May 20 2013 Latest news:
Ramzy Alwakeel, Reporter
Wednesday, February 13, 2013
Lee Wildridge has an unusual plan to help unemployed people back into work – and it involves coffee.
Lee’s mobile “gourmet coffee” shop Henry’s Coffee Bar is one of three winners of the Recorder’s Local Business Accelerators competition.
That means he has free newspaper advertising and the advice of franchise guru Gerry Byrne at his disposal.
And one of Lee’s first ideas is to set up a “barista school” to teach unemployed people new skills.
“The Olympics sucked up the good baristas into corporate contracts,” explained the forward-thinking 34-year-old.
“People are always advertising for experienced baristas, and a good barista can earn up to £15 an hour.”
Once he’s ironed out the details with the Department of Work and Pensions Lee will be ready to roll – he’s already got the machinery and warehouse space to realise his dream.
But Lee, of Tuck Road, is still a little surprised he won after the Dragons’ Den-style presentation day, which took place at the Recorder offices last month.
“I was confident before that my business is worth it, but I need to get my confidence up if I’m going to do this sort of thing more often,” he admitted.
Maria Hayllar, who owns the Heavenly salon in Petersfield Avenue, Harold Hill, is another modest winner.
“I’m absolutely overwhelmed,” she said. “I didn’t originally want to do it because I was so nervous.
“I didn’t think we had a chance at all because I’m not the sort of person who finds it easy to stand up and give a talk. Even at school I couldn’t even read aloud in class. I could hear my heart beating over the presentation.”
Maria, 39, now hopes to use the advertising and mentoring to expand her business premises.
At 22, Katie Newman of Havering Beauty Academy is the youngest winner – but the most confident about her presentation style.
“I’m used to teaching in front of 20 people so that helped,” she explained, “but it was still a bit intimidating.
“We entered last year but didn’t even get to the presentation stage. It just shows that persistence pays off – keep going for it and don’t be put off.”
Katie hopes to use her prize to attract students to her the beauty school’s NVQ courses.