Tony Singh was unemployed before starting his own business, Caffe Venecia, in the centre of Huddersfield in November 2013.
He used his Start Up Loan to renovate the store space, and in only nine months of trading the business grew from four to seven employees and saw turnover increase more than 300%. Tony spoke to us about the importance of respecting and training your staff.
Why did you start your own business?
I found it very frustrating to find work after losing my job due to an industrial accident. The only choice was to work for myself and hopefully create jobs for others in a similar situation.
How do you go about hiring people at Caffe Venecia?
When I lost my job I applied for lots of other roles and found it extremely hard to find anything. It made me want to deliberately hire people who were unemployed, as I knew how difficult it was to find a job in this situation. This led me to take on apprentices in catering and hospitality, and I advertise these in local job centres when we have vacancies.
How important is hiring the right people for Caffe Venecia?
It is important as the business is so customer focused and there are certain skills that you require, especially communication skills. Coming from an engineering back ground it was difficult to select and recruit the right people as I lacked the experience and knowledge of the café industry. However, if there is someone that we notice has a spark or is passionate about what they are doing, then with training and support you can train them in the technical skills. The staff I have are approachable, customer friendly and work collectively.
How do you try and create an efficient team?
We regularly catch up and have team meetings almost daily. They are informal and we talk about issues that have arisen, what we need to do, products we need to buy and what needs to change. It’s a great opportunity for everyone to share what they are up to and if they have any problems in an informal environment. The team is like a family and it’s a group effort.
Does Caffe Venecia offer any training opportunities for staff?
As I am looking to expand into franchises, I want to train all employees to become managers and eventually run the cafés. When an apprentice starts, the café manager and I will help train with the technicalities such as barista training and learning all 24 teas that we stock! One of our apprentices is now the junior manager of Caffe Venecia. In the café employees get to see all aspects of running a business, from the purchasing to the selling, displaying and even making the food and drinks. You won’t get this much exposure in some other cafes, and I think it’s important experience for the future.
What advice would you give to small business owners for managing their team?
Respect your staff. If you look after your staff, your staff will look after you. I am fortunate that I have a great team, who treat the Caffe Venecia team like a family and give me 110%.