Anne and Blossom Evans

Mother and Daughter Swift Participant

Why did you sign up to the Women and Broadband programme?

When Anne and Blossom  - a mother and daughter team - entered the Swift project they were already on the way to launching their village coffee shop in Rotherfield. This was part of a wider family project which involved the purchase and restoration of a Grade ll listed building in the centre of the village where they already lived. The project involved division of the building which enabled older daughter/sister to have a house – and for Anne and Blossom to have the old antique shop section as a coffee shop. This was an entirely new venture for them both – as Anne had been a teacher for most of her working life and Blossom was combining studying with work within the coffee shop. So much time and energy had been spent on the restoration that comparatively little time had been spent on in-depth planning of the business at that stage.

As a teacher and Deputy Head Anne had been involved in the organisation of many large scale events and the marketing of the school – and also hosting many big family celebrations  -  but the coffee shop was an entirely new venture for a new phase in her working life outside of education.

Blossom had more specific experience as she had worked part time in a coffee shop - giving her understanding of day to day running of a business – and had also discovered a talent for baking. She had done some informal catering for friends and local charities which had been very successful – but lacked any formal business or management training.

The Swift programme was a watershed in the development and design of their shop transforming their understanding of key elements.

Blossom ... “ Whilst it was daunting to be the youngest person on such a programme, the Swift course gave me the opportunity to think through our plan and learn from other people’s ideas and experiences.”

Anne said  “I felt that for the first time I began to view myself as a” business woman” and actually give form and structure to our planning. Whilst I had a comparatively clear vision about what I wanted to achieve, the actual process was less well defined.”

How have you benefited personally?

Blossom ... “As I am combining studying with the Open University with running the coffee shop, my biggest issue is time – or lack of it. I found the time management session particularly useful in helping me to prioritise and appreciate how to get the most out of limited time available.

It was also fascinating to listen to other people’s ideas and hear how they planned to work on their businesses. My digital skills are quite good but thinking through how to use social media to promote our business was very useful.

It was also good that my mother and I did some elements of the course together and some separate – we were able to compare notes and also to talk through different bits and see how they could apply to us. We met some great people who are now part of our business today as workshop leaders.”

Anne... “My perspective was somewhat different to Blossom's, coming as I do from a context of education – where for good or ill schools are viewed as businesses. We had done a lot of general research (much visiting of other coffee and tea shops) and market research (talking to people in our village and analysing footfall) – but even so our plans were somewhat vague. The Swift course was very serendipitous – it came along at just the right point.

The business planning session was particularly helpful as was the work on finances – and financial planning – these sessions were very focused and practical and demanded a level of detail that I had not previously considered.

Inevitably I found the networking both enjoyable and valuable – and in fact it helped me to formulate my vision into the concept of a “creative cafe” – and give substance to my ideas. Being able to test out our plans within a “safe context” was also invaluable and I found my fellow Swifters both insightful and supportive.

I was also very inspired by others on the course but especially by the speaker at the launch who talked about her own small business – dairy products – and the way in which she valued her team and ensured their skills and ideas were both acknowledged and utilised. This is something we have tried to do within our own team.”

What happened next or what are you planning to do next?

Blossom … “ we have only been up and running for three months but already we are managing many things more efficiently. Social media has been really helpful in spreading the word and our Facebook page has been very useful. We have enjoyed getting to know our customers and planning different events. My role is very different to what I had expected as I don’t have as much time to bake as I had thought – but I am enjoying my front of house role and also learning to manage our staff team. The next stage is to get a clear overview of the year and plan for it  - also to make sure we carry on exploring new ideas.”

Anne ... “We opened the coffee shop on December 6th – and have been working hard on its development ever since! We have really hit the ground running and have had to be very flexible and adaptable to ensure that we really are meeting our customers’ needs. Certain elements have developed very rapidly - for example it soon became clear that we could not produce all food in-house ourselves so we now have a chef – which was absolutely the right move but not something I had envisaged doing previously.

Blossom and I are a good team and have complementary skills. Blossom has developed into a skillful barista and is excellent at managing the front of house details of ordering and serving which is very complex when we get busy. She also manages our staff team of 14 part-timers. I have concentrated on getting to know our customers and providing a personal service – but also using that knowledge to inform the planning of additional elements – the workshops, arts and crafts, supper club and charity and private events.

Interestingly many of our customers have said that they were worried that the business might not be successful because there is no parking and the village is relatively small! I was certainly aware of the possible obstacles to success but The Swift project gave me the confidence to believe that we were on the right lines and that is was worth the gamble. I am so glad that we did!”

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