Chloe Lawson has been in the limelight since the age of 17 when she started her own baking business, Chloe’s Kitchen Creations.
The now 22-year-old’s popularity has grown considerably in the past four years, going from running a takeaway in Alford – which is no longer in operation – to opening a 50-seater café in the town last November.
When I last caught up with Chloe, we chatted about how upscaling would benefit Chloe’s Kitchen Creations and how business was faring. All was positive.
But this time, the Alford local put all her cards on the table, and revealed that being a young entrepreneur isn’t all plain sailing.
‘I have had to grow up really, really quickly’, says Chloe as she lays out the hard facts
“It’s challenging,” says Chloe. “I can’t lie, social life doesn’t exist and I have had to grow up really really, quickly.”
Chloe has worked since the age of 13, and all her hard-earned money has gone into making her business the success it is today.
Her café is located on the ground floor of the Victoria Buildings on Alford Road.
She added: “The first challenge I faced when launching Chloe’s Kitchen Creations was opening a business bank account because of my age (17). Not many banks would look further than my date of birth.
“You don’t make money straight away. And you always have to be available to work, even on days off.
“Then it’s been staffing, finding reliable dedicated staff has always been a challenge.
“I am very lucky with the small team I now have.
“Upscaling has been a very lengthy process with multiple obstacles in the way to get where we are now. The café was in the pipeline for almost two years…”
Rising costs have proved to be the most difficult thing Chloe has faced to date.
Now more than ever, the team are “having to constantly monitor stock and overhead prices” whilst also keeping prices affordable.
There is a flip side…
On the other side of the coin, she went on to say: “It’s also very rewarding when you see the results of your hard work and to know it’s been done at a young age.
“I also find it so lovely that I inspire younger people to go into business and to work in the food and drink industry.”
Chloe’s 50-seater café serves breakfasts, lunches, coffee and, of course, cakes.
It boasts a children’s area, charging points, books and a deli area where customers can purchase products by local producers.
Young business owners in the north-east need more help if we want to see the industry grow – and why listening to advice is key
“We need training programmes, additional funding, etc.,” Chloe adds.
“Advice too, as being someone younger with not much life experience I was expected to understand a lot of complicated things regarding finances, law and HR.
“It would be beneficial for younger business owners to have the information explained more clearly in a way they can understand.
“Also, trust. It’s hard for customers, suppliers and banks to take you seriously when you are so young. You really have to hold your own being a young entrepreneur.”
However, the 22-year-old is keen to reassure anyone looking to enter the sector that great days lie ahead.
Chloe said: “For any young person considering going into business, although it’s challenging it’s so much fun.
“We have a lot of working years ahead of us, it’s okay if we don’t end up doing it forever.
“And listen to advice, as much as it’s difficult to listen to others at a young age. All advice should be taken on board. It can come in handy eventually.”
It’s been a ‘hectic past year’ but Alford’s Chloe’s Kitchen Creations is ready to tackle any obstacles thrown its way
Chloe has been incredibly grateful for the new café space over the past eight months as it has allowed her to serve a wider range of foods and be more creative.
In terms of what she has loved about being a young entrepreneur, she says: “Seeing customers enjoy what we have to offer and meeting new people.
“We have a lot of loyal customers and it’s lovely to see them every week.
“My team is made up of a lot of young people who I have seen grow so much too.
“And of course getting to see my family a lot. They are my greatest support and are always available to lend a hand.
“They are all in business too so to have them to talk to and understand the challenges and worries is comforting.
“Looking ahead, I hope to keep going and improving.
“I have a lot of plans long term but its been a hectic past year so I just want to focus on making the café successful for the next year before anymore big plans.”
Chloe’s Kitchen Creations is open from 10am to 4pm daily.