Alison Gardner – Poppys Vintage Tearooms

Living and working in the same area for a long period can be a great advantage when exploring the possibility of starting a new business. Without much effort, the people who attend our workshops are able to draw on their knowledge of local services, shops and leisure facilities available. It only takes a bit more research to identify the potential gaps in the market.

Alison Gardner worked as the Tourist Information Officer in St Neots for 11 years before becoming redundant. During this period she had built up an intimate knowledge of the town she loved and so decided to focus her efforts on starting a new business in the area.

“It became my mission to start looking for a space that would suit a Tearoom.” She said. “The search took a number of years – it had to be in the perfect location away from the hustle and bustle of the high street with outside space.”

In April 2013, a long standing local business moved premises and a unit became available just off the high street in the shadow of St Mary’s Church and a WW2 memorial. After her first viewing, Alison knew she had found the right spot.

“I wanted to respect the history of the location and the sacrifice that many local people made for our country. I decided to call our new place Poppy’s Vintage Tearoom.”

Alison realised that she needed some guidance to set up her business and contacted Outset Huntingdonshire.

Funded by Huntingdonshire District Council, the programme provides free-to-use business start-up support to anyone in Huntingdonshire who is looking to start a business. Alison met with Outset advisor Stacey Pike for one-to-one mentoring sessions while attending the programme’s Business start-up workshops.

“I found the courses and sessions with Stacey very useful.” She said. “Outset Huntingdonshire gave me an insight in to how to set up a business and the hurdles you may need to overcome.”

Her hard work and perseverance paid off with Alison opening her new business in June 2013. Visitors to Poppy’s Tearooms are greeted with an original vintage decor and plenty of tasty treats including a wide range of teas, cream teas, an afternoon tea service and a selection of light lunches and snacks.

Now in 2014, Alison’s business employs 5 staff and has links with many of the local shops who she helped support in her previous role. She has also created a new summer menu, a new website and has started to offer gift vouchers as a periphery product.

“The feedback so far has been amazing, I have been incredibly busy with customers returning” Alison said. “Poppy’s will be a place where all ages can come together to share that great British past-time: a good cuppa!”