TWO businessmen are offering a dose of retail therapy, by launching free mindfulness and meditation classes for shoppers, as they celebrate a year of successful trading in Boscombe.
Chris Kettle and Mike Powell want to give something back to locals in Bournemouth after serving their landmark 10,000th customer at the Happy Buddha, in the Sovereign Shopping Centre.
It comes three years after friends Chris and Mike took the brave decision to quit their day jobs as a website developer and accountant to launch a market stall, after discovering a mutual interest in Eastern culture.
It turned out to be an enlightened decision, as what was intended to be an occasional weekend venture rapidly expanded to thirteen market stalls across Dorset, later consolidated into five small indoor emporiums.
Eventually, the pair decided to get properly grounded and concentrated their efforts on opening their first shop, the Happy Buddha at the Sovereign Shopping Centre in Boscombe.
Selling everything from traditional Buddhist statues to soft Huggy Buddha toys, gem stones, incense and garden fountains, the shop has been boosted by a rise in popularity of practices such as meditation.
The pair also have an on-line shop Aria Crafts selling a vast selection of 18,000 products, including fair trade crafts and clothes from as far afield as Bali, where they pass on 50% of profits to village workers.
Their success has been such that Chris and Mike now employ two members of staff to help put at the shop in the Sovereign Shopping Centre in Boscome, and a second outlet on Poole High Street.
Now the pair are preparing to launch a series of free mindfulness and meditation classes this spring.
Former website designer Chris, 30, from Poole, revealed he first discovered meditation a decade ago when he started using it to help ease worries and anxiety.
It also helped deal with his grief following the tragic loss of his former business partner who was also a friend of Mike’s, to liver cancer in 2014.
Chris says he wants to help more people to cope with the stresses and strains of everyday life by sharing the meditation and mindfulness techniques he has learned.
“The wonderful thing about the shop is that we have learned so much from our customers,” said Chris, who is a practicing Buddhist. He added: “Meditation and mindfulness is really popular now, so many people are using it to help cope in their daily lives.
“It can help to calm your mind and take you away from the hustle and bustle of everyday modern life and the more people who learn about it the better.”
Congratulating Chris and Mike on their business success, Sovereign Shopping Centre Manager Peter Ruscoe said: “It’s great to see two people who took that leap to go into business doing so well.
“They’ve become a firm favourite with many of our shoppers here at the Sovereign Shopping Centre.
“It’s a lovely idea to offer the meditation classes and give something back to the community. I might go along myself!”
Chris, 30 and from Poole, first met accountant Mike in 1998, as he was a client wanting a website set up for his book keeping company Aria Business Consulting.
Chris said: “I’d known Mike for a while and we’d become friends. After I lost my business partner in 2014 we were chatting and Mike told me he’d got this idea to set up a market stall.
“It was only meant to be a weekend thing, we never thought it would go this far but it’s the best thing we’ve ever done.”
Chris and Mike are off to Bali in February to visit the village where they source some of their products such as ethnic clothing made of hemp, and will set up the meditation classes when they return.
“The products we source direct from the village are all fair trade. We give 50% of the profits back to them which is worth quite a lot in Indonesia so we’re really looking forward to visiting and seeing the crafts being made,” said Chris.
Mike, 60 and from South Wales, said they also source fair trade products from South America, including a village in Guatemala.
He said: “It’s been quite a journey setting up the business. We both put 100% in and we plough most of the profits back into the business.
“We’re so pleased that people like the shop and we get some much out of it, because we’re passionate about that we do.”
For more information about the Happy Buddha shop and to find out about meditation classes starting in the spring, please visit: www.happybuddha.co.uk
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