#Passion2Action: Interview with Palm Greens founders Kali Hamm and Memby Jago

Palm Greens is a plant based salad bar/cafe based in Netil House. Their food is unique, nutrient dense, seasonal and largely organic. Also, they’ve just opened in King’s Cross which is more grab and go lunches, with three of our core salads, extras and snacks, with a small breakfast menu.

G: What problem did you set out to fix in this world?

Kali: We feel like there’s a shortage of really good quality ‘fast food’ in London. Inspired by regular trips to both New York and California, we felt Palm Greens could really add something to the lunch options in London. We offer fresh, made to order, healthy – when I say that I mean, food using whole ingredients, nutritionally rich, full of colour and texture from fresh vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. As well as that we wanted to make it easy for Londoners to eat ethically and sustainably sourced food without even having to really think about it. To make it more mainstream. We aim to do this by making food that is bold and interesting, that tastes great and is easy to pick up even in a rush.

G: How did you find your ‘Why”? 

Kali: As well as the above. It’s important to us because we really believe in what we’re creating. We believe that ethical and sustainable eating should be mainstream and we can help by making it more accessible. People are starting to care more about where their food comes from and they want more choice than the usual fare already out there. We can produce healthy well sourced quality food that tastes great and will keep you feeling full and energised throughout the day. We believe that’s a great option to have on the market.

G: How did you converted your passion into a business?

Memby: We had been talking about it for a while. Kali used to travel every summer for work but she decided to stay and give Palm Greens a go. We started in a tiny market and quickly got accepted by Kerb. To be honest, probably before we were ready! We didn’t have proper signage etc which was a problem with so much competition. We didn’t really have a clear plan, we were offered spaces and they seemed like the next logical step for us. We haven’t had any investment so things have grown perhaps more slowly but at a pace we can manage. (Just about!).

Our initial vision changed in that we never planned to have a cafe, more just grab and go salad bar.. Palm Greens in Netil House is more of a cafe, we have breakfast items, coffees and now hot dishes where as King’s Cross is more aligned with our original vision.

G: How long did it take until you start making a living out of it?

Memby: We’re still getting there! Opening a new site with no investment of course has been expensive. Kali still does freelance chef work while I (Memby) work full time on the business. Everything we earn goes straight into business.

G: What were the biggest obstacles launching the company and how did you overcome them?

Memby: Getting people to understand what our food was all about. Visibility has been a big one too, as I mentioned when we started at Kerb, our stall didn’t look quite as pro as others! Now in Netil House we don’t have the luxury of footfall and accessibility. But people are learning we’re there. And once people taste our food they tend to come back!

G: Why do you think people fell in love with your company?

Memby: Our food is something I think is fairly unique in terms of flavours and style. While we want to keep our food healthy we don’t shy away from big flavours and serving food that’s exciting, nutritious and filling!

The personal aspect and level interactivity I think has really come into play a lot at Netil House, especially because we see a lot of  the same faces everyday. We’re really grateful for our regulars and have become friends, it’s always nice to see them!

G: How your company is winning over the hearts and minds of the local community? 

Memby: Quality, service and ambience. We consider everyone who walks in the door our friend. Keeping high standards, level of experience – starting with the food and offering good value – we’re conscious of keeping the food accessible with reasonable pricing. We source as locally as possible, using local producers such as wild organics and Jarr kombucha. We want to create a thoughtful experience, focusing on the food, music and the vibe.

G: What 3 pieces of advice would you give to the people who want to create something, but not sure how or where to start ?

Memby: Accept the ‘failures’ and learn from them, manage stress levels and take time for yourself – even just having a cut off time to work in the evenings. Have a deep belief and passion in what you do.

G: Have you had any mentors or role models that have influenced you?

Kali: So many! If we were to name names, Memby’s personal experience having worked at the restaurant Som Saa was invaluable and hugely inspiring to him.

Biff and Christa from Biff’s Jack Shack gave us a lot of advice when we started at Kerb. Ironically we’re old friends with the owners of Herman ze German, Azi & Flo. They’ve given us a lot of help and advice when we started.

G: Who/what are your favorite CEOs/Businesses in Shoreditch or East London?

Memby: Aah, there’s a lot! Of course the guys from Som Saa Tom George, Andy Oliver and Mark Dobbie.

We’re friends with other small business owners we’ve met through Palm Greens, but of course our regular eating spots too because we’re east London based.

G: Where do you see your company in a few years’ time and what are your thoughts on the future of your industry how is it changing?

Kali: We’d love to open our own place somewhere central, grab and go. To be accessible to more people without losing the quality.

People work hard in London, they deserve good quality, nutritious, quick to get food.

There’s a shift towards more sustainable eating, which includes more people choosing plant based, seasonal, local food. We hope to fit into a brand that people can rely on to do the thinking for them so they can just enjoy the food.