Find out how Leon Rudman worked with the Start and Grow team to successfully gain a grant to help establish his new bar, The Magwitch, in Wisbech
Opening a bar might not be an obvious choice for someone who has worked in the world of Corporate Governance, investment banking and insurance, but the idea has long been the ambition of Leon Rudman. In November last year, this dream came true when he purchased, with the support of his wife Keely, a boarded-up and somewhat neglected large building which had previously been The Horsefair Tavern.
The Magwitch, as it will be renamed, is set in a Grade II Listed building in a beautiful conservation area in Wisbech town centre and after much renovation work, will soon be ready to open its doors to customers. “The name comes from my favourite character in Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations; the original manuscript of which is held in the local Wisbech & Fenland Museum,” explained Leon.
Leon describes how he fell into the corporate world with a little help from some last-minute homework prior to a job interview aged eighteen. Throughout his busy career including for the likes of JPM Morgan Chase & Co, the NHS and AXA, he kept his idea to run his own business in his head, building the funds he knew he would need to do it when the moment was right.
“Keely and I talked about opening a business for a long time, especially during the national lockdowns of the COVID-19 pandemic, as we juggled me working at home, childcare and her job as a community nurse. Eventually we decided that we had to move forward with the idea,” stated Leon.
“Finding out about Growth Works and the Start and Grow programme they offered was amazing,” described Leon, “It helped to provide some of the capital to help with renovations we had to carry out on the building as well as some of the unexpected costs.”
Leon worked with the Start and Grow team to develop their grant application as well as 1:1 sessions to provide a sounding board for ideas as they developed. “Their positivity was really fantastic as they really took the time to get to understand our vision and were so supportive,” he added. “We were grateful for this support and the grant funding that we accessed through the programme as it helped us to push on with our plans to get the business set up.”
Leon explains how they have carried out the refurbishment work on the building as sympathetically as possible to the original features but with more efficient lighting and heating which has been particularly important with the current rising energy costs. “As a new business owner, you can often feel bogged down with the enormity of what you need to do, but I felt that the team provided me with real confidence in the project.”
“We want to provide a venue where customers can enjoy an atmosphere and experience that they are comfortable with, that they can’t get anywhere else locally,” explained Leon. To achieve this, they have put a lot of effort into the look of the building including laying a flagstone floor, which looks as though it would have been there in the late 19th century when it was built for Jonathan Peckover of a local, wealthy family.
Looking forward to a hopefully busy autumn and Christmas period when the business opens, Leon is optimistic about the potential opportunity ahead of them. “We understand that initially it is hard work, but that long-term we could employ people within the business and provide investment into the local economy.”
Next on his to-do list, now that the majority of the building work has been completed, is the marketing activity, including a new website and social presence using skills that he has had to develop. “I truly believe that most people are capable of doing most things. Trust in yourself, take that first step, and you can really achieve things.”
How you can get support for your business
You can get 121 support from a business advisor, who can also help you with a grant application. It is all completely free as part of the Start and Grow Programme. Click here to find out more or fill in our really simple form to register your interest and one of advisors will be in touch to see how we can help. The programme runs until the end of December (with a deadline of 11 November to submit grant applications) – so act now to make sure you get the boost your business needs.