What does Teesside mean to you?
Teesside is home. I was born here, raised here and will probably remain here. It’s a beautiful part of the world. We have so much even, though we are portrayed as having little.
The outside opinion is so wrong. We have more green open space than most. We have easy access by road and rail to the seaside. We are a stone’s throw from both the Yorkshire Moors and Yorkshire Dales National Parks and we have a wonderful river snaking its way through our region, bringing life and livelihood. I feel very lucky to live here.
Why do you think independent businesses are so important for an area like Teesside?
All businesses are good for the area. Supply chain is very important from the big boys to the little guys, large to small employers. However, independent owner-managed businesses are vitally important to the region’s economy. They are huge employers and without them we’d have a huge unemployment issue.
When we set up Bentley’s it was important to us that we sourced and used local independent businesses where we could. If you support the local economy the money stays in the local economy. I’m a massive advocate of the ‘Teesside pound’.
What’s people’s reactions been to your business since you started?
Having never run a business before, we really didn’t know how it would be but we knew there was the need for it within the Parkway Centre in Coulby Newham. We’ve been warmly received by the community and love seeing regular faces and new faces alike. The support has been great and we have been humbled by it.
What’s the story behind your business ?
Originally, the business idea wasn’t of a coffee shop but of something different – still an eatery but totally not what we’ve ended up being. It was nothing to do with me. My other half, Martin Smith, had wanted to run, and had been planning, his own food business for some time. Having worked for many years in the retail sector, he wanted to work for himself and build a business, so when the opportunity for the space in the Parkway Centre came up, he jumped on it.
However, we knew the original plan would not work, so adapted our offering to suit the space and the audience. We refitted the premises, worked on the name, brand and proposition ready for its launch. On 1st July 2019, Bentley’s was born.
Why do you believe that Teesside gets such a bad reputation in the media?
I actually have no idea. Without wanting to sound too controversial, I think it’s pure ignorance. Media has always been driven from larger conurbations and anything smaller is the poor relation. It’s like school-yard bullies really. Something is different and they don’t understand it, so they pick on it. They are ignorant to our great and generous people, our amazing talent and tenacity, our innovation and ingenuity. We built the world – we are great – they just don’t realise it!
Where can people find your business online ?
How did you come up with the name Bentley’s Coffee shop ?
It wasn’t a name that we’d thought of ourselves and we had a name decided upon. I had previously worked with a fantastic brand agency, Highground in Stockton, and went to them for help with our brand. They chatted with us and we ended up coming out with a new name and logo.
What’s your advice to anyone wanting to set up their own business in the Tees Valley?
Do something that you want to and you think you’ll enjoy. That may sound an obvious thing to say but some people set out in business as just something to make money but end up not enjoying the journey. If you do something you love, then it makes the journey an easier one.
If you think you’ve found a gap, make sure there’s a market for it and do your research.
Build your business on strong foundations. Get a good accountant. Seek sound legal advice. Speak to experts and don’t be afraid to ask for help. There are many business networks across the region and industry member organisations, and they’re not all expensive or paid for – often the benefits of membership outweigh the initial outlay e.g. free insurance, free resources, discount on services etc. There’s also lots of free advice on how to start your business on the government website.
Be ready to be everything. You need to be a bookkeeper, HR manager (if you employ anyone), Health & Safety officer, marketing manager etc etc. or be ready to pay to outsource it to an expert!
What type of products and services do you offer your customers?
We serve breakfasts, lunch, light bites and savoury and sweet treats as well as delicious coffees, teas, hot chocolate and soft drinks.
We use local suppliers wherever possible so our coffee is from Rounton Coffee Roasters, who are based just down the A19 in North Yorkshire, Storm for our speciality tea and our amazing cakes are baked by T-cakes, whose owner also works for us part time, baking her wonderful scones and other lovely goods on premises.
Our new Middlesbrough Sports Village premises offers a different range of meals and healthy options too, as that menu is geared around the athletics, gym and sports visitors and also caters for the kids soft play area.
How has the covid crisis effected your business
We have had to close both coffee shops unfortunately and our team has been furloughed. We have been fortunate with one of our premises that we’ve been able to access the Local Authority grant, which has been hugely helpful. We have also benefitted from the government’s Bounce Back Loan Scheme and the Job Retention Scheme, both of which have also proved a lifeline for us whilst lockdown has continued.
We have now reopened our Parkway Centre premises to serve takeaways only and we hope to be able to reopen at Middlesbrough Sports Village in the near future.
Interview by Chloe Tempestoso