“The staff at ART were friendly and supportive. They made me feel like more than just an anonymous statistic.”
When Ricky Manton took over Mr Simms Olde Sweet Shoppe in the Great Western Arcade, Birmingham city centre, he clearly found his element. The shop is packed from floor to ceiling with hundreds of different jars of sweets, looking colourful and tempting.
The ex NHS HR Manager, previously accustomed to working on disciplinary hearings, re-structuring and redundancies, now puts fun at the top of his agenda. “I like to give the shop some atmosphere and make visiting it a pleasant experience,” he says, “so we play different music at different times of day and for particular occasions – ranging from the 1940s to 1980s and more recent nostalgic TV and film sound tracks. I like to see people moving to the music, or humming quietly to themselves as they browse, then making a purchase and going away happy.” Ricky was thinking of refurnishing the shop, but loyal customers say they like the authentic ‘trip down memory lane’ feel of the interior as it is.
A loan from ART supported Ricky in his change of direction, providing a cashflow buffer during his first year of trading. “Applying for a bank account, insurance and loan funding can be a rather daunting experience when you first start out in business,” he says, “but the staff at ART put me at ease. They knew Birmingham, the Great Western Arcade and the type of shops situated there. I felt that they really understood and assessed my plans properly.”
The business thrived during its first year and has become well established. “It’s hard work, says Ricky, and you have to learn not to get carried away in busy times when you are earning money, because there will be quieter times when you need some of that income to pay the bills. Having ART look at my figures and forecasts was a good exercise because it made me think carefully about whether or not my plans were realistic and sustainable. I think the more planning you put in at the outset the more likely you are to succeed. I know many businesses fail in the first year and I think it is through a lack of planning and management of cashflow.”