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Tuesday, 25 November 2014

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Duke and Duchess of the Wellington

THE very name Wellington Bistro has a special significance. Not only does it honour Whitehaven’s iconic Wellington Pit, it also reflects the home town of the co-owner’s husband.

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INTERNATIONAL FLAVOUR: Sharon and Danver Watson who have settled in Whitehaven and set up the Wellington Bistro below the Beacon tourist attraction on the harbour.

The Wellington Bistro, on the edge of Whitehaven harbour, opened almost two years ago and is owned by Sharon Watson and her Kiwi husband, Denver.

After travelling the world and working as a private chef for the rich and famous in the south of England, Sharon wanted to put her 22 years of catering experience to the test with her own business.

Her daughter had started school and she felt the time was right to set up a business of her own.

Luck or fate intervened and the lease on the Beacon Café came up.

Taking the plunge, Sharon and her brother Stephen successfully negotiated the lease and re-opened the business as Wellington Bistro – partly in honour of Whitehaven’s iconic Wellington Pit, and by fluke, also in honour of Denver’s home town in New Zealand.

The Wellington Bistro became popular by day and, with home cooking and cakes, also attracted enquiries for outside catering and for evening meals.

The business opened and developed, but sadly last year Sharon lost her brother, who was a partner in the business.

So she reviewed how the business was running with the support of her husband and the West Cumbria Development Agency’s Backing Business programme.

Sharon said: “The support I have had from WCDA has been invaluable, from the first idea through to structuring my business plan and helping get everything set out in a professional and legal manner. They have been fantastic.

“I have had the support of the WCDA throughout, from the first stages of opening the cafe doors and putting up the sign, to the present where I can go for advice on the smallest of matters and I’d like to say thank you for their help.”

Today Sharon runs the Wellington Bistro with her husband.

They focus on locally-sourced, home-made food served during the day and opening in the evening for groups, birthday parties and private dinner parties.

Sharon added: “We find that people like to entertain, but not the preparation or clearing up that goes with it. We help them create a menu and take care of the preparation for them.

“It is very liberating to be able to shut the door on the work and just enjoy entertaining guests.

“Opening for exclusive parties means we also have more time for a family life – sometimes it is about balance.”

Sharon has come full circle from her days as a private chef – she still offers a private chef service but now it’s from her own Wellington Bistro.

This month has seen WCDA announce new funding to reinstate its successful Linkstart programme to help people start new businesses in Allerdale and Copeland. The new programme will enable the WCDA team support new businesses for more than three years.

It will also offer a £500 grant to help them get started.

Named Linkstart Xtra, the programme is funded by West Cumbria Development Fund.

It will provide budding entrepreneurs with access to seminars, workshops and future funding opportunities.

It is designed to help new business owners through the maze of information and knowledge to help them plan and grow a successful business.

Once the business reaches its first anniversary a business adviser can refer them for a Fresh Look Review delivered as part of the Backing Business programme. It enables them to access more specialist support and additional grant funding up to £1,000.

Running since 1995, the programme has helped create more than 880 businesses and 1,450 jobs. Its three year survival rate of 74 per cent surpasses the national average.

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