A former café owner who dreamed of running her own place again is back in business – thanks to a little help from her friends.

Cath Millington left behind her beloved little coffee shop in Staffordshire when she moved North two years ago and took on a job as supervisor at the North East BIC’s onsite café at the riverside business park in Sunderland.

Though she enjoyed her role and loved her customers, she dreamed of being back in the driving seat working for herself and started to look for premises for a new business.

So, when her boss’s lease came to an end and she was given the opportunity to take on the licence and run the BIC café herself, Cath couldn’t believe her luck. But it was the support from her neighbours and customers onsite that made the decision to go ahead feel possible.

She said: “My original little café would fit into the corner of my new one! This is so much bigger and the prospect of taking it on as my own business did feel a little daunting at first.

“But I had so much help and encouragement from BIC tenants, staff and customers, I knew it was meant to be.”

Cath worked closely with the BIC’s onsite tenant business adviser Debbie Simpson for weeks to prepare herself for the business takeover, meeting regularly to fill any gaps in her knowledge about running a bigger business.

“Debbie’s positivity and endless support made it all feel doable,” Cath added. “She’d come in after the café closed to help me with everything from how to manage the books, to rules and regulations I needed to know. I don’t know if I could have done it without her.”

But the neighbourly support didn’t end there, with BIC tenants helping to set up the new café’s payment and ordering systems, giving support with paperwork and even jumping behind the counter to help serve customers on the odd occasion when things have been busy.

Cath said: “The BIC has that same sense of community that I loved in my original café. I’ve been overwhelmed by how amazing people have been and how they’ve gone out of their way to help me get started. There is so much expertise onsite and I’ve been able to get everything I need to get started right here.

“It’s a lovely feeling to know people want you to do well. I’m repaying their kindness with lots of food and I’ve told a few I might get them an apron!”

Rebranded as the Riverside Diner, Cath has already made changes at the café based on feedback from customers including the launch of a website and online ordering system and the installation of a new pizza oven.

Riverside Diner employs five members of staff and Cath hopes to extend the café’s kitchen in future to allow a wider range of menu options to be prepared onsite.

Tenant business adviser Debbie Simpson added: “We love nothing more than to help people go for their dreams and to do that with one of our very own here at the BIC has been extra special.

“Cath has everything it takes to build a successful business and with the support of all her friends here onsite and some very happy customers, she’s destined to do brilliantly.”