Helen Langton, a secondary-school teacher for 12 years, and her partner Matthew Altham, an emergency care assistant for South Western Ambulance Service NHS Trust, were seeking a better work-life balance. They specifically wanted to own a business that would let them apply their skills creatively.
When the chance arose to take on Scoopy Doo’s Ice Cream Parlour, the business they now own and run together, they went for it. Receiving £25,000 in funding through X-Emergency Services as a delivery partner of the Start Up Loans scheme, the pair bought the existing premises and became owners.
Helen explains: “Matt was looking for a work-life balance, so working part-time in the ambulance service was helping him to do that. And I gave up my teaching job with the plan to do something completely different! And along came this little gem of a business that I could see had loads of potential and I decided that this was the place we wanted to be. So we went ahead and bought it with the help of a Start Up Loan.”
“I applied for the loan and got exactly what I needed to enable me to buy the existing business here. And it’s been brilliant having a mentor there – I know there’s somebody there who’s got my back. If I’ve got a situation that I don’t know what to do with, or I’m concerned about something, I can just email and I know I’m going to get a quick response.”
As Matt is still working part-time in the ambulance service, the couple have found a welcome level of financial stability and freedom to how they operate.
“If I’m part-time, I have the flexibility and security of my frontline job, with the option to do extra time if I need to,” Matt says. “It also gives me a foot in this camp to help with Scoopy’s!”
Asked what advice they would you give to anyone starting a business, Helen says: “My biggest tip to anybody that wants to do this is get a watertight business plan. I had no idea that so many people would want a business plan. It doesn’t just stop with applying for a loan; your landlord might ask for one, the agents might ask for one, so make sure your business plan is absolutely thorough. And do your research! You need to know who your competitors are.”