Background On Axel & Sophie
Axel and Sophie Steenberg met at Edinburgh University in the late 1990s, where we were studying for our degrees. Axel was undertaking a BSc in Biological Sciences with Honours in Applied Microbiology and Sophie was doing a MA in Politics (specialising in Environmental and African politics). During 2009, Axel started a new degree with The Open University in Environmental Studies (or perhaps Environmental Science, if his scientific side decides to take over) – completed now, but awaiting the final results.
After a stint working for David Trippier MP in the House of Commons when he was Minister of the Environment, Sophie went into Public Relations in London with Dewe Rogerson (now Citigate Dewe Rogerson) and later in Leeds with Porter Novelli (part of Omnicom), specialising in internal communications. Afterwards, she worked for Macmillan Cancer Relief for 4 years, working in community fundraising in the Harrogate district for a new cancer unit at Harrogate Hospital. This came to a natural end in 2003 when the appeal was completed and the unit opened.
Axel trained as a Chartered Accountant in London with Ernst & Young, qualifying as an ACA in 1992, before going into the City for several years, working in Mergers & Acquisitions in Düsseldorf, Leeds and London with Westdeutsche Landesbank, SG Hambros and KPMG Corporate Finance, becoming a Vice President for the last couple of years. In 2001, he become Finance Director and Company Secretary firstly of a London Stock Exchange listed Media Business, Teamtalk Media Group plc (now part of BSkyB Broadcasting) and secondly as Finance Director, Company Secretary and then non-Executive Director of an AIM-listed Metals Exploration Business, Angus & Ross plc (2003 – 2005, which overlapped with Steenbergs for a time and became an uncomfortable, and pretty quickly unacceptable, conflict of principles). In all these businesses, Axel specialised in Corporate Finance advice on fund raisings, business acquisitions and divestments and restructuring. During Axel’s time with Teamtalk, he came to understand the vital importance of the Internet and mobile telephony in creating connectivity between individuals, communities and businesses, enabling people over the whole globe to come together into a huge global virtual city; Axel believes that it is these connections that enables business and artistic creativity to develop. Within the very tight financial constraints of Steenbergs that is what we are trying to do – create www.steenbergs.co.uk into a media and social networking experience that transforms how you shop generally, and in our case specifically for ethical and eco products.
In 2003, we gave up the world of money and marketing to become spice merchants, founding Steenbergs Limited – a massive change in outlook, being almost diametrically opposite to what we had been doing previously, rolling up our sleeves and doing some hard work in a micro enterprise rather than advising big business. However, it was (and is) very much in tune with our own personal philosophies and interests, while our past experiences and skills have all been used to meet the interesting new demands of building a small enterprise.
We have developed Steenbergs in a green way with as small a footprint on our planet as possible, buying spices, herbs and teas that have predominantly been grown under organic agriculture and within the Fairtrade system. We process these spices, herbs and teas by hand in small batches using natural ingredients and without adding any chemicals to “improve” their performance, so no big machines.
Since early 2009, we have started focussing more energy on the Steenbergs online shop, redesigning the look and feel of the main www.steenbergs.co.uk web store and starting to sell a wider range of ethical, eco-chic products. Our style is one of passion, spirit and colour rather than being cold, calculated and corporate, so we tend towards an eclectic, randomness in what we sell and how we talk about what we are doing. Rest assured, however, everything comes from the heart and is genuine, so please tell us where we are going wrong and we will try and make amends (but be gentle as we wear our hearts on our sleeves).
After too much time thinking about it, we finally launched a new wiki, Ingredientia, in mid 2015. Ingredientia is a collective project bringing together cultural knowledge on food and drink ingredients from around the world, cooking techniques and key recipes. It is being built from the bottom up – from the ingredients and techniques before moving on to recipes. We feel passionately that food and drink is a shared global history and culture, so a free encyclopedia dedicated to food and drink (and perhaps health) is something for all of us. A wiki full of the fun, friendship, conversation and detail of good cooking, an antidote to the trite “food as entertainment” that fills the standard media channels.
We spend a lot of time at home and at Steenbergs thinking about the most environmentally sensible way to do things; something we are getting slowly but surely better at. Also, we try and be as open as possible in everything we do at Steenbergs, so if there is anything you want to know about it, we will try and answer your questions (except where someone is obviously trying to gain some of our legitimate business secrets, for example our recipes).
Axel was born and brought up in Northumberland; Sophie was born in London before moving at the tender age of six months old to Gloucestershire. Axel was an Academic Scholar at Rugby School in Warwickshire and Sophie was educated at Cheltenham Ladies College. We moved from London to Yorkshire in 1995 and have lived in the same rural cottage since 1996. We have two amazing children.