For the last couple of years, my family and I have been living a life divided between our smallholding in the Sao Mamede Natural Park, Portugal, and a narrowboat in the UK. The reasons for continuing the two and not making the leap to Portugal full-time have been varied, but a main one is because we have not yet found a viable way to support ourselves financially over there. Our needs are small and of course, in Portugal we have the space to continue our journey towards food self-sufficiency, but like most people we still need a little bit of money to keep things going so for the past year we have been very slowly developing our own micro-business.
The initial birthing of our idea was gentle and without huge pressure, but in the wake of Brexit this passion to turn our crafts into more than just a hobby has increased as we have been propelled into thinking more seriously about the path our life should now take. After a lot of thought we have decided that for the next couple of years we want to spend more time in Portugal in order to give ourselves greater opportunity to consider where our full-time home might be if it transpires that we will not have the option to move freely and as such, as a family we are now committed to building our idea.
When deciding on a micro-business, I think it is important to really consider what you stand for, what message you want to promote and find a way to do this whilst walking a path of authenticity. For us, we took these feelings of wanting to do something in keeping with our philosophy on life - working in a way that feels nourishing and honest - and thought about how we might be able to create something to appeal to a larger spectrum of people. When we started we kind of fumbled along making whatever we fancied but as time goes on and we devote more of ourselves to this idea we are slowly nurturing, we are beginning to see a more clear business direction emerge organically, and it feels good. I think this is perhaps the biggest lesson we have learnt so far: that you must simply start something and then give it the option to grow and develop naturally. We can all be guilty of sitting and making plans and pondering ideas, but the danger is that we never actually birth them because on paper, they will never quite be good enough. We decided to just put stuff out there and even though now I look back at old photos of what we made and cringe and think about our first craft fair with dread, I realise that those first faltering steps were absolutely necessary in order to get us onto the path.
For us our focus is now on handcrafted jewellery, home décor items, toys and gifts, all made from forgotten pieces of nature. We do so without the need for electricity as this not only keeps our output low and allows us to work both from our campervan and our off-grid home in Portugal, but also helps spread the message that beautiful things can be created from that which is already around us, with minimal impact on the earth’s resources. This crazy consumerist society where we buy needless items from faceless big businesses that do no good whatsoever for the earth, is depressing, and we have long extoled the benefits of buying items with a heart and a story – directly from those people who are trying only to make enough to live a peaceful simple life – to our friends and family. Through Little Loquat we hope to spread that message further so that we can be happy both in our increasingly self-sufficient life, as well as in our hearts looking out towards the world.
Alice Griffin currently lives between a free-ranging campervan and an olive grove in Portugal and is working hard to create an authentic small business she can run from anywhere. Follow her adventures at: