us to explore these ideas.”
Through the programme, they were able to recruit a marketing intern which they hope to be able to keep on after the internship is complete and they would also like to make some of the part-time roles in the company full-time.
Speaking of the GetSet Grow programme, Zowie commented that she would recommend the service to anyone thinking of starting a business and to “not be scared as you will have the strength to do what you initially think is impossible.”
“We love trying new recipes, different equipment and fuels and want to share our passion and love of entertaining outdoors,” stated Zowie. They offer a hand-picked range of outdoor kitchen equipment brands and products along with a range of accessories, cooking ingredients, blankets and BBQ tools which are extremely popular with customers. They also run regular cook up days at their showroom at Holsworthy to demonstrate the equipment as well as Open Days with partners including chefs and outdoor cooking brands. “We love to work with other small businesses and have learnt so much from doing so,” said Zowie. The company were recently finalists in the Best Indie Retailer awards for the Food Reader Awards by Food Magazine.
For more information, visit their website at www.heartsmokesoal.co.uk or follow on Facebook or Instagram