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Home > Life Stories > The Ethnic Food Entrepreneur - UK - 2

The Ethnic Food Entrepreneur - UK - 2

This model has two strands. Firstly people who come to the UK with capital that they can invest. Often entrepreneurship was not what they initially planned for their capital but they have not had much success in seeking employment. These investors are cautious about their investment. Money has come into the UK from sale of land, sale of businesses, inheritance or savings all from immigrant’s home countries. The other type of investing entrepreneur noted here are those who have borrowed money to invest. Most commonly this is from family or within their own community. It is not possible to persuade a bank to loan money to someone who has not been in the UK for at least three and usually five years. However, in one case the investor had worked in the UK for more than 30 years and owned property and was able to start his manufacturing business with bank loans.

Mr and Mrs VC moved to the UK from Greece, with their decision to emigrate a result of the financial crisis in Greece. Although they had lived in Greece more than 18 years and consider Greek to be their first language both had been born overseas; Mr VC in Australia and Mrs VC in the USA. On asking why they had chosen the UK when both Australia and the USA were viable options for emigration in their case the rationale was that they had family in the UK and Mrs VC had studied for a year in London as a teenager and fell in love with England. They believe that the UK has many opportunities for people prepared to work hard, even in the current economic difficulties and that it is a particularly good place to bring up children. Mr and Mrs VC have a young child (born in the UK) and consider that she will benefit from the education available in the UK and also through having family.

As they are both well-qualified (a telecoms engineer and teacher of English) they had expected to be able to find work in the UK and had not initially planned to establish a business. However, employment proved difficult to obtain and as a result Mr and Mrs VC decided to invest capital they had acquired through selling land in Greece. They initially did some research into opportunities that might be viable in the city where they lived and decided that their business would be a Greek restaurant, which filled a gap in the market in the small city where they are based. They pointed out that this type of business required significant financial initial investment but that this was not available from banks as they had not been UK-based for long enough; therefore people who did not arrive with significant sums of capital to invest would not be able to develop this type of buisness. Mr and Mrs VC speak excellent English, but still had some difficulties negotiating the planning, employment and food hygiene regulations in the UK. They relied greatly on the accountancy firm they engaged for advice about property purchase, employment laws and issues around taxation and employed project managers to ensure the conversion of a shop into a restaurant as they did not have sufficient local knowledge to employ their own contractors. They were not aware that there is an active Chamber of Commerce in the city where they established the business, or of various support, training and advice schemes organised by the regional development agency in partnership with a local university. They felt that had they had knowledge about these sources of support it would have been a great help. They were able to obtain informal advice from a retired restaurateur who helped them with a lot of issues that would otherwise have posed problems.

Mr and Mrs VC employ nine people (five part-time) and both also work full time themselves within the restaurant. Mrs VC does a significant proportion of the cooking in the restaurant although they also employ a fulltime chef. One of the initial problems they encountered was that the restaurant was far busier then they had expected and also that they were not used to employing staff and had some difficulties recruiting the best staff for the positions; meaning there had been some turnover of staff in the early stages of the business. They also had initial problems with obtaining planning permission as the building in which the restaurant is based is in a conservation area and all alterations had to comply with stringent requirements; Mr and Mrs VC had to rely upon their project management team to resolve such issues as they did not have sufficient knowledge of the processes or people to contact for advice. This led to delays in getting the business up-and-running. 

Education and Culture Lifelong Learning Programme
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