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Starting My Company... 'Rubies in the Rubble'

I kept trying to think of funny ideas to start a business with- tinted contact lens for skiing/sailing in the sun, a compactable, reusable cup for Starbucks, themed 3d glasses for home use and then Rubies in the Rubble!

I always wanted to have my own thing yet fresh out of uni, confused with the pressure of needing money and using my degree (Mathematics), I took a job in a hedge fund in Mayfair where I stayed for 2 years. I had little passion for finance but I loved the people I worked with and it was a great learning environment yet whilst I was there I kept trying to think of funny ideas to start a business with- tinted contact lens for skiing/sailing in the sun, a compactable, reusable cup for Starbucks, themed 3d glasses for home use and then Rubies in the Rubble!

I grew up on a farm in Scotland with a very earthy, home grown country living lifestyle and a close knit family of keen environmentalists (aunts who refused to fly, family of wind turbines, hybrid cars and outdoor enthusiasts). This definitely rubbed off on me and moving to London, living a fast pace lifestyle, I couldn't help but continue trying to do my little bit. I become known whilst working on my floor at the hedgefund to police the printers and recycling bins, cycle everywhere and redirect left over lunches to the homeless but it wasn't till my first early morning visit to New Covent Garden Market on my bike one frosty, dark morning in November 2010 that the potential idea for 'Rubies in the Rubble' was born!

Going to the market was incredible- such a diverse range of people living by night and sleeping by day. A world of farmers, wholesalers, restaurant owners, and market sellers all together in the brightly lit market trading anything from durians to brussels spouts. Yet, not more than 500 metres from the bustle of the traders were the piles of unwanted/excess - mange touts from Kenya, mangos from the Philippines, tomatoes from Turkey, cranberries for California - bypassing the bustle of traders and heading straight for the bin. What shocked me in seeing this waste was, though potentially with a very short shelf life, much of it looked perfectly edible and was wasted simply due to over forecasted demand and inefficiencies in storing and distributing.

I then started reading into waste food- I read masses on Tristam Stewart, London foragers and the government's attempts to tackle the problem and started to get an understanding of its sheer scale effects on our environment.

Approximately 4 million are affected by food poverty in the UK with malnutrition costing the NHS £13billion a year- wouldn't some of this fruit and veg help? What could I do with all this food and how can we be this wasteful when so many in the world go hungry?

That was the start of my 'chutney and jam' venture- the most obvious, straightforward way of preserving fruit and vegetables! Mum had always made preserves from any excess in the garden and we all loved them - the rhubarb chutney being a favourite!

So, returning to New Covent Garden market the next week with my big rucksack and empty bicycle basket, I collected as many onions, tomatoes and apples (along with a tropic breakfast for my flat mate and I) as possible and started making the first batches of chutney with the help of a keen chutney making friend.

I wanted the whole thing made by- as much as possible - bits that are otherwise discarded - the jam jars, the fruit, the packaging... So we collected jam jars from cafes, community centers around London and cut off material from fashion houses for labels and sold it all at a market stall in Marylebone High Street, London on the 18th of Dec 2010.

Then, in January 2011 I went to an amazing talk on the challenge of seeing people as equals despite their financial statue. This really hit a cord and stuck with me. So often we marginalize people- turn our noses up to them, judge them based on their looks and circumstances- valuing humans above one another due to their statue, wealth or aesthetics. I soon realized I didn't just want a brand about discarded things- I wanted to employ people often rejected by society to make it and through being involved, become empowered and part of the community once again. I wanted to make 1st class products that reflects how the ordinary is special - to show hidden 'Rubies in the Rubble'.

'Rubies in the Rubble' is now run by both Jenny Dawson, 27 and Alicia Lawson, 24 who came onboard after interning in the Summer of 2012 and was made a partner in Feb 2013. We are both excited for the future and how best grow and create many more Rubies.

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