The Pear Café has a loyal customer base that come in for its freshly-made food and great coffee. Owner Elly Curshen tells Rachel Miller how she started up.
“I’ve never paid for any advertising and I never will. It’s purely word of mouth,” says Elly Curshen, the owner of the Pear Café in Bristol.
The Pear Café is a little gem close to the centre of Bristol city centre, offering breakfasts, lunches, great coffee and wonderful cakes. Everything is made from scratch, using many Fair Trade and organic ingredients. Set up in 2006, the café has been busy from the off, thanks to its location and a strong following on Twitter.
“Twitter has been great. It has been a big part of our marketing,” says Elly. “We have a website with our permanent menu and I tweet the specials every day so lots of customers see the tweets and come in as a result.”
But Elly hadn’t always planned to open a café. “It was a total fluke,” she says. “I had started out planning to set up a catering business. But when I attended a half-day course on setting up in business organised by BRAVE Enterprise in Bristol, I found out there was a unit available in the BRAVE building.
“So I sat through the training session thinking about setting up a café and then afterwards had two days to write my proposal,” she explains. “It was manic. I wrote the menus and fixed the pricing, it all came pouring out of me. I knew exactly how I wanted everything to be and how I didn’t want it to be. I went from saying ‘maybe’ to starting to set up a café business in just two weeks.”
Elly had always worked in restaurants, clubs and bars and had picked up lots of ideas. But running her own cafe was a big learning curve. “I have learned so much over the past few years,” she says. “When I was working before, I managed quite a few people but there was always an owner or an accountant above me to handle the paperwork.”
Running a business
Running a business yourself means the buck stops with you. “I wish I’d paid more attention and learned more on other people’s time, especially on the accounts side. Before you set up on your own, you should watch, listen and learn as much as possible.”
Elly has a clear ethos for the Pear Café. “Everything we serve at the Pear Café is made from scratch. We buy bread from our local bakery Herbert’s. And we make everything, from sandwich fillings, to soup, salads and even our own hummus.
“It saddens me how people just see food as fuel, they grab lunch or eat at their desk,” she adds. “I believe people should be able to get good healthy food and should also be able to treat themselves to great coffee and good cakes.”
Location is vital for any business, especially a café. “We are located in the BRAVE building along with about 30 other small businesses. There are also lots of other enterprises in the area, including charities such as the Bristol Drug Project, Oxfam and Women's Aid. “A lot of people want Fair Trade and organic food,” says Elly. “It’s nice to be surrounded by a lot of other small independent businesses and organisations.”
The café is open from 8am to 3.30pm and Elly has got excellent support from her staff. “The two girls I have got at the moment are staff members number three and four, which is pretty good since we’ve been going over five years. I rely on them 100%, so I have time to do other things.”
Those other things include the catering business that Elly also runs. “What we’re really good at is small to medium events – picnics, dinner parties, office catering, training sessions. We do a lot of catering for events held at BRAVE too.
“Time goes by so quickly,” she adds. “We’ve been busy from the day we opened.”
The Pear Café can be found at Unit 1, The Coach House, 2 Upper York Street, Bristol, BS2 8QN. Photograph of the Pear Cafe kindly supplied by Jon Tan.
This case study was first published in November 2011.
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