voucher case study

The idea began while Carla Garey’s chef husband Stacey was doing what all chefs dream about – running a restaurant. But, with a commercial background in sales and marketing in the hospitality industry, Garey wasn’t content with being a waitress. So she decided to start a catering company.

Now the restaurant has taken a back seat to Garey’s Derbyshire-based Saffron Catering, which is growing strongly as a business serving a wider Midlands market that extends from Manchester to Milton Keynes.

Initially Saffron was a brokerage model: Garey would bring in the business but sub-contract the catering work. Over time, she invested in equipment and supplies in order to deliver the work directly.

Although weddings and one-off events (hog roast, anyone?) provided much of the early business, Garey always wanted to develop Saffron as a venue caterer that would provide catering services to prestigious venues in the region.

Currently, Saffron has got 16 such venues on its books. “It’s a more comfortable model,” says Garey.

She is adding corporate clients whose contracts provide repeatable work on weekdays; an impressive roster already includes Alliance Boots, Amazon and Ikea.

The husband and wife team make a powerful partnership, combining Stacey’s chef background (which includes The Belfry, Hilton Hotels, and work at top-rank events such as the Chelsea Flower Show) with Carla’s sales and marketing smarts.

But Garey knew that she needed to plug the gaps in her knowledge. “I wanted to learn more about running a business,” she says.

That was put to the test when the couple purchased another catering company. It led to a big jump in sales but Garey had little experience on how best to develop the potential of this new-found scale. And that’s where the Growth Voucher programme came in.

“Stacey and I are full on running this business,” she observes.

“We live and breathe it and we can run it well but we’re so immersed that we don’t always step back and spot opportunities.  We decided to apply for a Growth Voucher to help get that perspective.”

They found their business adviser, Nicola Newall, via the Enterprise Online Marketplace.  Between Newall and Garey, a strategy was developed, describing the business’s core values and together they re-wrote their business plan.

“I was keen to get coaching in leadership but I also wanted get something tangible,” Garey says.

“So I split the advice I received; I spent some money on developing the vision for the business and some money on writing a new business plan.”

The benefits are flowing through. Today Saffron employs 25 full and part-time staff, including operations and administrative staff, chefs and supervisors. In the past year turnover has increased by 50 per cent.

“We are employing more staff with more skills. We are aiming for £1m turnover at the end of our five year plan and we are on track to achieve that.”

Garey says that she is looking at Growth Accelerator to help the business through its next phase of growth.

“Twelve months it was only me,” she reflects.“What I didn’t know, my business didn’t have. It’s essential that you do look for the advice that can bring skills to your business that you don’t have.”

How the Growth Vouchers programme works

To take part, you must:

  • Have a business registered in England
  • Have been actively selling goods and services for at least one year
  • Have 249 or less employees in your business
  • Pay the supplier in full after receiving the advice and then submit your claim