01 Feb 2021
Paul and Adrian, former Thomas Cook Flight Crew, have realised their dream of opening a café, gift and interiors shop in the heart of Frodsham. After both being made redundant Paul and Adrian picked themselves up and accessed funding and support to start their own business through St Helens Chamber’s Start-Up Team and the NEA.
Adrian explained: “We were made redundant from Thomas Cook when the company collapsed in September 2019. We both wanted to carry on flying, and had new jobs lined up with TUI so we went to the job centre while we waited for a start date.”
“Then Coronavirus started coming into the news more and more. We had the foresight to know at this point we needed a Plan B, realising that Coronavirus would have a massive impact on the aviation industry – which it did.”
Both Paul and Adrian had always thought about opening a business.
Adrian continued: “We’d always had in our minds that we needed a Plan B in case we couldn’t fly anymore and we’d settled on a restaurant, bistro or coffee shop – just some sort of business where we could work together. When we were flying we had a married roster and worked together most of the time, so we knew we were a good team.
“Plan B suddenly became Plan A when the pandemic hit. We went to a trade fair at the NEC prior to the first national lockdown and sourced the majority of our suppliers there – having decided to have a dual-aspect business of coffee plus gifts and interiors. We were already signing on at the job centre, and our Coach, Jan was amazing – so helpful.”
Paul added: “We mentioned to Jan that we wanted to work together and to break out on our own. She told us about the NEA and the funding available, alongside the support from the Chamber. So, we arranged to go over to St Helens Chamber to see the Start-Up Team which got the ball rolling.”
Paul and Adrian enrolled on the free courses available to them through St Helens Chamber’s Start-Up Team. They drew on their previous experience and one-on-one support from Business Adviser, Cath to help them put together their business plan and market research requirements.
Adrian explained: “Paul previously had his own restaurant and interiors shops, so had some really relevant experience in our field and in running a hospitality business. My degree was in Business Studies and Marketing, so our combined experience worked well together.
“Even with the experience, it was daunting starting up on our own. After being an employee – just turning up and doing your job – going into our own business was quite daunting as we were now responsible for everything!”
Paul and Adrian found the courses on Social Media and Marketing particularly useful, as this was something they had no experience in.
Adrian explained: “We’d never had anything to do with social media before, but through the course at the Chamber we learned how to use social media to market the business and we’ve now been able to really embrace it. I’ve taken on the responsibility for creating content for posts. Paul manages Facebook and I take care of Instagram.”
Paul and Adrian benefitted from the one-on-one support provided by Business Start Up Adviser, Cath. This support gave them insights into financial planning, helped them to create a business plan and gave them a focus in their important first months of trading.
Adrian explained: “In one of the modules Cath Hickey led, she asked us what our USP is. We said our USP is us! Cath saw us in the job centre a few weeks later – we had about 8 people there falling over themselves to help us, and she said she now understood why we are our own USP.
“She’d never seen people work a room like that, particularly in a job centre. So we knew that working together would bring something special to our business.”
Starting a business in the face of adversity has meant that even more people have bought into the business concept and into Paul and Adrian themselves. Many people have taken inspiration from how they’ve turned a bad situation around and created something new. They are keen to get the message across that even after being made redundant you can start again and be a great success.
Paul commented: “People have bought into us partly because it’s been such a turbulent year. We turned a horrible situation – losing our whole household income overnight – around and created something really special in Me & Mr Jones.
“People think: these guys have got up, dusted themselves down and, instead of feeling sorry for themselves, have done something about it and I think that’s made more people in the village want to support our business.”
Paul and Adrian have a very specific vision for their business.
Adrian continued: “We’ve never been about the “hard sell.” Our mantra is that people buy from people they like. We’re providing an experience – not just a shop. On the aircraft we called ourselves “The Paul and Ade Show.” We really enjoy interacting with people and so we’re carrying this on into our new business.”
Start-up Business Adviser, Cath, helped Paul and Adrian put a plan together then make the necessary changes to their plan when they found that the shop was unexpectedly outperforming the café.
Paul explained: “Initially we thought the coffee shop would be the main event, but the shop has really taken off which has tuned the business plan on its head.
“We sell a range of different items – home textiles and fragrance, lamps, ceramics and unique pieces . Large items like occasional chairs and mirrors have flown out! The things we stock are really unique and can’t be found anywhere else locally so it’s been very popular in Frodsham.”
Adrian added: “Marketing and networking have been really important for us. We’re not on the high street so we have to do a little extra to ensure people make the trip a few minutes away to our shop. We’re so pleased to be getting word of mouth referrals now through Facebook and Instagram.”
Paul and Adrian have benefitted from working closely with the Start-Up Team through the NEA.
Paul explained: “Lots of former colleagues have come in and we’ve recommended them to the Chamber as it helped us so much with our marketing and business plan. It was really useful for us to have that support.
“Even though I’d run a business before, it updated my knowledge and made me aware of things I’d never thought of before.
Cath was fantastic and really helped us with our accounts and planning. She helped us look at our finances and plan the direction of our business.”
The New Enterprise Allowance is funded by the Department of Work and Pensions and the European Social Fund.
If you are unemployed and thinking of starting a business, speak to your JobCentre Plus adviser for more information about the New Enterprise Allowance Scheme.
If you’d like to find out more about St Helens Chamber’s Business Start Up support, call us on 01744742096 or email email@example.com