Brown Sugar: Shevonne Bennett
Shevonne Bennett on starting her Caribbean restaurant, and bagging a few celebrity fans
Company name: BROWN SUGAR UK LTD
Founders: Shevonne Bennett
Based: Clapham Junction
Staff Numbers: 12
Date started: 05 February 2007
Tell us what your business does
Brown Sugar is a new type of Caribbean restaurant. We offer good live music and good food in a contemporary setting. We also host various events such as comedy shows, speed dating and poetry open mic sessions.
Where did the idea for your business come from?
While studying for my business and HR degree, I was on a lunch break in a restaurant and suddenly thought to myself, there are no chains of nice Caribbean restaurants where you can eat tasty Caribbean food, relax and socialise in comfortable surroundings.
What appealed most about being your own boss?
Pushing myself to places that take me away from life’s comfort zones and proving that young people, especially women, can strive for more and not settle for what’s perceived as ‘normal/ successful’.
How did you raise the money?
I found investors, got a bank loan and used some personal savings.
How easy was it?
It was easy because of the hard work I initially put into my business plan and proposal presentations. I basically sold the idea of the brand and that’s what people were interested in.
What challenges have you faced how have you overcome them?
I had to adapt to the harsh reality of literally being on your own and fighting for survival. Everyone talks about how being your own boss is great or having your own business is the best, but no one actually explains what happens when you get the keys and you have to build the business up from scratch. No one explains how you can develop your business on a shoestring budget. The survival skills in start-up businesses are vital!
How have you promoted your business? What has proved successful and what won’t you do again?
We have carried out very little promotion; we have gained our clientele through word of mouth. (Not out of choice). We have also achieved recognition from Time Out and through celebrities coming to the restaurant.
What’s the impact on your home life been like?
My aim for this year is step away from the operational side of the business, regain my home life and to focus purely on the business development side of things. I don’t think that my skills lie purely with the day to day running of the business.
Where do you want to be in five years’ time? Do you have an exit plan?
We plan to diversify the Brown Sugar brand by developing different strands alongside the restaurant.