YOUNG VOICES

Meet The Under 30s Injecting Life Back Into Local Businesses

21/05/2015 08:55 BST | Updated 22/09/2016 15:01 BST

Thanks to Mary Portas and her eye-rolling exasperation on BBC Two, the fact that Britain's local businesses are struggling is hardly a secret.

Initiatives such as Portas' Mary Queen of Shops series, and campaigns like local business week, which takes place 18 to 24 May, are all contributing to the effort to save Britain's high streets.

But what about the faces behind the shopfronts?

The Huffington Post UK spoke to entrepreneurs under 30 who have all decided to set up shop in what can only be described as a rocky economic landscape. Defying the statistics that half of small businesses fail in the first five years, these young people are flying in the face of adversity - with a smile.

Robin Ejsmond-Frey, Love Die Late

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Robin opened up the Love Die Late cafe-bar in Fitzrovia on his 29th birthday. Despite studying Theology and a post-grad in Cognitive & Evolutionary Anthropology at Oxford, he says he has "put neither of these into use".

What prompted you to set up your own business?

I've wanted to since I was very young - I remember thinking about it when I was 10 years old and it was always at the back of my mind growing up. Even then, it took years for me to take the leap, though much of this was down to not knowing what I wanted to do.

It finally clicked about three years ago when talking to my brother and sister about the future and realising that what I'm doing now would play to a number of my strengths. That and forever wanting to do things my own way prompted me to leave my last job, in recruitment, and strike out on my own.

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Is it tough?

It's by far and away the hardest thing I've ever done. It feels very surreal to be up and running, but there's no time to enjoy it at the moment - now I actually have to make it work! For the moment it's 24/7 and very stressful; things are coming together though and every day sees small improvements, which is incredibly gratifying.

Do you get any support from local businesses?

We've had a lot of positive feedback locally and a great deal of support from our neighbours - a print shop and a restaurant - who have always been on hand to help us get things done quickly or help us out of a tight spot. On our opening night our ice machine broke and we ran out of till roll - Picture restaurant, two doors down, didn't hesitate to supply us with both.

Likewise, the printers next door, IPW1, have printed our menus and window decals and outdoor signage and all manner of crucial marketing supplies at the drop of a hat and for reduced prices. They've even taken payment in kind with a running bar tab! In terms of what we give back, we offer a discount to all local businesses and residents; this is valid day and night, any day of the week, for anything we sell. We also like to invite local businesses round for drinks events and make sure they're well looked after on my manager's tab.

What's the best thing about running a local business?

Showing people a good time and being silly with my staff. We're here to make people smile and to have fun ourselves. If we can spread a little love in the community by taking a coffee to the man who sells big issue down the road, or sending some thirsty hairdressers samples of our new cocktail menu, you bet your ass we'll do it.

Xue Jing, TOKEN INTERIOR

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What's your business in a nutshell?

TOKEN INTERIOR, is an independent art and craft shop in Fulham, where people can buy art and craft and learn how to do their own. There's also music classes and a soap studio.

What prompted you to set up your own business?

"I have always wanted to create an space for artists, designers and people who enjoy art and music, to give them chance to show their works, create works and crash some great ideas together, so for the last two years I started researching how to run my own business.

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Is it tough running a local business?

Running a business always tough, I started alone, so I've had to do everything myself. Painting the wall, installing furniture, administrations, making the website and designing every single detail. At the end of the day, the reward is high, it’s wonderful to see people enjoying it, people walking past and saying 'wow, what a cool shop'. Some people came in and told me, 'the gift I got from Token was the best gift ever'.

Oliver Barton, Oliver's Kitchen

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Oliver left sixth form in 2008, deciding against going to university as "there weren't any courses which interested me". It took the 24-year-old two years to find a job after the economic crash, and after working for three years, he realised he wanted to start his own business.

What attracted you to the food industry?

Baking has been a big part of my life, I grew up watching my dad bake and I even did some at school so it made sense to start a business doing something that I loved. The biggest motivation for me to start my own business was the attraction of being my own boss. I was also very fed up with a string of call centre jobs that I had done in the months prior to my start-up, I’m the type of person that can’t really sit still with a career and starting my own business seemed like the best way to achieve the vision that I have for my life.

How does it feel to run your own business?

It's great.

It is very tough but if you can make it past the first 12 months then you have a fighting chance of staying in business. The independence that you get from running your own business is probably the best thing, you can decide your working day and all of your break times and days off.

How keen are you to 'keep things local'?

We’re an artisan baker specialising in Sticky Toffee Puddings, which we sell through local farmers markets and food festivals. We also supply small local shops with our produce. We try to spread the word as much as we can through social media about these businesses as its good to have small retailers in towns in order to give people a better alternative to supermarkets. All of our ingredients such as eggs, butter, cream and milk is all bought from local suppliers too.

What's the best thing about running a local business?

The best thing about running a local business is staying in touch with the rest of the community. It's nice to see your regulars at the market and have a chat with them, it's so rewarding to know that you make something that everyone loves. I mean who doesn’t love sticky toffee pudding!

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