Flagship Eatery

Flagship takeover well supported

Many of us will think about starting our own business at some point. Usually it’s when we want more control over lifestyle and income, or when an outstanding opportunity seemingly falls from the sky.

In Tairawhiti, an emerging cohort of young people are developing great businesses, says Activate Tairawhiti specialist business adviser Tui Babbington.

With our youthful population that’s not so surprising, and getting into business early has advantages, says the point of contact for the district’s Regional Business Partner programme.

“The potential long-term returns of establishing a profitable and sustainable business increase, owners have all the energy and motivation in the world — with fewer commitments or distractions — they’re adaptable, and a lot more risk-tolerant than most.”

They’re also ambitious, and Activate Tairawhiti is well positioned to support that ambition with a range of products and services perfect for those big on ideas and industry experience, but needing specific business and management support, she says.

Tess Stephen at Flagship Eatery is a great case in point. The 26-year-old has recently stepped from a team leadership role into ownership of one of Gisborne’s most popular cafes.

Tess is experienced, motivated and wise beyond her years, says Tui. She has worked in hospitality for more than a decade, but is new to business ownership.

“Her challenge is to take Flagship’s renowned dining experience to the next level while learning the ropes of running a successful small business.”

Tess accessed the services of Activate’s Regional Business Partner programme through her accountant at BDO, who was impressed by the young restaurateur’s willingness to take advice on all facets of the business.

Advice fell to her

She feels as though the advice almost fell into her lap, with BDO teaming up with Tui and previous owners Tom and Christine Boyce, who have also acted as mentors.

“Activate Tairawhiti provided a range of planning tools valuable in identifying the restaurant’s natural point of difference. It got me thinking about my strengths and what opportunities there were in the market.

“Importantly, it also got me thinking about where we might get blindsided,” says Tess.

Since then, she has been able to build strong business systems through the capability voucher scheme — business coaching that she has found invaluable.

“I’m definitely more confident. The experience has opened my eyes to new ideas and new ways to do things. I’ve found the team at Activate super helpful and easy to talk to, and I’m blown away by how many people want to jump in and help,” she says.

While Tess says her focus now is on getting the building blocks right, she has some exciting plans.

“Every day I’m learning. I continue to work with Activate Tairawhiti and the Regional Business Partner programme and am focused on taking the business to the next level.

“I have a real passion for designing a space where people can escape for an hour. It’s the coffee, the food and the busy metropolitan feel that keeps people coming back — and it’s also what gets me out of bed in the morning.

“I’m really passionate about it,” she says.

“Owning a business at 26 is pretty daunting, but super exciting. I feel well supported by BDO and Activate, and a network of inspiring young professionals, including my own team.

“I couldn’t be more excited about Flagship’s future.”