When Torquay sisters Abi and Finola opened their vegetarian café in 2019, little did they know that a global pandemic would force them to shut their doors only eight months later.
From the outset of their journey, Business Advisor Kim Thornton from Torbay Development Agency was on hand to support Abi and Finola with any questions or advice they needed to get their business up and running. Kim explained the start-up loan process and guided them through the business plan, helping the sisters to make their vegetarian café dream into a reality.
After hard work and perseverance, Abi and Finola opened Margo’s, a beautiful contemporary space where people could relax, socialise and enjoy great coffee, cake and vegetarian food.
However, the nationwide lockdown announced in March 2020 in response to the Coronavirus pandemic meant that Abi and Finola had to shut their doors to the public with little notice and no guidance about what to do next.
With some innovative structural adaptations and eager support from Kim and TDA, Abi and Finola were safely back on their feet in no time, serving their delicious cakes and keeping their customers connected through social media.
Abi said: “After the first lockdown in March last year we closed completely for a few months and then after some thought, we decided to re-open to offer takeaway at the end of May 2020. It was a really daunting thought as we didn’t know what to expect and wondered if we were doing the right thing.
“We’ve found everyone’s wanted treats to lift their spirits, so we’ve been baking like mad and always trying to come up with fun ideas to give people something to look forward to. Social media has been vital to remind everyone we’re still here and stay connected with our customers during lockdown.
"Overall, our customers seem happy that we’re open and here to have a chat in what has been such an isolating time. It’s the little things like grabbing a coffee that can make life seem slightly more normal!”
Kim said: “The business had already established itself as an outstanding venue in the short time they had traded. I was happy to support them with the ever-changing information that was being provided by the Government and ensure they were aware of the support available.
“I have no doubt that Abi and Finola will continue to grow. They are in a wonderful location, their Social Media engagement is excellent and their cakes are absolutely incredible.”
Abi added: “Kim at TDA has been amazing as usual, she supported me through all of my grant applications and chased up payments and letters that I was struggling with.
“She always made sure I was aware of all of the support that was available and how to access it. This was a great relief and we would have really struggled without it.”
Moving forward, the sisters are feeling optimistic for the future.
They said: “There’s always going to be a slight feeling of anxiety as we never know what’s going to happen with the pandemic but we feel confident that if we’ve survived this far, and kept going through three lockdowns, then we’ve got a great chance of carrying on.
“Our customers are amazing and have really shown amazing support through all of this. I think there’s been a real change in a lot of people’s buying habits and they’ve really seen how important it is to keep local, small businesses going. We’ve had some of our busiest days ever over the past year, so we’re hoping it’s going to be a great year ahead.”
TDA has supported Margos through the ERDF Enterprise Coaching Project, which provides fully funded Business Support to Start-Up Businesses in Torbay through 1:1 sessions and Workshops.
For more information about how TDA can help fulfil your hospitality industry aspirations, contact the team on www.tda.uk.net
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