A HARTLEPOOL woman has praised a national scheme which supports new entrepreneurs – as she looked back on nine months of success.
Lesley Hetherington, 56, had been in the retail sector for 25 years, and ran petrol stations in the town.
But the mother-of-one had always wanted to run her own cafe, and was looking to take over an existing business based in Hartlepool railway station.
She was referred to the New Enterprise Allowance (NEA) scheme for help with all aspects of business start up.
The Trainstop Cafe opened under Lesley’s guidance early this year, and she said: “The support I got from everyone at NEA was exceptional.
“When I told them I was going to go down this avenue, they were there to help me.
“They set me up with the allowance in January this year.”
Lesley, who is married to Tata Steel worker Dennis, 64, and has a 30-year-old daughter Gemma Louise Hetherington, said: “I am making a living with the business, and I am enjoying what I am doing.”
She has added her own touches to the business, after taking it over from a previous owner, and said: “I have brought in home-made cakes and toasties.”
Since opening, Lesley has seen the number of previous and new customers grow steadily.
Her support for NEA comes on the day it was revealed that more than 170 new businesses have been set up in Hartlepool and 4,000 across the North-East with the scheme’s support. NEA has helped a range businesses including a jewellery boutique, a greeting card company, and a carousel refurbishment business whose horses have appeared in Beyoncé concerts and Oasis stores.
Minister for Employment, Esther McVey said: “Small businesses are the backbone of the UK economy and are delivering a significant share of new vacancies.
“It’s thanks to their hard work, creativity and entrepreneurial spirit that we are recovering from one of the biggest recessions in living memory.”