Rebecca Blachford, bebeccino, Newport
I'm really stubborn – always have been.
Starting up bebeccino, a fun café where kids can play and parents can relax, was not easy. And keeping it going has almost been harder.
We're in our third year. So we must be doing something right – we keep getting industry awards.
We are an independent and we provide a much-needed healthy ethical service for a niche market. That combination makes it a difficult business. Many times I've been told to give up, but seeing the difference we make for parents confirms we're doing the right thing.
We are very careful about our choices of beverages and foods. They are carefully non-allergic to prevent adverse behaviour in the children. Such high standards lowers your margin, but it's essential to our commitment to food quality.
I think the cheap option really sells people short. Not only your customers (and their children) but also the staff of the producers – and maybe the farmers and countries of their suppliers too.
I keep finding new ways to keep going. It can be lonely, but I have lots of supportive friends, staff and customers.
No business enterprise is easy, but some may be harder than others! So keeping the courage of my convictions is a good thing!
Being A Force For Good Can Also Make A Profit
Commentary from Dave Simon
Profit is only one measure of business success.
There are others – like paying taxes, creating jobs, helping neighbours and improving the planet.
A new measure is called the triple bottom line. It counts social, environmental and financial outcomes (sometimes called the '3 Ps': people, planet and profits).
This idea can guide enterprise. “Companies that commit to doing good for the planet almost always find it to be good for business as well”, Richard Branson says in The Virgin Way.
He is talking about profitable business with green methods and with green products.
However, helping the planet and its people is not always profitable. The need may be clear – like preventing pollution, deforestation, poverty and illness – but there are not enough paying customers.
For business, the easiest way may be to follow the demand (rather than the need) and then help the need once profits allow. One example is WightAid – a local charity that successful businesses support. Profit becomes a means to do good, not an end in itself.
Balancing charity ideals with commercial realities at work can get very difficult. Here be dragons.
So heroes commit here. Our challenge as a community is in how to champion these missions.
I've worked in schools, local authority, NHS and adult learning disability. I've also been a self-employed dancer for 20 years. I hurt my back and looked around for a job. I needed it to fit around being a single mum.
Things got so bad that I had to make my own job. I knew there were other parents in my situation and the idea of providing for them grew in my mind. A plan that involved me using all my experience evolved.
I set up Bebeccino nearly three years ago. We have found it difficult to maintain a sufficient cash-flow and I've wondered about giving up. And friends have said “You've done enough!”. But a variety of awards, grants and happy customers have told me that people think I'm doing well.
It has been very challenging. But if I don't do this, who will? The need for support is there. The cost to the country through all sorts of other forms of support is enormous.
But apart from the stress of carrying the business, I also don't spend enough time with my son. My biggest worry is that I exhaust myself, my family and friends and end up with more responsibility and debt than I started with. The cost of the Health and Safety requirements is much more than anyone imagines.
So we are changing the legal basis – we're going over to a Community Interest Company (a CIC). That's halfway between a charity and a commercial concern, and that will allow us to tap into completely new income streams.
Our Island Uniqueness
I feel we could do more for the Island by keeping more money here. The national and international chains take our money away. I think we want them because they offer jobs. And many people are impressed with the branding – but a cup of coffee is really just a cup of coffee anywhere. We need to depend on ourselves more.
It is difficult to support local endeavours. It takes so long for people to come round. But we need little bits of uniqueness. Difference. Individuality. Not just for our sanity, but to attract tourists. So many mainland towns draw lots of visitor money this way – we need to as well.
The ferry costs are disproportionately high. They seem to have tripled in ten years. I love the experience of the ferry – I wouldn't want a fixed link. But I do thing the Government should cap the ferry fares to stop the Island being held hostage – for residents and tourists alike.
I wish I'd been given some particular pieces of advice when I started. Especially about being a sole trader, a limited company or a CIC. Instead I got some naff advice from someone who should have know better. It has caused me some pain.
And I would advise anyone else starting up to is to read long-term contracts very, very carefully. I wish I'd found the FSB much sooner, too.
I do think that coaching and mentoring is good. I admire Hammie Tappenden, a trainer and coach who has been very generous. Personally, I'm an ideas person, so I don't really need new ideas. What I need is ways to implement ideas and that means money and people.
I really admire a similar project in Dorset. There are three women who work together, each in a defined role, and they have made a huge success. I would like to do the same, somehow.