Lean Bean paves the way for sustainable start-up success

A health food café and its accompanying zero waste food shop is paving the way for sustainable start-up success in the South of Scotland. 

Ross and Kirsty Mawdesley, owners of Lean Bean Café in Thornhill, Dumfries and Galloway, have shared their experience of setting up their new environmentally-focussed business in the height of the COVID-19 pandemic last year. 

Despite the increasingly unpredictable nature of the business world during the pandemic, Ross and Kirsty were undeterred by the extra challenges they faced because of COVID-19 and have not held back in the pursuit to successfully establish Lean Bean. 

The couple hope that their story can inspire other start-ups, established businesses and individuals alike to adopt a truly immersive green focus, which strives to go beyond current norms and gets as close to achieving a net-zero carbon footprint as possible. 

Setting up during COVID-19   

Kirsty said: 

“We have wanted to open a health food café and zero waste food shop for over three years, and we were not going to let the pandemic get in the way of that. 

“We have not let opening during COVID hold us back at all, if anything we may have even benefited from the challenges it posed. 

“A lot of people are shopping locally more often now, which has definitely been in our favour, as sustainable, eco-conscious options are needed now more than ever in local communities. 

“People are valuing the experience economy more than ever after the lockdowns we have been through, so they are happier to come in and try new things that perhaps they would not have otherwise tried.” 

Little changes, big impact 

Encouraging people to try healthier food alternatives is just the beginning of Lean Bean’s journey to spark inspiration surrounding sustainability, though. 

Owners Ross and Kirsty not only want to inspire other businesses to adopt a greener focus, but also want to encourage individuals to do the same - with their zero-waste food shop being the starting point in many locals’ journey towards being more sustainable.  

The refill shop, located within the café, boasts around 300 refillable products such as herbs and spices, nuts, seeds, oats and personal care items such as shampoo, toothpaste and sanitary products. 

The couple hope their refill shop will encourage customers to make the transition to a more sustainable way of shopping – even if it is only small changes at first. 

Kirsty explained: 

“We do not claim to be perfect, and we do not expect others to be perfect either. 

“We are just trying to make little differences and encourage others to do the same. 


Ross added: 

“People are already really embracing the ethos of Lean Bean and appreciating the fact we have so much local and environmentally friendly produce. 

“Our main goal is to inspire as many people and businesses as possible to make positive changes that improve their environmental impact.” 

Ross and Kirsty’s advice for sustainable start-ups 

  • Do your research – Ross said: “If you want to commit your business to being environmentally conscious, you have to do your research. If you just focus on cost without considering quality, you are already on the back foot in terms of sustainability.” 
  • Strive for continual improvement – Ross said: “You have to look for ways to keep improving. Even our business isn’t 100% where we want it to be yet. You need to continually keep trying to do things better and better.” 
  •  Be proactive – Kirsty said: “Rather than the old saying of ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’, we wanted to skip the recycling idea and adopt a focus on reducing and reusing instead. Being proactive is much better than being reactive, so developing and maintaining processes that align with your business’s sustainable ethos is key.” 


Dr Martin Valenti, South of Scotland Enterprise’s Energy Transition and Green Enterprise Director, said:  

“At South of Scotland Enterprise we are very keen to work with businesses in the region who want to capitalise on the economic opportunities presented by working towards NetZero. 

“SOSE understands that businesses and individuals both have a role to play in tackling climate change and it is therefore crucial that we all support each other in making small changes for a big environmental impact. 

“We are always here and ready to discuss ideas and proposals with businesses in the South and provide whatever support we can – no matter what stage of the sustainability journey an organisation is at.”