I grew up in a politicized household. I learnt early about environmentalism, organic food, socialism and liberalism. I went on rallies for Friends of the Earth, CND, Action Aid and campaigned for the Labour Party. I started becoming aware of injustice in society and wanted to make a difference wherever I could. I thought this was how all kids grew up.
I am George Howell, the founder of Indigo Wholefoods. My primary business objective is to make a difference for people and the environment. As you can see this has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember and for the whole of my working life.
Two things happened at the start of my working life that helped forge Indigo as it is today. Firstly, I found Organic Roundabout, a worker’s cooperative, an organic fruit and veg box scheme. Roundabout connected me to my politicised roots and added new elements including vegan/vegetarianism, animal rights and cooperative working.
Roundabout led to becoming a founding member of Sage Wholefoods, a worker’s cooperative, operating a health food shop of the same name in the Moseley area of Birmingham, UK. At Sage I developed an interest in alternative health and discovered homeopathy as a therapy that made a big difference in my life.
Secondly and simultaneously I became spiritually aware. I found a support network in spirit that was absent in my world. I read books, went on retreat, studied spiritual principles and ideas, and eventually developed my own personal spirituality based on my experiences of communicating with spirit.
I was at Sage for nine years. By 2006 I was the only original member left. The co-op had appointed new members, as equals on the same wage. It was clear that equality of opportunity and working conditions couldn’t make up for a lack of equality of experience. Missing out on starting the co-op on low wages, low takings and learning the self-discipline needed to be effective in a non-hierarchical workplace was a loss to the co-op. It created conflict and over-reliance on me.
Despite struggling with this I had no intention of leaving until one day I felt like I had the weight of the world on my shoulders sitting in a meeting. Within the week I was off sick with work related stress. I chose to walk away.
I left my work which was my passion, but I also had to give up the lovely flat above the shop that I lived in. I was heartbroken. I knew that if I ran my own business it wasn’t going to be a co-op. Sage closed eighteen months after I left, and I had the chance to start again.
When I set about starting a new wholefood shop in Moseley, I wanted it to reflect everything important to me.
I wanted a wholefood shop that not only sold organic food, to make a difference for the environment and for health;
fair trade food, to make a difference for the farmers and farm workers and their families in developing parts of the world;
special diet food, to make a difference for people who needed gluten free food or no added sugar food;
vegetarian and vegan food to make a difference for those who chose to abstain from eating meat and/or dairy products to make a difference to their health, the environment and the lives of the animals we share this planet with;
body-care products free of toxic chemicals and not tested on animals to make a difference to our health and contributing to building a humane society that does not need to test its cosmetics or medicines on animals;
household cleaning products that make a difference to our environment by not poisoning it;
nutritional supplements and alternative remedies that make a difference for people who choose to take their health into their own hands and no longer have confidence in a conventional healthcare system set up for profit and shareholder dividends,
but also to make a difference for my employees by providing meaningful and fulfilling employment for people who value the difference we make in a workplace that values its employees and their contribution;
to make a difference to Moseley by occupying a shop unit with a bespoke, independent shop to draw people in from all over the region.
2020 marks twelve years since I started Indigo Wholefoods. It is still my pride and joy. I hope that everyday, in some little way, it makes a difference for someone just as it has made a difference for me.