Name: Sarah Heward
Company: The Real Food Café
Location: Tyndrum FK20 8RY
Top Tips for Success
- Team-shared values: Set out your values clearly and build a team around you that buy into and share these values, focus on this at recruitment as a priority as opposed to focusing primarily on skills.
- Customers: Listen to the customers, don’t lose touch with them, they are your best source of market intelligence and ideas.
- Never be too big or proud: admit when you got it wrong and stuffed up!
- Be coached: Get yourself a really good business coach or non-executive directors.
- Take a break: Get yourself a healthy release from the business such as sport, instead of something like drinking too much to switch off and recharge.
Sarah Heward of The Real Food Café, aged 49, from Glasgow has been chosen as a finalist in the Athena category for a woman running a business aged 36 to 49.
The NatWest everywoman Awards were launched 12 years ago with the intention to celebrate British entrepreneurship, creating female role models to highlight the benefits and rewards of business ownership.
Sarah’s remarkable story and achievements have earned her a place with 16 finalists chosen from hundreds of entries representing entrepreneurs aged 16 to 52 whose businesses range from promising start ups to multi-million pound organisations.
The awards were judged by some of Britain’s best known business owners who presided over hundreds of entries for this, the most highly regarded awards programme for Britain’s female entrepreneurs. Judges include Chrissie Rucker MBE (The White Company), Cath Kidston MBE, Amanda Wakeley OBE and Sharon Hilditch MBE (Crystal Clear).
Having grown weary of an exciting but demanding, and ultimately destructive corporate existence, Sarah Heward, MD of Corney & Barrow in the City of London, and her late husband Steve Wolsey, spotted a unique opportunity to follow their dream and transform their lifestyle. They purchased a derelict ‘Little Chef’ in Tyndrum, a small village in the Scottish Highlands, planning to offer high-quality, locally-sourced and home cooked fast food, to the 4 million or so travellers passing by each year.
Following Steve’s sudden and untimely death, just months after opening The Real Food Café, Sarah’s resolve crumbled and her sense of purpose disappeared. Sarah freely admits that she adopted a self-destructive and unsustainable lifestyle, filling every waking hour with whatever she could find to help dull the pain and keep her demons at bay, over-working and over-indulging with little concern about the inevitable consequences.
Somehow, after almost three years in a downward spiral, Sarah recognised that there was only one outcome if she didn’t make some fundamental changes. She resolved to first get her life into shape and then her business! Sarah invested in a life coach and personal trainer to help get mentally and physically into shape. She stopped drinking, researched and adopted a healthy diet and embarked on an 12 month training programme culminating in completing an Ironman event on the fourth anniversary of Steve’s death. She then invested in business coaching to help rediscover the business disciplines she’d lost and to develop new skills and confidence in those areas she’d previously dismissed as “beyond her”.
Over the following 4 years, with the support of what she affectionately calls ‘Team Sarah’ she turned around both her life and her business, and has become the successful businesswoman she’d always dreamed of being.
Five years on from her all time low, both Sarah and the Café are in great shape. The Real Food Café serves over 100,000 customers per year and up to 1,500 covers on a busy day in high season. She has improved profitability by over 200% and has built an excellent management team who now run the day-to-day operation. Sarah now focuses on strategic areas such as building an excellent relationship with The Royal Bank of Scotland to secure funding for a £100K extension which has helped her take the business to new levels. The Real Food Café regularly wins national awards and is a highlight of many foreign visitors’ experience in the Scottish Highlands. It has become a ‘must’ for tens of thousands of outdoor enthusiasts who regularly ‘re-fuel at this iconic ‘pit-stop’.
Anne McPherson, Managing Director, Enterprise at NatWest says: “At NatWest, we recognise the importance of helping women set up and grow their businesses. We have over 200 externally accredited Women in Business specialists across the country who share and understand our customers’ ambitions and provide business advice, mentoring and networking opportunities to help them fulfil their potential. We are delighted to be supporting the NatWest everywoman awards for the 12th year in a row and are pleased to see many of our customers being shortlisted again this year. This awards programme has created some fantastic role models who inspire other women to take their first steps in realising their business idea. NatWest supports everywoman to demonstrate our commitment to Women in Business.”