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Since St Helenian Rosie Bargo returned home in 2003, she had dreamt of owning her own bar and restaurant – but finding the money; the land to build on; the business plan help that she needed; and more, weren't easy feats.
So this past Saturday was a big day for Rosie – so big in fact, that Rosie even marked the occasion with fireworks.
Saturday was the one-year anniversary of Rosie’s Taste 4 Life. The Bar & Restaurant is now one of the most modern facilities on St Helena, and the upstairs balcony provides a stunning view of the ocean.
Originally, Rosie had dreamed of owning and running a pizza-and-wine bar. Now, she is doing much more – selling appetizers, mains and desserts; offering a variety of coffees, teas, milkshakes, alcohol and more; and hosting events.
In that way, Rosie’s dream has become bigger and better in reality than it was before.
But the challenges she has faced, have been significant.
As a new business owner getting her feet in a difficult economic climate, Rosie has sought help from Enterprise St Helena (ESH) from day one.
“Starting up the business, ESH offered these grants that helped you with your business plans or plans for the building,” Rosie said. “There was a grant for Interest Relief and a grant for Assets (buying equipment), so I actually made use of these grants, and they were very helpful for a new business, to help with some starting-up costs.”
As the former Bank of St Helena Manager, Rosie had experience with management. But being entirely her own boss – with no Board of Directors, for instance, to answer to – is a new experience for her.
Rosie said the best things about owning and running her own business were not having to answer to someone above her; the flexibility; the ability to choose the hours of operation; the freedom to do things she would like to do without red tape hanging over her; and the diversity involved in delivering what she thinks customers would like to see available on the island.
“It’s certainly an exciting journey,” she said.
The most difficult thing Rosie experiences with operating a business here on the island is staffing.
“Finding the right calibre of staff and individuals who are willing to work within the hospitality sector is challenging,” Rosie said. ”It continues to be a challenge very frequently. There are a few hospitality businesses open now, so people with the required skills are often switching or changing employment. I believe it will continue to be a challenge throughout business operation.”
Rosie said that sourcing people with chef skills is also difficult. While the island does have a few talented chefs, they are typically already employed elsewhere – so Rosie has to source these skills from overseas.
While staffing at Rosie’s Taste 4 Life is difficult, the biggest challenge in her business has been a challenge that in recent months has worsened. Councillors, individuals and businesses across the island – instead of feeling any boost in the economy due to the year-old commercial air access – are crying out that the economy is worsening. Rosie is no exception.
Especially within the past few months, the flow of customers at Rosie’s and elsewhere has been decreasing.
“Things got more expensive on the island,” Rosie said. “The spending power of the islanders didn’t increase with the rate of inflation. We’ve found that people really don’t have the money to spend over the last couple of months, and you can feel it, you can see it. It has been a bit of an impact[...] we were hoping for more people, but that didn’t happen, and that is crucial for the success of any business in the hospitality sector.”
But the successes are as important as the challenges. While staffing has been an issue, Rosie is proud of the team she has built and the things they have accomplished.
“Customer service is a big part of our business,” Rosie said. “For a few people, it comes quite naturally, and I’m thankful to have a few of those people on my team.”
Working alongside Rosie is Kaylee Young, who is the Operations, Marketing and Entertainment Manager at Rosie’s Taste 4 Life. Kaylee ensures efficient running of the building – she manages staff members and organises and promotes entertainment.
“We have to be able to accommodate all age ranges, all types of people,” Kaylee said. “The market itself, it is very hard, but we try a bit of everything to encourage everybody. Unfortunately, not everyone takes the opportunity, but at least we try. And we will continue to try[...] and hopefully people will take advantage of what we have on offer.”
The team Rosie has built, the facilities she has and the support she has had from ESH along the way has been invaluable to the business.
“For those who are thinking about setting up a business here on the island with funds from ESH, I would say go for it,” Rosie said. “It’s a good stepping stone to get you to where you want to go.”
In January 2019, Rosie’s Taste 4 Life will be launching a new menu, mixed with old favourites and new ideas, combining previous chefs, new chefs and St Helenian chefs. Popular dishes currently at Rosies are barbeque ribs, Rosie’s burgers, fish meals, spicy chicken stir fry noodles and pizzas.
As Rosie has now rehired one of the chefs that was employed when Taste 4 Life opened on Dec. 8, 2017 – customers can in the new year also look forward to meals that were served when Rosie’s was launched.
Rosie’s Taste 4 Life also caters for events. Rosie’s can be contacted at 25507 or firstname.lastname@example.org