StartUp of the Week: Little Fishy

The street food revolution sweeping the UK shows no sign in letting up - and we don't want it to, with so many delicious startups flourishing! Proving that street food isn't just a London phenomenon, The Little Fishy is the north-east's first contemporary mobile fish and chip van, selling the traditional combination with a modern twist. We caught up with founder Michael over a cuppa.

The Little Fishy - Virgin StartUp of the Week

Business name: The Little Fishy

Founder's name: Michael Tomlinson

Loan funds received: £16,500

Based in: Tynemouth, North East


Twitter: @_littlefishy

Facebook: /thelittlefishy

1. Explain your business in the time it would take the kettle to boil or drink to be poured

We sell fish and chips with a modern twist, from a mobile trailer.

2. Where are you based and why is it a good location for your business?

We trade at Tynemouth Market, which is set in a beautiful Victorian station in the coastal village of Tynemouth, about twenty minutes from Newcastle. Fish and chips is obviously a British favourite, but nowhere more so than at the seaside!

Until recently I was a regular visitor to the market with my family, so I feel really proud to now be there as a trader. It’s a great base to start from and hopefully expand within the region – we’ve already signed up to do lots of food festivals in the summer.

3. How did you come up with the idea?

I’m a big fan of simple yet delicious food and I’m also really interested in branding – for me, how food is presented is as important as how it tastes.

Street food is obviously really popular, and there are some amazing street food vendors in the north-east now. I realised that no one was really offering a high-end version of fish and chips from a mobile trailer or van in the north east. It’s almost like it was too obvious.

The name of the business resonates with the cultural heritage of the region too, which was important to me.

4. What’s the business model?

We sell our products directly to customers from our van from our regular slot at the market, as well as other events.

5. Who are your competitors?

There are two very popular fish and chip takeaway/restaurants in Tynemouth, but we aren’t looking to compete directly with them, and I think our product and pricing structure is different enough for us to have a place in the market too. There are other food stalls and vans at the market, but it’s a great community and everyone is very supportive of one another.

6. What’s unique about your business?

The product we offer is different from your traditional fish and chips – we double fry and season our chips to give them extra taste, and use locally caught, fresh cod coated in Panko breadcrumbs rather than traditional batter. We started offering batter, but once people tried the Panko it was a clear winner. We use all local suppliers where we can.

7. What stage was your business at when you applied for the Start Up Loan?

I’d finalised the business plan when I applied for the loan, so I’d done lots of research, but I wanted to secure funding before progressing any further.

8. How have you used it to grow your business?

The loan paid for the trailer, including customising it with the equipment and fittings needed. Without it, it would have been some time before we could have started trading.

9. Who is your mentor and how have they helped you?

David Bennison, my mentor, is a local businessman who has provided invaluable support with the financial aspects of setting up a business. With his wealth of experience and knowledge, David has also been a great sounding board for ideas about future expansion.

10. Who is your regional delivery partner and how did they help you get a Virgin StartUp loan?

I would have found the process much more daunting without the support of TEDCO. They guided me through the process of writing a business plan and liaised with Virgin to help secure the funding.

11. Biggest achievement so far?

We recently signed up to trade at our local food festival, Tynemouth Food Festival, which is set in the historic Priory. Having been there as a visitor, the prospect of being there with the business is really exciting, and a big milestone for me.

12. What’s next for your business?

We hope to keep expanding in the local area. We’ve had a lot of interest in weddings and other events, so ultimately we’d like to invest in another trailer so we can keep growing the business.


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