Small Business Growth Stories: Union of Genius

04/07/2017

News

Company: Union of Genius

Founder: Elaine Mason

Founded: 2011

Location: Edinburgh

Who are Union of Genius? Union of Genius is a soup café, based in Edinburgh, that uses locally sourced ingredients to create a daily range of unique flavour combinations - with flavoured matched breads to go with each!

Fourteen months after opening, the business was already struggling to meet their growing demand. They had stock sold in other stores, but to maintain their high standards of produce and continue to satisfy their customers, they needed to expand into a bigger, better commercial kitchen. They funded this with a Kickstarter campaign - and huge backing from soup lovers all over Scotland – and have since gone on to achieve incredible success in the food and retail market.

Since 2013, the café has also worked in partnership with The Care Van, a campaign that works hard to feed Edinburgh’s rough sleepers every night of the year. Union of Genius supplies the project with 150 litres of soup free each month, and has now donated over 7,000 litres in total. The café has also been acclaimed for its practice in sustainability and ethical trading, through the use of biodegradable Vegware packaging and customer rewards for reusing food containers.

What does sustainability mean to Union of Genius?

“From the beginning we have aimed to be an eco-friendly, sustainable business. All our take-away packaging is made from compostable plant starch by Vegware. Instead of rewarding our customers for consumption, we reward them with a loyalty point for bringing back their packaging. The charity Edinburgh Cyrenians then compost all our food waste and returned packaging and then the compost helps grow new plants. From making to eating we have closed the loop which is why we call the idea 'Full Circle'."

What’s been your favourite experience since opening Union of Genius?

“There’s been so many. The first review we received was on our first day’s trading. I was utterly terrified, and then promptly burst into tears after reading the lovely review the next day. That’s permanently stuck in my mind. But overall, my favourite thing has to be the sense of community that’s formed around Union, between the customers, our staff and the businesses and projects we work with. It’s a very real and tangible thing, and I love it.”

What are your plans, dreams, or ideas for the future of Union of Genius?

“I’d love to see our soups being available to buy from small delis around the country, as we’re creating flavours no-one else is offering. My dream is to have a café space big enough to run a soup café, a cook’s bookshop, a deli and veg counter, and an event kitchen where we could host author cooking events and cookery classes.”

 

Sources

The State of the Union – Ooh

Union of Genius #SoupStarter: ‘Great soup is a lot more than the sum of its parts’ – WOW 24/7

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