As well as creating their own delicious food onsite using supplies from their kitchen garden, De Beauvoir stocks produce from some of the capital’s top artisans, along with organic seasonal fruit and veg and freshly prepared ready meals.
TNT caught up with the man behind it all, Harry Davies, to find out how he does it, what inspired him and how you can do the same…
What gave you the idea to set up a deli? I’d had a life-long plan to do something along these lines. I think the dream stemmed from a lot of time spent in French food markets, vineyards, and cheese producers with my parents in my childhood. When a friend opened the Scolt Head pub in the area we’d grown up in, she applied for, and was granted, planning permission to turn an old cow shed in the back yard into a deli, which I would run, but unfortunately the plan never got off the ground.
What were you doing before launching De Beauvoir? I worked for four years in live events, ranging from catwalks to conferences to awards shows.
How did you set up the business? Aside from a few days’ work experience at Lawson’s deli in Aldeburgh (Deli of the Year at that time), I had no previous experience of the industry, so I had to pretty much make it all up as I went along. I spent a summer researching the business side of things such as incorporation and PAYE, and visited as many industry fairs and delis as I could.
It must have been tiring? I was only 27 at the time, so energy wasn’t a problem. Time-wise, when you have your own business it always comes first and so you find the time. Luckily I was single at the time so the deli really was my life for the first couple of years.
Did you get any help? I was very lucky to meet a local landlord keen to have a deli in the area who had a shop being refurbished with this in mind. Taking the lease before the building was finished meant that I was able to have lots of my own ideas and requirements incorporated in the refurbishment. This along with a small personal loan meant that I was just about able to afford my equipment secondhand from eBay, and a roughly one-third stocked shop on opening day. Things really took off when we hired Ann Ryan (previously of Melrose & Morgan and Tom’s) as General Manager – her previous experience proved hugely beneficial. The major challenge I faced was the stress of learning as I went along, and some of the criticism that came as a result.
What advice do you have for young entrepreneurs looking to do the same thing? I would say the more experience the better, but eventually of course you have to take the plunge. The location of your premises is key to spark initial interest. Diversify as much as you can; the broader your range, the broader your appeal.
Image supplied (copyright – Heloise Faure 2013)