When Torquay sisters Abi and Finola opened their vegetarian café in 2019, little did they know a global pandemic would force them to shut their doors after only 8 months.
From their journey’s outset, business advisor Kim Thornton from the TDA was on-hand to provide Abi and Finola with any 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 turn their dream of running a vegetarian café into reality.
After much hard work and perseverance, Abi and Finola opened Margo’s, a beautiful contemporary space where people can relax, socialise, and enjoy great coffee, cake, and vegetarian food.
However, the national lockdown of March 2020 meant that Abi and Finola had to shut their doors to the public with little notice, and no guidance about what to do next.
Coping With COVID
Using some innovative structural adaptations, and through eager support from Kim and the TDA, Abi and Finola were safely back on their feet in no time – serving delicious cakes and staying connected with customers through social media.
Abi said: “After the first lockdown in March 2020, we closed completely for a few months. Then, after some thought, we decided to re-open and offer takeaways at the end of May 2020.
“It was a very daunting prospect, as we didn’t know what to expect, and wondered if we were doing the right thing.
“However, we’ve found that everyone has wanted treats to lift their spirits, so we’ve been baking like mad and always trying to come up with new, fun ideas to give people something to look forward to.
“In such an isolating time, it’s the little things like grabbing a coffee that can make life seem slightly more normal!”
Kim Thornton said: “Margo’s had already established itself as an outstanding venue in the short time it had traded.
“I was happy to support Abi and Finola with the ever-changing information provided by the government, and to ensure they were aware of the help 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 incredible!”
Abi said: “Kim at TDA has been amazing as usual. She supported me through all my grant applications, and chased up payments and letters that I was struggling with.
“She always made sure that I was aware of all the available support and how to access it. This was a great relief, and we would have struggled without it.”
Moving forward, the two sisters are feeling optimistic for the future, saying that:
“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 since we’ve survived this far, and kept going through 3 lockdowns, we’ve got a great chance of carrying on!
“Our customers are amazing and have shown great support through all of this. I think there’s been a real change in a lot of people’s buying habits, and they’ve 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 12 months ahead.”
TDA has supported Margo’s through the ERDF Enterprise Coaching Project, which provides fully-funded business support to start-up businesses in Torbay through 1:1 sessions and workshops.
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