Spoon {meets} : Indie Shergill, founder of Rootless Garden

Indie Shergill is a man fighting against bingo. That, and cliche stereotypes around our grandparents’ leisure habits. Last but not least, he does it in style.
Indie runs a social and creative enterprise organising fun and unusual gatherings - salsa nights, supper clubs and tea making sessions (we were gifted with hand picked chamomile, lime flower and lavender sachets). We asked Indie how it feels to be a self starter, spend most of your time with another generation and create a business based on passion. “Money will follow”, he tells us.

How did you get into gardening, hanging out with older people and advising on business development?

Well, this is a combination of accident, luck, experience, insight and being surrounded by awesome people!

Rootless Garden was founded on the back of direct experience working in elderly care. Nadia’s, my co-founder’s, and mine experiences taught us that so many older people in and out of care suffer from crippling loneliness, and that those we encountered who had a strong social group and belonged to something were so much happier. Your mental wellbeing and physical health are so closely related, no matter your age, and loneliness is so damaging to both. It is so sad that as you get older, your social contact often declines. We wanted to make something different, which engaged older people and allowed them to have fun, learn, create, explore and transform using nature as our main inspiration, and above all, socialise.

How did you do your business research?

The Rootless Garden part is the creative and fun bit. Nadia and I spoke to many older people and realised that those who had regular contact with the outside world, gardens, parks, even potted plants and flowers inside, were a lot happier and healthier. When we did a bit of digging we found that there is a whole school of research around horticultural therapy, nature based healing, and a science behind the effects of nature on wellbeing. And, I believe that no matter where we’re from we all have a unique connection with nature, and this connection binds us together in a shared experience.

All of this really led to the creation of Rootless Garden and hanging out with older people. I absolutely love it. It has been a really great journey creating my own social enterprise, as well as clearly enjoying the social elements, creating a business (or at least trying) has been a fantastic learning experience. I’ve not done much formal advising on business development, but I think that it is great to share experiences and strategy tips with other people creating start-ups. Even if your experience isn’t success stories, using your hindsight and insights is incredibly powerful. 

Can you describe the purpose of your work?

I think the purpose of my wider work and the things I am involved in is to learn about what makes a stronger, more engaged society. I’m so lucky to live in London and I really want to capture the energy we have here to help shift civic engagement and change the way we solve problems, puzzles and pickles in a more democratic way. I think that is why I’m so attracted to the start-up space, because I think that with ground level innovations we can make some serious change and shake things up for the better.

You have very unusual clients - lovely ‘olds’ (as you call them). What’s the best story you ever got from them - we know it’s a cliche question, and yet we are curious to know.

Oh man, I have so many great stories about my olds… picking one is difficult. It is funny, when you work with older people you get so many snippets of so many stories that give you a brief glimpse into their lives, and it is only rarely that you get a whole story from start to finish. My favourite snippet is from an old called Brian who is an incredible gardener and really has taught me everything I know about plants to date. He used to be a hairdresser at Vidal Sassoon when he was younger – and when we asked him what led him to this path, he told us that it was the best way to meet women! Simple. I also have an old, Wilhem who is always impeccably turned out, wears a cravat and sometimes a monocle! He used to be an architect, and was responsible for remodelling Holland Park after the war to what we know it as today, a really smart neighbourhood with beautiful houses.

The best story however, is that of a couple, Harry and Mavis who have been married for over 60 years. Harry is Irish, and Mavis is South African and they came to own a bookshop in Notting Hill together, which has since closed down. The story of how they met is so lovely. Mavis was visiting her uncle in Canada, and Harry was visiting the same area as Mavis. After spotting her a couple of times around town, he plucked up the courage to introduce himself to her and ask her out on a date. Mavis said yes, on the assumption that she’d never see him again. The whole time they were both in Canada they kept seeing one another, and before Mavis was due to leave, Harry proposed to her… and the rest, as they say, is history!

What is the hardest thing about being a self-starter?

Honestly, waking up in the morning… due to not falling asleep at night! Your brain is switched on all the time. You’re the director, the co-founder, the receptionist, the intern, the tea-person and everything rolled into one. It is really fun to have such a variety within your role, but it is really hard to give your role boundaries. This makes it difficult to focus most of the time… that, and I have the attention span of a goldfish.

