Updated: Apr 18
Lauren Saunders shares her journey to entrepreneurship and a pragmatic approach to own a cafe with social goals.
Welsh-born Lauren is 27 years old and she is the owner of Wild Thing Café which opened less than a year ago in Grangetown in Cardiff. Lauren is originally from Bridgend and in her 18s she left for London to study Media. After completing her degree, she decided to travel overseas before returning to her hometown. She worked for three years in sales at the Big Issue magazine and in this role, she got the opportunity to travel all across Wales. What struck her the most was the beauty of her home country. Each visit enabled her to explore, rediscover and fall in love with the rugged, picturesque and wildly beautiful Wales.
As much as she loved her job, Lauren’s goals were higher; she aimed to open her own business which could somehow contribute to environmental causes. She left her job at Big Issue sometime in March 2017 and started planning on setting up her business. During the early part of 2018, she started working part-time at the Bloc café, located in Victoria Park. That was her first experience working in a coffee shop which also made her realize that she enjoys working in a café. Lauren tells us,
“I didn’t feel like working, I love chatting with customers all day long!”.
By that time she already knew she wanted to open a vegan cafe which would also give her the opportunity to celebrate her passion for veganism while supporting the wider vegan community in Cardiff. She believes that “we live in a time when consumers are informed about environmental issues and they start questioning their buying habits.”
In her free time, Lauren practices yoga, listens to podcasts and reads books.
Setting up 'Wild Thing'
“I wanted to create a business not just for profit but an ethical business with social goals. It was important for me that the café was addressing issues such as the environmental impact of businesses”
Lauren and her sister had already decided on a name; Wild Thing. Lauren says it matches her personality but also the coffee shop’s goals and the idea of resourcing plant-based food from the ‘wild’, i.e.nature.
Equipped with the business idea, Lauren needed to find the location for this venture. Having lived in Grangetown Lauren loved this spot. Lauren says, “It was owned by Bruton’s Bakery. I always loved the big windows. They are so gorgeous!”. She shares her excitement when she first saw the shop was available for sale. “I found the advertisement on ‘Rightmove’, I loved it and I thought I had to get it!” The landlords soon announced that the property was rented to someone else. Now, she laughs and shares “I remember crying sitting on a bench” and points to the Tesco down the road. However, a few days later, the landlords called Lauren again to inform her that the earlier discussion had fallen through and they arranged to meet her. There were other interested parties for the property but as Lauren characteristically says: “they chose me as they thought that Wild Thing will make a difference in Grangetown.”
She also shares, “I spent quite a lot of time researching, visiting coffee shops and always carrying my little notebook with me. I took up coffee training courses, baked lots of cakes and got to discover my favourites which are all offered in Wild Thing, such as the Hardlines coffee.”
Lauren's personal motto and now of 'Wild Thing' is:
"Be kind to the planet, be kind to yourself."
What are the other things that make this place 'Wild'?
Nourishing plant based food:
Lauren says “I normally have an idea of what I want to add in the menu but it is collaborative with the chefs and the rest of the staff. I would say that the dishes are mainly inspired from the middle – eastern cuisine, they have a lot of spices and curry. We don’t really follow trends, but we are led by the seasons. In addition, as everything is fresh and supplied by our local farmers, the menu is also depended on what is available and fresh each season.” Working with local farmers and produce was Lauren’s way of honouring her beautiful homeland.
Bohemian Interior Style Inspiration:
Warm and earthy tones make Wild Thing’s ambience unique. A mix and match furniture in a vintage style was what Lauren aimed for. As she says, “I wanted it to be cosy and intimate; having the feeling you are in your grandma’s living room.” The tiles by the window were already there and worked as an inspiration for Lauren to design the whole decor. From her mum’s knitted pillowcases to the banners on the wall and botanicals from the local farmers fit perfectly in creating a relaxed vibe.
Lauren’s reflections on Wild Thing
Lauren says what she enjoys the most is being surrounded by people, chatting with the staff members and customers. Time and money have been a challenge in the early stages for the business. As she says, it was arduous to keep a balance between providing ethical sourced food and deciding the prices for the menu. However, she is a fighter and assertive to promote her business and social goals, Lauren characteristically says:
“I wouldn’t have done it if I didn’t know I could do it.”
Six months on, Lauren has set up her second space in Cathays area, taking over Embassy cafe. Lauren’s future plans involve plenty of community focused events, nutrition courses as well as advisory workshops such as ‘how to eat healthy goods without a big budget’. As she explains, “I aim to educate people in a basic level about nutrition and how to be vegan with a low budget or without having access to fancy electronic gadgets.”
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Learn more about Wild Thing stories: @Wildthing
Editor & Photographer: Eftychia Ntzereme
Copy Editor: Alegria Bohem
Interviewee: Lauren Saunders
Location: Cardiff, UK
Date of Publication: 22|10|2019