MEET MICHELLE WEMYSS - THE PICKLE PALACE
Co-Founder of the incredible Social Enterprise that is The Pickle Palace, makers extraordinaire of chutneys, pickles and jams collecting as many fruit and vegetables as possible from locally sourced farm shops, allotments and local supermarkets in order to save as much food from landfill as possible and lovingly up-cycle into absolutely fantastic range of products. Also providing lunch clubs, soup kitchens and food markets on a pay as you feel basis. So far The Pickle palace has saved over 100 tonnes of food in only 12 short months and fed over 7000 people along the way.
Michelle is certainly no stranger to hard work. Balancing her philanthropic endeavours with her role as a single mum of four has been no easy task and I’m massively grateful that she has taken time out of her incredible schedule to talk to us about her journey. From getting her kids out of the door in time for the school run to running around supermarkets collecting produce and organising ‘pay what you feel’ markets in her local community Michelle can teach us a thing or two about balance. Over to you Michelle…
So, Michelle, What’s your story?
I still find it hard to tell this story to be honest but I’ll do my best.
I shall title my story ''How a pickle saved my life'' because in a nutshell that's exactly what happened.
I've spent my whole life searching to find something, I'm not even sure what that something was but all the same I've searched. I searched to find this thing they called ''happiness'' I searched to find something I was truly good at, I searched for a purpose to my life. This may sound like a very sad story but that is exactly what my life felt like until the start of 2015.
36 years of my life spent sadly searching.
Don't get me wrong, I have very happy childhood memories and I've experienced exceptional highs of euphoria, actually I've experienced this four times in my life and I didn't get these by meeting the man of my dreams, falling in love, getting married or living happily ever after.... it was the birth of my four awesome little humans! So, I am very fortunate to have experienced those incredible moments. However in 2015, my search came to an end, I finally found what I had been searching for my whole life. Me.
My life from an early age was quite an unconventional one in that it was my mam, who was the one that supported both my brother and I, with a crazy, wonderful absentee dad, I watched her daily struggles to give us both the best upbringing she could. Unbeknown to me, these were the foundations that gave me the strength, determination and the drive to have so much more than the hand I was dealt. Only I didn’t realised this until my search ended.
I was bullied at school, abused in relationships from the age of 15 to 22 then in a violently abusive marriage from the age of 22 for seventeen years until my searched ended in 2015 and I broke free from the life I had lived.
Then, on New Years day 2015 I was invited along for a wintery walk with some of the most incredibly inspiring women I have ever met.
You see, the year before I had a complete breakdown and I was unable to work, so I spent my days and nights staring into an abyss of dark shadows, dark memories and a pain so unbelievably hard to cope with that I didn't want to exist anymore; My children were the only reason I got up out of bed every day. A friend recognised my low point, maybe by chance, and simply asked me to join them. Thank you, Lisa Holmes.
Then along came Hannah, the original Pickle.
Hannah spoke to me on this walk about her love of jam, her love of cooking and her passion to combat food waste. This, it turns out, was to be a conversation that changed my life.
I was gripped and taken in by Hannah and her beautiful outlook on love, life and humanity. Her energy woke something inside of me that I didn't know existed, she saw beauty in everything and everyone and for the first time in my life, I met someone who actually loved who they were too! Anyway, a long story short, she needed a freezer to store her fruits and I had one spare and the rest, as they say, is history. I started going to Hannahs place regularly throughout the week helping chop, prep and preserve all the while little bit by little bit my outer shell coming away, and I started to feel alive again, like the phoenix rising (big smile on my face). I grew confident, I found my smile again and I started to think about ways to help her in her quest and as so was born a pure friendship and partnership.
My search was over, I’d finally found my true passion and purpose.
To help the planet and to help anyone on it that needed a little bit of kindness and understanding.
Our ideas grew, our dreams and visions got bigger and so our little enterprise began.
My search ended and my life began.
What’s the first thing you check within your business daily?
Facebook! We get loads of messages which we always try to answer as quickly as possible.
What motivated you to start a Social Enterprise?
Hannah, I’m sure, would explain it all as a bit of an accident really!
Having been told by others that she was a social entrepreneur got her thinking about social enterprises and how The Pickle Palace could possibly grow. That mixed up with a crazy obsession equaled one heck of an idea.
How do you handle criticism?
Take a deep breath, I’m very hot-headed and jump like a panther with her claws out when someone has the audacity to question me or my work. I have however, learned over the last few years (some may say months) to take any criticism in a much more positive way and see it as someone trying to help me do a better job.
So I'm cool with criticism now unless of course, it's about my kids....whole different story!
Who inspires you?
Each and every single person I choose to have in my life, even those I’d choose not to have in it. I learn a little something from everyone in one way or another, whether that's how to be a better cook, a better friend, a better mother or even seeing someones kindness, love, humour or selfishness, even cruelty, makes me a better version of myself, because I will either try a little harder to be like them or make sure I learn from other peoples mistakes and avoid ever being like that.
The human race in all its beauty and all its pain inspires me.
How do you strike a work/ life balance with so much going on?
At the minute I'm not so sure I've cracked this one. I do try to have downtime and I do try to have time with my family and friends, I suppose I'm lucky enough to say the people I work with and for, are all my friends and a very unique family in itself, so I’m blessed that way.
I am however trying to be the best Mam and Dad I can be to my 4 children but its hard. I'm just doing the best job I can.
What’s the most exciting project you have been involved with for your business?
Tackling food poverty.
Just being able to combat this in some small way has been the most exciting and fulfilling part of the journey for me.
What’s next for The Pickle Palace?
Everything changes day by day, our business grows and moves into directions without our control it’s a very natural and organic plan so who knows whats next!?
What three things do you need as a Social Enterprise owner to stay motivated?
Passion, ambition and bucket loads of laughter and wine!
What’s your top tip for the awesome girl bosses reading this article?
Cry if you want but never, ever, give up on something you believe in.
It’s worth it.
What would you change about your journey or what would you avoid if you could do it over again?
I wouldn’t change a thing. Every single right and wrong choice, every tear, tantrum and meltdown, has brought me to where i am now. The top of the universe.
What’s the number one played song on your iPod?
Ooooh i have a few..... 'Wounded Warrior' by Palmoa Faith, 'Shallow' preformed by Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga and then 'Shout out to my ex' (my daughter is obsessed with Little Mix, it drives me mad)
What do you know for sure?
Tomato ketchup goes perfectly with a bacon sandwich!
Do you have a book or favourite podcast recommendation for our Female CEO members?
The Happiness Trap, by Russ Harris.
and finally, How would you like to be remembered?
The girl with the biggest heart who danced her way through life wearing nothing but a smile and some kick ass converse.
If you want to know more about Michelle or have a question about The Pickle Palace you can drop her a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or over on Facebook- you can also chat to her via The members forum on The Community page.