I think the hardest thing is motivating yourself to stay on track and keeping on track. Luckily I have the best business partner in the world to help me stay focused. It is really important to find someone to peg yourself against, it doesn’t have to be a co-founder, it can be a mentor, family member, partner.

Your co-founder and a good friend recently moved to another country. It’s a hard thing to go through - recover from it especially. Where did you find motivation?

It is hard to go through, I’ve lost my co-pilot!  But she is still existent in every fibre of our work, and is actively involved in the work we do, advising and helping from across the pond. When you start a journey with someone, it is really hard to separate your experiences and influences. Nadia created Rootless Garden with me, and without her it couldn’t have existed. I have to keep reminding myself of that, and in that essence, the motivation comes from the all of the work we’ve both put it, and now that she is not here, it is up to me to keep Rootless Garden blooming!

What is your stress reliever? What tips can you share with other creatives struggling to keep work and life balance?

I’m trying to think of a creative, artistic and cool way of saying: “sitting in my pjs and binging on Netflix”, but that never comes out how I want it to.

When I’m struggling to keep a work life balance I like to just stop and enjoy passing time doing things that often amount to nothing, but are so important to reset your pace and balance. I love walking, running, gardening, generally being outdoors and just stepping back from the tunnel vision of Rootless Garden and my other projects. It is nice to move, get the blood pumping around your body, clear your mind.

I think it is really important to try and maintain your interests and hobbies in your work-life balance. I love food and drink. Cooking, eating, and experimenting. When I have the time I really enjoy cooking, especially for my friends and family. I also love great wine and interesting beers – nothing better than kicking back with a glass of goodness. Discovering new flavour compositions and cooking styles is great fun, and I’ve even hosted some supper clubs, cocktail bars and done some catering in the past.

When I have more time, I think exploring is my all time favourite stress buster. Travelling at home and abroad, finding new places and rediscovering old ones too. This doesn’t always have to be extravagant travels abroad, sometimes it is what is right in front of you – discovering new pockets and patches of London is something I absolutely love. Just charge your phone, load up your camera and off you go!

Tell us about your mornings. Do you have a breakfast ritual?

My mornings are usually pretty chaotic; I always sleep through my alarm clock and have to race to get ready! One good thing about being your own boss is that you have some flexibility to stick to your morning routine, even if you are a little bit late. My morning usually starts with reading the news on my phone and checking what’s trending on twitter, all from the comfort of my bed. When I’m feeling particularly motivated I try and fit in a walk… I even went for a swim the other day! That is pretty out of the ordinary though, I’m usually a zombie until 11.

After getting myself together, I usually fix up a smoothie. I got a Nutribullet for Christmas, and am addicted. My fave is an avocado, spinach, lemon concoction, with all sorts of powders and potions from Wholefoods. Then I’m usually a peanut butter and toast, or cereal person. Usually watching the news at this point, or catching up with my friends on their way to work. I like to start my days well informed.

My favourite breakfast ritual is on the weekend. It’s usually the whole family cooking up a storm in the kitchen, eggs, pancakes or croissants. My favourite however, is when my mother or grandmother make parathas – a north Indian flatbread, we have it with pickle, yogurt and chai!

What’s your favourite brunch spot?

If I’m feeling fancy then I go to Balthazar near Covent Garden for a really classic French breakfast, and the best patisserie next door. But my all time favourite brunch spot is definitely Lantana on Charlotte Place. They do the best poached eggs with hot smoked salmon, avocado and salad on rye. It is such a cute little place and there is always a queue, but if you get there early enough you can commandeer a table and spread out with your newspaper over a coffee and sit there for ages.

How do you like your granola?

At any time of the day! I have my granola with yogurt and a splash of milk – I know it sounds kinda of weird, but then you get the best of both worlds, try it. And, if I’ve got some fresh berries it is always nice to add them. And sometimes, for a pudding, some granola on vanilla ice cream.

Spoon {meets}: about

At Spoon, we are interested and excited to explore creative lifestyles.  With freelance becoming the fastest growing profession in the world, working remotely has become commonplace. From our own experience this can feel a little lonely at times, which is why we hope to create a collaborative platform that helps creativity to flow.

‘Breakfast with creatives’ is a series of conversations over a bowl of granola with inspirational creatives about work and life balance, keeping up motivation, staying inspired and living a healthy and creatively fulfilled life.

We aim for this to become a destination for creative people to discover each other’s work and lifestyle choices over an honest breakfast chat.