Caffe Venecia: Avtar Singh

Inspired by a trip to Venice for his 50th birthday, founder Avtar Singh turned his unemployment into an opportunity

Name: Avtar Singh
Age: 51
Company Name: Caffe Venecia
Staff numbers: 7
Location: Yorkshire and the Humber
Date Launched: 26/11/2013
Website: www.caffevenecia.com

Tell us what your business does:

Caffe Venecia is an Italian cafe, styled on Venetian flare serving premium, hand crafted coffee. We are dedicated to getting our coffee exactly right from bean to blend to roast to barista training and expert coffee making. Great coffee is our craft and passion.

Where did the idea for your business come from?

I went to Venice for my 50th birthday and liked what I saw and thought I can bring a little piece of Venice to Huddersfield.

How did you know there was a market for it?

The coffee market is going from strength to strength. You only have to look in the coffee bars around you. The mark up is fantastic for coffee.

What were you doing before starting up?

I have always been employed but lost my job due to having a back operation. When I was fit for work I applied for hundreds of jobs but had no luck (due to my age?) as I am highly qualified as an electrician. The job centre helped me get training and qualifications for barista with catering, hospitality and food hygiene.

Have you always wanted to run your own business?

No it was circumstances as I did not want to be unemployed.

How did you raise the money?

From a NatWest bank loan and a BEF loan from the Bradford Chamber of Commerce.

What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?

We’ve had staff who over-promised and under-delivered which was a disappointment but we’ve since hired some really great staff.

It has also been difficult to manage our cashflow due to high wage costs and rates bills. I have cut staff hours down so we can operate more efficiently.

Describe your business model and how you make money:

Caffe Venecia is a little piece of Venice in Huddersfield offering customers a bit of class – something new and different from the norm in the high street.

We are located in the heart of Huddersfield town centre and are well situated for access to the town’s bus and train station, civic centre and courts and the main retailing core of Huddersfield town centre.

Our customers are coffee lovers, people working in the town centre, shoppers, people going to and from the nearby bus and train station and people going to and from work. We make money due to the fact we are an independent and offer an alternative to other coffee houses as we make all our sandwiches and paninis front of house on display with excellent personal customer service.

What was your first big breakthrough?

I would say our biggest breakthrough to date has been getting over 100 customers a day.

What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?

Check out your competition and do lots and lots of research. Get as much advice as you can – there is a lot of help out there if you seek it.

Where do you want to be in five years’ time?

I will open a Caffe Venecia in Leeds and Manchester and then go down the franchise route.

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