Late last autumn we were approached, by two customers-turned-friends, about an opportunity for going bigger with our cafe business; about taking on a currently unused premises, not too far from our own on the main street, but in a great little setting on the canal. It would have allowed us to own and run a second cafe premises, over the spring and summer months, and pick up the canalside trade, which in Middlewich is quite sizeable due to locals using the towpath and the canal boaters themselves.
Scroll forwards to January and we finally got to view the premises in question, and after a second visit, we got to talking at length with our friends who own the premises, and had asked us to take it on as our own.
Since then, Gemma and I have been chatting about this prospect on and off for a fortnight. Not getting too heart set on it, but likewise discussing how we would operate, menus, staffing, suppliers, purchasing of equipment costs etc. We've talked to our insurers and the best bit, and most crucial, our accountant...
And, that is where this discussion stops. Because, I thought I knew about setting up a second business, I thought I knew that I could just do it. I was simply seeking my accountant's advice on fixed costs to involve in my planning calculations. But basically, that conversation with the accountant proved much more ~ more what ~ what is the word?! Useful? Disappointing? Educating?
I feel naive to have not understood certain crucial things.
But I'm not so arrogant as to not admit that I clearly just didn't know about certain things.
The bottom line is, in very simplified terms, that due to VAT and tax reasons, and the way in which they work for small food businesses, we just can't take on this second premises. If we did well there and made a successful little second business we'd be breaking even and in the same financial situation as we are now, but with all the extra logisitics and extra working. And if we didn't do so well, we would be damaging our cafe as we have it now, due to hefty tax bills that would likely cripple our current income.
I thought you could just take on a second premises and simply begin a turnover from zero pound. But as we own a similar business already, it would be counted as one business, not two separate ones...
The VAT tax system for small food businesses is, unfortunately, stifling. It took me a long while to truly GET that, but it is. There is an upper limit to work towards, which is the VAT threshold, and then there is a wide gap of turnover which is simply pointless to work towards. That gap is likely where we'd sit so that's why it's a no go for this opportunity.
However, despite the immediate disappointment, thinking on it further... it's OK. We don't live to work do we, even when it's our own business. I own my own business, I love what I do, but still the most important moments in life are not work.
I'm now remembering all the things I want to do this year, and this life - because there is only one! I want to enjoy the work life balance, because that truly is what is so precious to me. That's why I gave up a graduate job in engineering after all!
I want a spring season filled with fun day trips, and quick getaway nights in hotels and our tent.
I want to revisit Portmeirion, and take a train to London to explore our capital.
I want to sit at my dining table doing a jigsaw or eating with friends.
I want to lie in our garden and chat to neighbours over the fence...
I was not built to stress and work every hour, and this opportunity may have been brilliant, or it may have been stressful and not financially worth it. I won't know either way because it's a no-go now, but that's OK.