If you're looking for somewhere new to have a coffee and enjoy some tasty food, why not visit The Breakhouse Café? Founded by Chloe Bailey-Williams, with her passion for coffee and amazing food, she has created a space that the local community love. Chloe aims for the business to be sustainable and ethical wherever possible, and to be inclusive of a variety of tastes, reflecting the diversity of her customers. Now, let's hear more from Chloe...
What was the spark that made you want to run your own business?
I’ve always worked in hospitality, always loved taking care of people. I used to be a duty manager for Block nightclub in Hackney Wick, when they were closing down, the owner asked if I wanted to oversee the other studio spaces. I have always wanted my own space, so I spoke to my business partner and looked at the options for taking on a café. As it turns out, my previous employer had a café and they didn’t want to renew the lease with the current business, so although I wanted to set up more of a coffee shop, I took the opportunity to take on the café. It was a big step as I wanted to set up a coffee/ wine bar type of business, more drink focused. I had never tried starting a business before, but I had experience running venues for clubs. But this was very different to selling food, it makes sense because of allergies, health and safety…etc. for a kitchen you need more certificates, more training, a chef… etc. Although I never intended to go down the food path, I really enjoy it even with the challenges, I was very lucky in finding a great chef and there were some ups and downs but once you get through the challenges and how busy it is, it’s fun.
Did you feel that you knew what you needed to know when taking the business on?
I was a bit surprised because I was originally looking to serve coffee and other drinks, but there was lots to learn. When I added the café where you are selling food and you throw in PAYE, VAT , insurance , pensions, contracts , it was a lot to get your head around.
Have you sought help from other places as well as the Library/SiLL or has it just been us?
I looked at other places for workshops and advice, fortunately I had a few months to catch-up and I found a bookkeeper and accountant. I also did several courses to increase my knowledge, lots of people claim to tell you stuff and take your money even when it’s not useful, but what was good is that they were all saying similar things. For me the best support was with the SiLL programme, lots of useful and practical information and free of charge.
I found SiLL through Eventbrite while I was searching for business support, I saw what SiLL offered was good and it was free which was a good change, as I didn’t feel I was getting value for money for the courses I had already paid for. With the workshops being in the libraries and in partnership with BIPC, I felt like that’s where you go for information, they are the people I want to know. The support was also delivered in partnership with the local council and those are the people you want on your side when setting up a business.
Have you felt that the SiLL programme has still been there for you, even though everything has been run online throughout the pandemic?
Yes, it’s been good to catch-up with Abraham in our 1-2-1's and through emails, some other programmes that I have tried just don’t keep in touch. It’s quite challenging setting up a business in a pandemic so I appreciate that Abraham would visit me at the Café to go over different strategies. He would also inform and support me in taking up opportunities like the mentoring, which I successfully applied for. It really helps to speak with him about my business and I continue to benefit from his experience and advice. His ideas on how to use the space ( like setting up a film club) and some Café tips I can’t mention (it’s a trade secret) have been great, we are currently planning our first film night!
What do you like about the area local to the café and its community?
I love the area, Victoria park is a short walk away and the local community is very friendly. I like to have a chat with the regulars and the locals, it’s a very creative area and is part of the CEZ (creative enterprise zone) in Tower Hamlets and Hackney. There is a strong and growing business community, and this includes community groups. We’ve definitely noticed local businesses working together, it's great to be a part of it and to see the community the Café is building around itself. We now do catering for The Shellworks 3 days a week, so they all get to eat together at the same time. We also joined up with one of my friends that makes sole food to sell Jamaican Rotis, and we’re doing catering for The Outrunners, a local runners club that do workshops and mentoring.
Do you employ any other people at the café?
Yes, all the staff are great. its challenging managing teams when running your own business, but finding a balance of being nice while making sure standards are kept is key. I encourage a healthy work environment that’s focused on respect and wellbeing and I’m grateful that I have found the right mix of people. The staff work really well together, it’s taken a year to get to this stage, but I haven’t had to let anyone go that was an asset to the business.
What are you most proud of achieving?
Opening and staying open through the pandemic, getting the level 5 hygiene rating, doing external food catering for the first time, showing the football ( England in the Euro finals) and being able to do it in a safe environment where everyone was happy.
What’s your next goal for the business?
My Next goal is to increase the number of customers per day, build on our social media and work on evening events. We have a creative team including our Head Chef who wants to add Sunday roast and daily specials to the menu. We also want to increase our opening times, adding more options for builders and other tradesmen that have an early start.
What do you think will be the business support you may need going forward?
As a new business, increasing our revenue is a top priority, so definitely support in generating more awareness to build our customer base. Also support in accessing grants that can help the business grow and help us engage with the local community.
For more on Start-ups in London Libraries and how to register for our upcoming workshop, visit www.bl.uk/SiLL.