Fabio and Hannah Vincenti fell in love with gelato after a holiday in Rome. Pursuing their passion, they attended a gelato-making course. They dreamt of opening an Italian style dessert parlour in their hometown of Hitchin, Hertfordshire. Yet in spite of a sound business plan, clear commitment and a significant personal cash investment, mainstream lenders would not provide them with the finance they needed to realise their dream. Vanessa, their NatWest bank manager, loved the business plan and had faith in Fabio and Hannah yet the bank’s strict lending criteria meant she could not help them with the finance they required. Instead of simply declining them, she introduced them to Foundation East.
"We are always alert to the potential of a startup business when it is referred to us by a frustrated bank manager. I immediately recognised what Vanessa had seen in Fabio and Hannah. Intelligent, hardworking and committed, with a good business plan and significant personal investment. I was delighted to recommend the couples loan application to our panel,” advises Bob Shimmon, Foundation East’s Business Loans Manager.
"What was great about Foundation East was that they were willing to sit down and have a look at our business plan and go through projections with us. Bob has great business knowledge and provided excellent support to both of us in the run up to and during the opening of our business and has offered continuing support. His business insight really helped us to overcome a lot of fears we initially had,” explains Hannah.
"Before submitting a final application, we brought a few of our projections down as our accountant felt they were a bit bullish, we also had to relook at staffing as Bob felt it was too low in our projections and he was correct! Bob also made sure we had included a monthly contingency fund, which became invaluable as various unanticipated expenses arose including a kitchen air extractor,” she adds.
Opening its doors in June 2015, Fabio's Gelato has created ten jobs for local people along with hundreds of happy ice cream demolishing memories for visitors and residents alike. They were winners of the ‘Best Newcomer’ category and finalists of the 'Best New Business' category of the Hertfordshire Food and Drink Awards 2016 proving that it’s not just Bob who believes in this passion-led startup.
"Without Foundation East, none of this would have been possible. Responsible Finance providers, who make decisions based on the strengths of a business plan and the potential to deliver local social and economic impact, are important. Every other lender we spoke to said how strong our business plan was, however the business lending decisions were made in a central office in a very impersonal way, and the answer was always ‘no’. It was very frustrating. Many creative and innovative business ideas stem from first time business owners who deserve to be given the opportunity to bring their creativity to a wider audience and offer diversity in business to many people,” Hannah concludes.