A head chef is hoping to forge a tasty future for himself by embracing his love of Italian cuisine to launch a new gourmet pizza business.
Earlier this year, Doncaster-based Oliver Ellis decided to try and earn his own dough, after securing support from Launchpad, a unique business support programme that helped him to take his mobile pizza business on tour.
Today, Oliver travels throughout Yorkshire in a horsebox which he lovingly transformed into his own mobile pizza kitchen, complete with an oven which he uses to stone bake his dough.
Oliver’s talent for creating delicious, stone baked pizzas has surprising origins. After studying languages at university and embracing student life and traditional student grub, his understanding of European cultures grew and his love for their variety of cuisines deepened. This love soon took a new direction, from languages to food, as Oliver’s talents turned to the kitchen, and to Italian cooking.
After graduating, Oliver began perfecting his pizza making skills and embraced the busy life of a fast-paced kitchen. Working long hours across different restaurants, developing menus and experiencing the marketing side of the catering industry, Oliver began dreaming of going it alone, and decided to embark upon a new project to put his skills to the test.
Turning his chef’s hands to a new craft, Oliver acquired a vintage horse box and set about painstakingly transforming it into a portable pizza oven, with the help of his family and friends. Oliver quickly incorporated the business and christened it ‘The Pizza Trail’. For someone whose talent lies in languages and catering, the language of business was new to Oliver. Unsure how to commercialise his new ideas, he contacted the Sheffield City Region Launchpad programme, which provides entrepreneurs with practical support and advice during the all-important first two years of trading.
Through Oliver’s participation in the programme he was able to get to grips with running his fledgling business, through attending workshops on bookkeeping and accounting, whilst his business advisor offered guidance to support him through the learning curve.
Since launching the Pizza Trail in August, Oliver has found no shortage of customers keen to try his tasty creations, securing bookings at charity events, weddings and private functions. After a busy start, the Pizza Trail looks set for some tasty months ahead.
Oliver Ellis, Founder of The Pizza Trail, said: “I’ve always enjoyed working with dough and creating things from fresh ingredients, but I also wanted more control over my working hours and I felt self-employment would provide me with that flexibility.
“Launchpad were instrumental in helping me to get accustomed to the ins-and-outs of business ownership and their accounting support was especially helpful – it enabled me to legally and legitimately manage all the money matters, which was one of my concerns before starting out!
“The support I’ve received from Caroline, my business advisor, has also been fantastic. I’ve always felt comfortable in asking her questions that must’ve seemed obvious to her. I feel like she’s looked after me and that I can still go to her when I need help or advice.”
Caroline Bond, Business Advisor at Launchpad, said: “Working with Oliver and supporting The Pizza Trail’s journey has been a rewarding experience, as I have witnessed the journey from incorporation right up to his first big event last month.
“Oliver’s dedication to creating food that uses authentic Italian ingredients, but fresh vegetables from local suppliers, is a heartening display of local businesses supporting one another’s efforts. This is what we love to see at Launchpad, as the programme we deliver is committed to helping the economy of the region to thrive, through supporting the fantastic businesses within it.”
Launchpad is the Sheffield City Region Growth Hub’s key business support programme for new business. Financially supported by the European Regional Development Fund and delivered by local authorities within the Sheffield City Region and the Prince’s Trust, the programme provides free help and support to budding entrepreneurs in the City Region. Entrepreneurs who access Launchpad are those who are thinking of starting their own business, or have started trading within the last two years.