Woman left secure London job to set up fish and chip shop in Scotland – and now her business makes £1million a year

DITCHING a secure job in the city might seem daunting – but Sarah Heward took the bait and set up her own fish and chip shop, which now makes £1 million a year.

The 53-year-old was firmly entrenched in the London rat race, when she chanced upon an advert for a run-down Little Chef in remote Tyndrum, in the Scottish Highlands.

Sarah Heward launched her own award winning fish and chip cafe in the Scottish Highlands

Sarah, who was born in Wolverhampton but spent 20 years of her life in London, told the Sun Online: “My late husband Steve and I knew the area because we rented a holiday cottage nearby.

“When we saw it for the time it was in a completely derelict state but we had a vision for it – a roadside fish and chip shop with a Scottish twist.”

“At the time, we knew we needed a change. We hardly saw each other and both led very career focused lives, so we took the plunge.”

She admitted that leaving the city and her job as managing director at independent wine merchant Corney & Barrow, was terrifying.

Sarah was struggling to find the right business venture in London and by chance came across the abandoned Little Chef for sale in Tyndrum. It’s now the Real Food Café

The cafe won several National Fish & Chip Awards throughout the years

Sarah has built up the café to be a hugely successful business with a turnover of £1million

She said: “Moving from a house in Shoreditch to the middle of nowhere seemed insane.

“We arrived in Tyndrum under lashing rain, sat down and just thought ‘what have we done?’.”

But the risk was worth it.

The Real Food Cafe, which opened in 2005, now has a turnover of £1million and welcomed over 100,000 customers last year.

From just six employees, it now has a core team of 19 workers which jumps to 28 during the summer.

The menu features chip shop classics like burgers, sausage and black pudding -but you’d be mad not to head straight to the award-winning fish and chips.

In addition to high quality fast food,  the cafe also serves home-made cakes, scones and other sweet treats.

But Sarah’s road to success was bumpy.

Over the years there’s been a huge number of setbacks, both private and professional.

Sarah’s top tips for success

SARAH Heward left behind the bright lights of London to run her own fish & chip shop in the Scottish Highlands. Here are her tips to make your business a success

  •  Do your homework thoroughly: It’s easy to get carried by a business idea. Make sure you try your product, run the idea by friends and do your market research throughly.
  • Make sure you have the right insurance: Sarah had no life or theft insurance when she started out. She said it would have saved her save a lot of money throughout the years.
  • Expect the unexpected: It’s going to be harder than you think, make sure you have a strong network of friends or mentors to help you through the hard times.
  • Have a hobby outside of work: Start running, walk outside for 30 minutes everyday or pick up an instrument. Sarah is currently training for an Iron Man Triathlon and says training helps her to stay focused but also have some time for herselg outside of the business.
  • Reach out for help: Admit your weaknesses and don’t be afraid to ask the right people for their help and input

Her husband Steve passed away suddenly just seven months after they opened their cafe together.

She said: “It was devastating. Not only did I lose him but it was a complete shock”

“At the time the business felt like a ball and chain around my ankle, the responsibility weighed heavily on me.”

“Of course, in hind sight it was a saviour because it kept me going, it gave me an identity and a purpose.

Sarah has suffered numerous setbacks including the sudden deaths of her husband

More than just a fish and chips shop, the cafe also serves cakes, scones and cookies

Her business benefits from its location on the West Highland Way

On top of that, she later discovered that her trusted bookkeeper was stealing from her.

But her persistance and the help of a business coach, helped her turn the corner.

“It’s been very tough but I am incredibly proud of what I’ve achieved. Starting a business is always going to be harder than you think, the most important is to ask for help when you need it.

Research from insurance provider Simply Business showed that female-owned restaurants have the highest turnover compared to other female-owned trades.

Some 13 per cent of all female-owned restaurants have a turnover of over at least £500,000.

Earlier this month, The Sun Online also spoke to a mum-of-one who started making baby food home after being frustrated by the lack of fresh products in supermarkets and turned the idea into a money-making business.

Last year we spoke with Mechelle Clark, a passionate cook who started her own cheese toastie shop after being made redundant twice

We also revealed how a dad-of-two quit his banking job to set up children’s hairdressers and now it makes £650k a year.

Do you want to run your business from home? Here’s how to make extra money with a Facebook, eBay or Etsy business without leaving your sofa.

How to get a start-up business loan

IF you need financial support in setting up your business, you can get loans of up to £25,000 to help along the way.

  • Virgin StartUP offers government-backed loans from £500 to £25,000 to help entrepreneurs launching or growing a business that’s under two-years-old in England or Scotland. It has a rate of 6 per cent interest.
  • The Start-Up Loans Company, which lends government subsidised loans up to £25,000 at a rate of 6 per cent.
  • The Princes Trust also offers loans, up to £5,000, at a rate of 6.2 per cent.

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