Lorri Stamp spent her early career in the hospitality industry working in bars, restaurants and cafes with other jobs including supporting & looking after children, nutrition coaching, looking after dogs, right through to accounts admin which was what she was doing when she found a potential Business opportunities in her local village.
Originally from Ross on Wye, Lorri moved to North Devon some 27 years ago and now loves being part of a busy community in the village of Landkey, near Barnstaple. Her husband, Cameron, came across Willow’s Tearoom after a house purchase fell through. Willows had previously been run by family and was in a great location with on-site accommodation and it soon became a home, with plans to develop a business they could both work on.
They decided to keep the name as it was well known in the area but opened it up on 18th May 2020, after the lockdown restrictions, as a vegan tearoom, much to the surprise of many of the local residents. Lorri herself had been a vegan for 7 years and she wanted to build a business which not only became a focal point for the local community but also created delicious vegan food for people to enjoy.
“My husband Camron, who has also worked in hospitality, is the driving force behind the flavours and dishes. We are fortunate that we have a team that are passionate about good food, and all contribute with ideas for the menu,” said Lorri. “We differ in that he is a vegan who misses meat, while I am happy with a bag of spinach.” The couple always talked about having a restaurant together and this is now a reality although her husband is currently away for a lot of the time as he works as a firefighter in Hampshire.
Lorri states that “I always wanted the business to be a welcoming place particularly for the local community and we’ve worked hard to create an environment where this is possible. We have regular community events including knit and natter, games, yoga, craft and soap making workshops, plus a monthly repair cafe.”
The ethos behind the business is that it is an extension of my front room and that we extend our hospitality to others to help nurture them, be they customers or members of the team. One example of this is that we have a couple of volunteers at the tearoom who help with a range of tasks which, in turn, help them to build their confidence and develop life skills. “Everybody loves them. One, in particular, is very sociable and he really enjoys coming to “work”, hopefully not just because of the free cakes and milkshakes!”
There are two part time members of staff plus two work experience volunteers who support Lorri with the running of the tearoom. “it’s a great team and we all share a love of what we do.”
Many of the customers come because of the reputation the tearoom has as a vegan foodie destination, but some leave the tearoom having enjoyed the food but with no idea that it was vegan. Lorri also has strong environmental principles which follow through to the tearoom such as reducing, recycling and reusing, with the aim of being carbon neutral where possible. She also sources products and ingredients as ethically as she can and runs the business in a way which is as sustainable as possible.
“I am still learning about the business, which is why it has been really useful to have the support of GetSet Adapt. My one-to-one sessions with Lee have helped me to understand how I can balance my ethical aims with the commercial need.
One example of this is around pricing as Lee helped me to understand that I needed my pricing to be higher in order to be realistic in terms of cost. This in turn has helped me to develop a stronger cash flow forecast which takes into consideration running costs and other expenditure which needs to be incorporated into the prices I charge to customers.”Lorri
Initially Lorri was looking for funding help with some of the ideas that she wanted to pursue for the business when she came across the programme, funded by Devon County Council. After an initial telephone call with a member of the team she felt that they had a good understanding of the personal and professional challenges she faced. Lorri participated in an introductory workshop to understand what the program offered. “This was a great way to meet other businesses in the same position and helped me to realise that with a little work I could potentially apply for funding to help me.”
Lorri also had one-to-one sessions with Lee which she said, helped her to keep her focus as she does tend to get very distracted and bogged down with the details of the day-to-day running of the business.
“It has helped me to learn to delegate to allow me to look at the business overall. Lee was really helpful, and I really appreciate the coaching and mentoring that he has provided me. I have taken on board a lot of his suggestions especially around life balance and keeping business separate from my home life which can be tricky as I live next door to the business.
This has helped provide me with more confidence in myself and my team and to engage the help of others to do things for the business in areas where I have less knowledge such as social media which my daughter now helps me with.”Lorri
Lorri stated that it has also helped her to recognise the importance of marketing the business and she is now working with a lady who is part of a women’s network she has been participating in, to help work on this.
Long-term, Lorri would like to potentially have other tearooms in busy areas such as Braunton and Croyde which are more affluent. “It would be wonderful to be able to create similar businesses there which could help to mentor and nurture people who need to build skills and experience to help create better lives for themselves.” Ultimately, she would like the business to remain part of the community and something they would miss if she was no longer running it.
Lorri states that the biggest learning point for her as a new business owner was what you can achieve and what you are capable of. She has also come to understand that you can run an ethical business and make it work commercially.