Ruth Anslow

hiSbe Food CIC

Ruth Anslow

Ruth Anslow, along with sister Amy, and Jack Simmonds, founded hiSbe – a supermarket in Brighton that believes in prioritising fair pay and happiness for all over short-term profit.

hiSbe values animal welfare, local products, and ethical brands, and is committed to a sustainable, honest approach.

Simply, they do it how it Should be.


Ogunte: How would you describe yourself in five words, Ruth?

Ruth Anslow: Ambitious, purposeful, visionary, optimistic, happy.

Ogunte: What is your 3-point plan to change the face of supermarkets?  

Ruth: 1) Reinvent the way supermarkets do business by creating a successful pilot store that turns the existing business model on its head by putting happiness before profits.
2) Build a regional chain of stores in Sussex by successfully replicating the pilot store with the support of our local crowd of "supermarket rebels".
3) Transform the food industry by creating decentralised regional hiSbe chains across the UK and igniting a revolution of other independent retailers following our lead.

Ogunte: What are the greatest obstacles you are facing right now at hiSbe? How do they compare to the challenges that arose when you first started out on the hiSbe journey?

Ruth: The biggest challenges remain the same: places, people and prioritising.Namely:

  • securing retail premises when we’re up against the big brands wooing landlords with big cheques
  • building the right team and culture to run the store and develop the business
  • and choosing what to spend our precious time on, both operationally and strategically.

Suppliers, staff and customers all get a fair deal

Ogunte: How do you measure your impact? What are your criteria for success? 

Ruth: We have all the usual commercial measures in place to do with sales, profit and costs that you need to make a retail store work. On top of that, we measure how much of the money we take goes to our suppliers (68p from every £1 vs. the estimated industry average of 9-10p) and how much money we keep in the local economy (50p from every £1 vs. the estimated industry average of 5p).

It's all about distributing the money we make fairly, so that suppliers, staff and customers all get a fair deal.

Ogunte: What is your winning tip to preserve your relationship with your business partners? 

Ruth: The workability of any team depends on quality communication, connectedness and self-awareness. The three of us are always working on these together, and have external training and coaching to practice and improve.

Ogunte: Which areas of the business world did you find it hardest to be confident in?

Ruth: I am very strategic, always thinking about the big picture and how to reach our future goals. I’m comfortable working on the vision, the financial story, and the brand. However, I am less confident on operational elements, fire-fighting and bridge-building towards that vision.

Happily, my co-founders are awesome at those bits!

Amy Anslow,  Ruth Anslow,  Jack Simmonds, founders-directors of hiSbe, Brighton

Ogunte: What difficulties do you face in trying to get hiSbe better known and visible? 

Ruth: The biggest barriers to attracting new customers are the preconceptions people have about supermarkets and independent stores. People often assume the big supermarkets are always cheaper/better because they are big brands and that independent stores are niche, expensive or inaccessible.

We are here to challenge those preconceptions and show people that good food isn't a privilege, it's just "how it should be."

Ogunte: If you could travel back in time to when you were starting out on your entrepreneurial journey and have a 5-minute conversation with yourselves, what would you say? 

Ruth: Get more help! Amy and I are both highly independent, stubborn, and resourceful, and we just tried to do everything ourselves. It's different now, but in the beginning we didn't know how to ask for help. We hid ourselves away because we assumed people thought we were bonkers!

Ogunte: How are you preparing yourselves for scaling up hiSbe? What skills do you need to develop now in order to equip yourselves to tackle the new challenges you will face in, say, 2030?  

Ruth: In 2030, hiSbe Food will be a national supermarket chain, powered by people and communities. Our biggest challenge will be to replicate what we do while maintaining the consistency of our values, our sourcing policies, and in-store brand experience.

Ogunte: Finally, who are three women in social enterprise who inspire you?

Ruth: I most admire the founding entrepreneurs who combine unabashed ambition, business activism, and heart. Therefore, I’ll say Anita Roddick (Body Shop) ∞, Benita Matofska (The People Who Share) and Sophia Grinvalds (Afripads).

Interview produced by Naomi Pyburn for Ogunte.
Learn from other ImpactWomen interviews here.


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