Emma Swiggs worked in Telecommunications in the RAF. She left in 2001 as a Senior Aircraftman and went to work for the Metropolitan Police in radio control. It was seven years after leaving the Armed Forces that she reconnected with her now husband, with whom she had gone through basic training.
The couple started a family together, raising two children, and eventually settled in Corsham, where her husband was stationed. Emma’s dedication to the military community never waned, and when an opportunity presented itself for her to serve in a new capacity, she knew she had to seize it:
“I loved the Forces. I only left as there were no promotion opportunities – I thought to myself ‘if I don’t go now, I’ll never go’. The military remains a big part of our lives and identity and, when the opportunity to take on the café in the MOD Community Centre came up, I knew I had to go for it.”
Emma accessed a Start Up Loan of £6,000 through X-Forces Enterprise (XFE), which she used towards upgrading the décor, furniture and equipment as well as the illustrated branding and website. XFE allocated Emma a personal Business Advisor who closely supported her through the planning process and the 12 months post-launch, in a programme supported by the Royal British Legion.
“The process of applying for the Start Up Loan was more beneficial than I’d expected. It forced me to think carefully about wages and supplier costs, and develop a detailed business plan and cashflow forecast, which I probably wouldn’t have written otherwise.”
Emma opened the doors to the Dandelion Coffee House in December 2020. The response was encouraging but, just three weeks later, they were forced to close under Covid regulations, not to open again until May 2021. Emma used the downtime to take three of XFE’s Masterclass workshops, which focused on online presence, small enterprise development and evolving customer personas. Emma also joined the XFE HUB, an exclusive space to connect business owners from the military community.
Community collaboration is at the heart of the Dandelion Coffee Shop. Emma sells cakes by local bakers, the coffee shop walls feature paintings by a local artist who aims to get people talking about mental health, and the business has created a social media job opportunity via the government’s Kickstart Scheme to upskill the unemployed.
Just as her strapline suggests that Dandelion is ‘more than a coffee house’, it is true to say that Emma is more than a business owner; she’s a fine example of a dedicated community servant whose work is improving people’s lives.
Read Emma’s full story here: www.x-forces.com/coffee-cake-and-community-meet-the-raf-veteran-whose-cafe-serves-more-than-drinks-and-snacks/