Season of Plenty

Member Article

Young Newcastle businesswomen cook up new venture

Two Newcastle businesswomen are tasting the delights of a £14,000 boost to grow their bespoke catering business in 2014.

Jenny Scott, 24 and Corrie Thomas 25 from Newcastle last year set up Seasons Plenty, a catering business, to make use of their love of international travel.

The pair combined 20 years of experience in the food industry and are one of the first businesses to have been awarded financing through new enterprise loan provider, Virgin StartUp.

Following a successful pilot in the North East and Cumbria supported by Virgin Money, Virgin StartUp was launched in October 2013 to provide low-cost business loans and mentoring support to entrepreneurs across the UK.

Jenny recently returned from five years running a bar and restaurant in Spain and Corrie spent four years living in Vietnam following her professional catering training at Newcastle College. Together, their Spanish and Vietnamese influences make Seasons Plenty an interesting mix of locally sourced food with distinctly international flavours.

Both Jenny and Corrie accessed initial business support through Ready for Business, an investment readiness programme delivered in the North East by enterprise agency TEDCO.

The programme is supported by the Government’s Regional Growth Fund and Barclays, and is delivered nationwide by the Cavendish Consortium, a partnership between some of England’s leading enterprise agencies together with the National Enterprise Network.

So far the programme has created more than 3,500 new jobs across the UK in the new enterprises it supports, and provides individuals with concentrated support in the pre-start stages of their new business.

Jenny Scott said: “From day one, Seasons Plenty has been about marrying our skills in cooking and entertaining with our passion and love of sharing our food and knowledge of both local ingredients and international flavours to create a catering company with a unique point of difference in the marketplace.

“Most recently, we developed our ‘Power Food for Professionals’ menu to provide a corporate lunchtime option, using ingredients to sustain energy levels through afternoon meetings as an alternative to the normal stacks of sandwiches on offer. It’s been a great success and one which we’re hoping to expand upon as we move further into the corporate market in the future.

“We are confident in the products and services we provide but to offer greater flexibility to our customers and improve our business pipeline, we needed to invest in promotional activity and improve the equipment available to us.

“With no start-up capital available, our Ready for Business advisor pointed us in the direction of Virgin StartUp to obtain the kind of financing we needed to really give our business a push in the right direction.”

Sir Richard Branson partnered with TEDCO last year to officially launch Virgin StartUp for entrepreneurs in the North East region. TEDCO will be the main access point for people in the region looking to source funding through Virgin StartUp. Its team of advisors will help guide applicants through the application process, offering additional help and wider enterprise support as part of the Ready for Business programme.

Jenny continued: “We worked with a business advisor from TEDCO to take us through the Ready for Business stages and get our business plan rock solid before even thinking about applying for financing.

“We needed to be sure there was not only a market for our offering but that the investment we needed to put into the business to fund promotional activities, new transport and equipment to take on larger functions could be justified.

“Virgin StartUp has given us the opportunity to really move forward with our business, and with new premises at The Beacon on Westgate Road, Newcastle, we are now able to offer cookery classes as a way to diversify the business even further.

“For young entrepreneurs like ourselves, Virgin StartUp is a vital lifeline to financing which can otherwise be particularly difficult to source. It makes Seasons Plenty more than just a catering business. We are now an operation poised and ready to capitalise on some fantastic opportunities which otherwise might have had to pass us by.”

Carole White, head of business and operations at TEDCO said: “We are delighted to see Seasons Plenty successfully receive financing from Virgin StartUp following support through the Ready for Business programme. Both Jenny and Corrie are passionate and dedicated business owners with a real understanding for what will make their business stand out in the marketplace.

“Although launched relatively recently, we have seen an enormous amount of interest in Virgin StartUp from younger people in the North East who are keen to look at ways to get their venture off the ground with an affordable loan.

“The spirit of enterprise is very much alive in the region and we’re looking forward to working with more new ventures in the coming months to see how Virgin StartUp can make a difference to their business prospects.”

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by TEDCO .

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