Charles started the company after losing his vision due to illness while reading business and finance at university. “The job offers that I had disappeared once I was registered blind,” he says. “For a while I sat back, not having a sense of direction. But then I’d always had an interest in catering so I formulated ideas for the business.”
Finding finance to fund the venture proved to be a torturous process. “We’d go to banks and they would say ‘come back and see us when you’re set up’. No one wanted to take the risk,” Charles recalls, adding that the only thing the banks focused on at interviews was the fact he was visually impaired. “They’d ask ‘how are you going to cope in a commercial kitchen” Where would the dog go?
“I said ‘Let’s be realistic. Food hygiene rules mean you wouldn’t have a dog in the kitchen.’ But a lot of the negativity was down to their preconceptions about the visually impaired. They focused on what I couldn’t do, rather than ask what I could do. They never asked what my role would be in the business; they just assumed I’d do the cooking.”
Charles finally secured the cash he needed through a project that was run by the European Social Fund and Catering 2 Order was launched in July 2007. Turnover for the first year of operation is expected to hit £250,000.
The company employs around 15 people, mostly on a part-time basis, and many of those workers have a disability. “It does give us an opportunity to give something back but it’s showing people that the stereotypes that are out there are totally false; they’re people’s preconceptions. We have a good time, some of the workers are visually impaired and some are not, everyone works fine and pulls their weight.”