Seizing the day – pub turns lock-down blues into new opportunities

Landlady Sandra Davies spent a decade building up her pub business, only to see trade wiped out by the coronavirus pandemic. With the beer turned off, she tapped into free business support from Cool Ventures, securing funding for new facilities and learning valuable new skills.

Thornbury’s original coach house, The Swan, wasn’t in the best shape when Sandra took over in 2011, but that didn’t deter her. A natural optimist, she says, “I had a gut feeling. If you don’t try it, you’ll never know!”

Her mother had helped out at the pub as a schoolgirl, so she had a nostalgic family connection, as well as a determination that she could win the community’s support and turn business around.

The transformation didn’t happen overnight, but Sandra gradually built up a strong clientele from the close knit local area, getting the food offer right and opening up facilities like the skittle alley. Added to this was the pub’s role in charity fundraising: Sandra says they have raised staggering £156,000 for charity to date, which has helped secure the pubs place at the heart of Thornbury life.

Sandra Davies, owner of The Swan in Thornbury

Using enforced downtime to learn new skills

Despite this back story, all Sandra’s hard work was threatened overnight, when the pandemic restrictions hit. Finding herself with time on her hands, she read a South Gloucestershire council newsletter, and learned that she could get free business support from Cool Ventures. Sandra wanted to use the time she had to develop the food side of her business, as well as to brush up on her digital marketing and social media skills.

Sandra had a free one to one consultation with an expert business advisor.

“They were helpful, friendly and understanding, and talked at a level I could understand: it was excellent. As well as providing free training, they told me about grants I could apply for. Cool Ventures helped me through the application process… and they always returned my calls!”  Sandra Davies

She was successful, securing funding from South Gloucestershire council’s ‘Help us thrive fund’. This enabled the pub to develop an attractive new outdoor trading area, with furniture and planters. “It’s been my life saver,” says Sandra.

Free training webinars

On the skills front, Sandra attended a series of Cool Ventures online training webinars, including on social media strategy, winning more customers and Twitter for business.

“I found the training really useful,” she enthuses. And getting more familiar with technology like Zoom videoconferencing, helped open up conversations and idea sharing with other business owners, which she found valuable.

The Swan remains firmly established as a community hub in Thornbury. Sandra’s got custom back above pre-covid19 levels already, but she’s not for standing still, with exciting plans to refurbish and continue increasing business.

“Thornbury’s stuck with me… I love the job I do, and I love the customers I have. And I’ve found that sometimes, even small changes can make a big difference to your business.” | | 01454 413062

Cool Ventures

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