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The teenager greengrocer from Gravesend

PUBLISHED: 09:47 21 December 2012

Katie Shuttlewood

Katie Shuttlewood

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Katie is still a teenager but has just opened her own shop - Happy Pear - selling local, low cost fruit and vegetables.

Katie Shuttlewood loved to play shop when she was young, but while the other children were merrily tapping away on the till, a future entrepreneur was learning the basics of business.

Now aged just 19, she has opened up her own shop – a greengrocer called Happy Pear that has filled one of the empty units in Gravesend’s St George’s Shopping Centre.

It was an idea she has had since those childhood days spent counting up pretend money, she says.

“I loved the idea of having a till and serving people. I just remember a greengrocer being in my head and when I turned 18 I decided to go for it.”

With no business experience and having no idea how to write a business plan, Katie started off with a pad of paper which she used to jot down all the ideas that were swirling around her head.

“I didn’t have a clue but I just wrote everything down and started putting it on the computer. I looked at other greengrocers to see how they were doing things. Two months later I had a 45 page business plan. I took it to the bank and three weeks later I had a £25,000 loan in my account.”

She talks about this quite casually, but having left school at 16 to work in a supermarket full-time, Katie’s rise from the cash counter to becoming a business owner is impressive.

In March of this year she started to put pen to paper, in September she received the loan and on Saturday (15) she opened up shop.

Happy Pear is about keeping things as local as possible, Katie explains, with Shorne farmers TH Brown and Son providing the vegetables, a Kent-based firm supplying locally produced jams and pickles and cupcakes made by her friend who runs a part-time baking business.

“I have always wanted to support local farmers. I would always choose to buy my fruit and veg from a farm. If the good quality products are at a price I can supply then people will always want to come to my shop,” she says.

Cost is also an important factor to give her small business a chance to survive among the big food retailers.

“I’m trying to undercut supermarkets because I have heard so many people complaining about the price of food so where I can do it I will.”

As much as most of the hard work has been done by Katie, her family chips in a lot to help and her mum will be working with her in the shop four or five days a week.

For Katie, even the prospect of a seven-day week of early mornings and the hard early days of starting out don’t faze her.

“There have been ups and downs and getting this off the ground has been stressful, but this has been a learning curve for me and I haven’t got anything to lose.”

So this week marks the start of the teenager’s career as an entrepreneur. Did she find her age was an obstacle, or did it help her?

“It has been a bit of both,” she says. “Some people don’t take me seriously when I tell them I am opening my own business. Before I went to the bank I thought they would take one look at me and tell me I was too young. Fortunately it was completely the opposite and they said age didn’t matter.”

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