FEATURE: Living the self-employed city dream

Chappucino in Sheffield
Chappucino in Sheffield
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Olivia Fisher remembers vividly the moment she decided to open her own business.

“I was sat at my mum’s house, and I’d just had a big cry over the fact I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life,” she laughs.

Little Lulu's

Little Lulu's

“I’d done a degree in biology and was working as a science technician in a school, but I’d realised it wasn’t for me.

“My mum Claire asked me what it was I loved to do and, almost without thinking, I answered ‘baking.’ My mum had just been made redundant and, by the end of the night, we’d decided we were going to open a café together.”

That was April 14 2013. Eight months later, the mum and daughter team launched Chappuccino, in the heart of Chapeltown,

“I was only 22 when we opened,” Olivia reveals.

Chappucino in Sheffield

Chappucino in Sheffield

“I’d always enjoyed working with people but launching a business was a big step.”

Chappuccino is now a coffee shop by day, offers a bistro service once a month in the evening, and hosts private parties. It has received glowing Trip Advisor reviews and is currently ranked 8th out of 1,203 places to eat in Sheffield.

Almost three years on, Olivia, now 25, says it’s the best move either of them ever made.

“Business is fantastic,” she confirms.

Little Lulu's

Little Lulu's

“We now employ a staff of four and are looking to expand our team.

“I often have this moment, when I’m working in the back and I can hear lots of great bustle out front, and people complimenting the food and the decor, and I think ‘I created that.’ It’s magical.”

Hundreds of new businesses, just like Olivia’s, open in Yorkshire every single year, with 764 setting up shop in the last financial year alone. Of these new businesses, 103 were established right here in Sheffield.

According to the Start Up Loans Company, who compiled the figures, 19 per cent of these new businesses were launched by young Sheffield residents, aged 18 to 24 and five per cent were residents aged 50 or over.

Interestingly, 46 per cent of these new business owners were previously unemployed, while 22 per cent left jobs to follow their business dreas and 23 per cent were already self-employed.

The figures also revealed that 65 per cent of new Sheffield businesses, in the last financial year, were opened by men, compared to the 35 per cent that were established by women.

Tim Sawyer, CEO of the Start Up Loans Company, said: “It’s fulfilling to see so many passionate individuals enjoying success in their business ventures, especially those who have previously struggled to find a job.

“We’ve seen people from all employment backgrounds, ages and genders take this leap and it’s brilliant to see so many individuals accomplishing their dreams. By turning their passions into a business, they’re able to do what they love most every day.”

Catriona Alfaham, of Meersbrook, decided to go into business for herself after taking a year’s maternity leave from her job as sales manager for a home accessories company in Sheffield.

Catriona launched online company Little Lulus which provides handmade leather children’s shoes, designed by Catriona herself and built in Italy.

“I‘d worked as a handbag designer for years, for various companies,” says Catriona, aged 36.

“After taking time off to have my daughter, I decided now was the time to make the leap and work for myself. Little Lulus launched at a trade show in London, last July - where it was named best newcomer - and then the website went live last August.”

And Catriona admits it’s been a tougher year than she expected, but as she celebrates her first anniversary, she’s delighted with how far she’s come.

“I think I was a little naive in the beginning, it was hard and orders didn’t come rolling in as quickly as I’d hoped, it was a slow first six months,” she says.

“And I think one extra thing that people launching a business today have to contend with is maintaining an online presence - website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and emails - I like some of them more than I do others, but it sometimes feels like a continuous cycle before even getting to the product itself.

“But these last three months there’s been a big turn-up and a big flurry of orders, and the future looks really exciting now. I’ve even taken a big order from a company in China, so within it’s first year, Little Lulu’s has taken its first steps towards becoming a global brand.

“It’s exciting when you work hard at something and see people respond to it - and I love that I’m doing this for myself.”