After 15 years of running restaurants for other people, Dadinha Carvalho is now doing it for herself after opening her own café in Newcastle.
It was a family holiday spent answering work calls that gave Dadinha the push to explore the idea of launching her own business, making the most of her strong work ethic and love of hospitality.
Portuguese-born Dadinha discovered her love of restaurant life after moving from Newcastle to London where she managed venues of all styles and sizes, including the world’s biggest Nando’s where she oversaw a team of 120 staff.
When a break from her 65-hour working week gave her a chance to reflect of her work-life balance, she hit upon the idea of becoming her own boss. And with help from business advisers at NEN Member the North East Business and Innovation Centre (BIC) she’s now opened the doors to Albufeira Café in Westgate Road.
Dadinha said: “I absolutely loved my work in restaurant management. I lived and breathed it and I never switched off. I was on holiday when I suddenly asked myself ‘why are you working so hard for someone else when you could be doing this for yourself?’
“I was visiting family in Newcastle when I started to seriously consider the idea of a Portuguese café because there aren’t any in the city. I started looking for possible locations and approached the BIC for help because although I had the work experience, the drive and ambition I didn’t know where to start when it came to running a business.”
Dadinha attended workshops and a series of meetings with business adviser Margaret Cook, who guided her through the entire planning process.
She said: “I could not be happier or more grateful for the support I’ve had from Margaret. She was like an angel sent down from the sky! She was so much more than a business adviser. She was a friend, a guide and a motivator.
“My meetings with her were 90 minutes of inspiration and practical tips and I always left feeling really good and uplifted. I became aware of so many things I didn’t know but needed to know. I don’t think I would have got where I am so quickly if I’d not met her. She has saved me so much money and time and given me the strength and confidence to get through these early days which can be quite daunting.”
Dadinha modelled Albufeira on the warm and inviting eating places of Portugal, serving homecooked food including authentic favourites such as Pasteis de Nata custard tarts, and Bifana pork sandwiches, as well as a daily special.
Though her plans to open in March were delayed because of Covid-19, Dadinha says she had time to carefully develop and trial her menu and get the café looking just right before throwing open the doors in August as soon as Government guidance allowed.
Margaret Cook added: “It’s always incredibly satisfying to help people make the step into self-employment, especially when they have the ideas and enthusiasm of Dadinha. With a little bit of guidance, some new tools and valuable connections, she is now on the path to a rewarding new chapter of her life – as a business owner.
“I cannot wait to pop in to Albufeira to have a celebratory cup of coffee and custard tart with Dadinha and the BIC will continue to offer our support as she grows and expands her business.”