IF you see a woman fighting to set up a table and gazebo in wind and rain-battered Colchester town centre, give her a helping hand.

Of course, you have to be around at 6.30am to do the good deed.

But it will be worth it when you need something hearty, warm and filling at lunchtime.

For without the table and the gazebo, Beth Machell would not be able to serve up any of her delicious soup.

“It’s definitely the right weather for soup but setting up in the morning has become challenging,” laughs Beth.

Calling herself the Soup Wallah, the 32-year-old, from Nayland, was inspired to bring something different in the way of street food to Colchester after a holiday to India.

In the country where street food and mobile food sellers are everywhere, Beth set upon the idea of warming up Colchester’s hungry shoppers and workers.

“I am an ideas person,” explains Beth, who has previously worked managing coffee shops and at residential homes.

“I have a million ideas and have always talked about them, but never did anything with them.

“Then my boyfriend, Carl, and I spent five weeks in India last year and although it doesn’t sound like long it felt like we were gone for months.

“We travelled a lot and everywhere we went there were these people selling food and drinks. There were chai wallahs, coffee wallahs, soup wallahs. The name and the idea just stuck in my head.”

Of course when it came to forming a business plan from the idea it helps to have an experienced chef for a boyfriend.

Carl Shillingford, the cook for natural food company Seasonal Suffolk and former chef for Michelin-starred restaurants such as celebrity haunt the Ivy, in London, helped Beth put her ideas into action.

Beth explains: “I had the name, Soup Wallah, in my head by the time we got back to England and I knew exactly what I wanted it to look like. So Carl and I put together four different soup flavours and we tried it, costed it all out..

“I didn’t want people to pay through the roof for the soup – I wanted it to cost the same as a coffee from Nero’s or Costa,” says Beth, keen to keep costs down for customers.

It took nine months of preparation before Beth was finally able to open her stall in Culver Street West last month and it’s been all go ever since.

Beth says: “I don’t get worried about things but before I opened the stall I was really nervous. I wasn’t going to bed until really late, stickering the cups, painting the blackboard and leaving little notes everywhere so I didn’t forget anything. It was all very exciting then I would just panic about all that I had to get done!”

But she need not have worried.

“I’ve even got repeat customers already,” says Beth with a grin. “And I’ve managed to sell out of some soups. I’ve also started offering porridge first thing in the morning, when people can choose different toppings to go on it. The cherry pie topping is delicious, but there are healthy options too, such as banana, honey or nuts.”

The change of pace from day job to her own business has not been too demanding for Beth.

With experience in hospitality Beth started work working up at a restaurant when she was 14. When the head chef fell ill with morning sickness she was thrown in at the deep end, following the instructions of a pregnant and poorly chef.

“I helped out with the cooking every Friday night after that,” says Beth. “Then I discovered I enjoyed doing front of house.”

Now the early morning starts do not phase her.

Beth says: “I’m a morning person, which is good because I have to get up at 4.45am to get into town, pick up any extras I need and set up the pitch. It’s absolutely fine apart from the fact I have to fight with the table to set it up. And set up in the rain! So far one young man has helped me out when he saw me struggling!”

There are some firm favourites, including a Thai chicken noodle broth which is a regular sell out, and others include a wild mushroom soup, chicken and corn chowder and slow roasted tomato.

Colchester customers seem to be more adventurous with their tastes, says Beth, who takes her stall to towns including Sudbury. Thai chicken noodle broth works particularly well in Colchester.

She says: “I sold out one day so the next day I bought double the amount with me and still sold out – it’s hard to tell how much to bring but I’m not having to throw much away as it’s all going!”

She is hoping to build the soup business and eventually franchise the Soup Wallah out across the country.

Beth says: “I want to do one thing well.”

“But I’ll have to think of something else come the warmer weather!”