South of Scotland chef overcomes COVID to set up own catering business

A South of Scotland chef has shared her experience of setting up her own catering business in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Beth Webb was a pastry chef at a Dumfries and Galloway restaurant when COVID-19 hit in March 2020.

It resulted in Lockerbie-based Beth being put on furlough for a number of months, and eventually being made redundant.

However, it led to Beth following her long-term ambition and setting up her own artisan afternoon teas service with a focus on sustainable food, which despite the constantly-changing business environment has proven to be a success.

The 30-year-old hopes her story can help inspire others who find themselves in a similar position to take the leap into forming their own business.  

Beth Webb explained 

“When Coronavirus struck, I was put on furlough from my job as a pastry chef at a fine dining restaurant.

“My manager was very honest with me, so I knew I could be out of a job.

“My long-term aim was always to start my own business, so when I was on furlough it gave me a chance to start planning it in the back of my mind.

“I ended up leaving the restaurant in August 2020, and starting B on the Road a month later.

“You are never sure how it is going to go but I have had a great response so far.”

Adapting a business during the pandemic

Her business currently is focussed on luxury afternoon teas using food sourced locally which are delivered to customers’ homes, which has proved popular with households seeking a treat in these challenging times.

At the end of 2020, prior to the current lockdown, Beth got her name into the public domain with stalls at markets in Dumfries and Castle Douglas, while building up her social media presence supported by a new website.

While the latest restrictions have impacted her business, she is looking at ways to ensure she adapts her service.

Beth added

“I have amended my menu based on feedback such as creating a macarons selection box due to their popularity.

“While I do deliveries in the local Dumfriesshire area, I have also started delivering on certain days to the wider Dumfries and Galloway region, and I am looking to COVID-proof the business further with the idea of a postal service.

“I also carry out a 'Pay It Forward' Draw - asking social media followers to nominate a deserving person who is randomly drawn to receive a free afternoon tea.

“I lost my job, and my husband works in the NHS, so I know how hard it is at this time for a lot of people and it is my attempt to give something back.

“I started out working in sustainable food systems research, and this issue is still of particular importance to me.

“I grow my own produce for the business in my garden and have also linked in with local producers.

"There are lots of good producers in the local area who are not big enough to supply supermarkets but can supply a business such as mine.

“We are planning to move to Newton Stewart later this year where I will continue the business, but my long term aim is to create a Farm-to-Fork experience on a farm to engage people with sustainable food and celebrate the Dumfries and Galloway larder.”

What advice would Beth to someone setting up their own business for the first time?

  • Don't neglect social media - "Its free advertising and you can build a community around your business through engaging with followers. Its a great way to find inspiration and connect with other local businesses that you can collaborate with."

  • Reach out to other small businesses for advice - "I found a lovely local community who were supportive and shared tips with me when I was starting out.”

Chair of the South of Scotland Enterprise (SOSE), Professor Russel Griggs OBE

“One of the key opportunities for the South of Scotland is building on the strong entrepreneurial spirit we have in the region.

Beth’s story highlights that even when faced with significant challenges outwith your control, if you have a good, well thought out idea which you are passionate about, you can make it work.

“South of Scotland Enterprise is always available for any prospective business start up to discuss their ideas and proposals, and we will look to help in any way we can.”

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