Hot soup on the go: how a fashion buyer turned food entrepreneur

I got to know Imke Willemsen at her shop Alma&August during one of my lunch breaks. She sells really tasty soups – in handy to-go cups nonetheless. But everyone who can hold a spoon can find that out. I, on the other hand, wanted to know why she does what she does. When I met Imke for the interview I hardly recognized her: trading in her chef’s uniform for fancy clothes and a stylish coat, this was the first hint to Imke’s previous life in fashion.

Text: Sabela García Cuesta  / Photography: Teresa Enhiak Nanni

Hi Imke, tell me about how you started the healthiest food-on-the-go business in Hamburg.

I used to work as a fashion buyer and had to travel all around the world. During my trips, I always had to face the same problems: no time to eat, and difficulties to find something healthy and fast.

What about sandwiches?

Sure, but you don’t want to eat a sandwich every day, right? Sometimes it’s nice to eat something warm and cooked.

And what about salads?

In that case, you really need to sit down to eat. Otherwise, it might get really messy.

So this was one of the problems you had at work?

Yes, not only during my travels but also at home. I used to prefer leaving my work earlier to spend some time with friends and then eat together. When I became a mother, the same thing happened and I found myself without time to eat once again.

So then the idea came…?

Yes, my husband and I took five weeks off when our baby came and went traveling around Germany, Austria, and Italy with our caravan. During this time we decided we were going to try it out and start selling healthy soups in a cup with a lid for those eating on the go.

What makes it so special?

Everyone can drink the soup directly from the cup and customize the soup at our topping bar with fresh herbs for example.

The cups at Alms&August are, of course, biodegradable.

Are there many people in Hamburg that will drink their food while on the go? Don’t get me wrong, but we tend to be quite traditional about certain things here…

I would say around half of our customers do, others buy the soups and eat them with the spoon – also another option, for sure!. A few come around with the car, park for two minutes and go away with the cup of soup.

Who are your best fans?

Those that want to take fresh air during lunch time and have not much time to eat. Just like you Sabela!

Where do you come up with the ideas for the recipes?

I take a lot of time to develop these recipes and I really put my heart into it. I always have in mind some seasonal roots and veggies and I then try the recipes at home with friends. This is why the soups have the names of friends of mine.

Which is the best-seller soup so far?
The oriental lentil.

What are your plans for the future? What will happen in summer, when it’s too hot for soup?

Some people approached us to open other shops like ours around in Hamburg. However, I prefer to make this one good and then see. I won’t worry about summer, there are so many recipes with cold soups! For example gazpacho. And we also have delicious smoothies for those who feel like something fresher.

And tell me, how was it for you to become an entrepreneur?

To my luck, I am not alone: My husband has been the best supporter. Of course, we went through many ups and downs. Also, my background as a fashion buyer did not help much.

A piece of advice for someone starting a new business from the beginning?

Many times you will ask yourself why you are doing this because it’s costing you too much effort. But in the end, if you love your idea and you believe in it, you will make it happen and it will be great. Also, make sure your idea is solving a problem. This is the most important thing.

Have a taste of Imke’s delicious soups at Alma&August

Wexstraße 23, 20355 Hamburg.