A food business venture has got on the road – quite literally – thanks to the support of the Folkestone Community Works project.
The Little Greek Bus was dreamt up by Hannah O’Toole when well-known double-decker sister, The Big Greek Bus, had to keep declining invites to cater for events and food festivals.
“Getting the bigger bus on and off Folkestone Harbour Arm isn’t ideal, so that’s where the idea came from – something that was a bit smaller, more compact and more mobile for those other requests that kept coming in”, Hannah explains.
So the 31-year-old got the wheels turning by contacting Folkestone & Hythe District Council (F&HDC) for support, and combining her marketing and events industry experience in the process.
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The key ingredient for the project was getting the right vehicle, and Hannah quickly discovered finding the right four-wheeled frame for a fully-operational kitchen can be quite tough.
She added: “I knew we wanted something quite wide and for it to be able to carry the weight of some pretty hefty equipment.
“I looked around for a long time and then finally ended up getting a wheelchair-accessible bus which ticked all the boxes. When it came on our radar, I knew it was the one.”
That “one” was actually a Bluebird Tucana – only 650 were ever made and they were predominantly used by Transport for London for its dial-a-ride service.
While the bus hunt was tricky, Hannah says – perhaps surprisingly – that the conversion was the easier part, with a bit of “trial and error” making sure everything was in the right place.
The venture got off the ground thanks to a £8,200 grant from Folkestone Community Works – an ambitious programme that aims to help hundreds of people into work or training.
Ms O’Toole said: “Folkestone Community Works has helped out massively – if I didn’t have the support, this dream wouldn’t have happened. The money helped buy the bus and pretty much everything needed to make a fully mobile kitchen.
“The amount of assistance and encouragement I’ve had to get to this stage has been unbelievable. I would recommend people with a business idea to find out more about how they can help.”
While 2020 has curtailed the prospect of The Little Greek Bus clocking up some serious miles, Hannah has been trialling the business at the Folkestone Harbour Screen and as a click-and-collect service.
Adapting to succeed seems rather apt for a business which has completely overhauled a bus to build a mobile kitchen.
“It’s given me a dry run and it’s been a great experience. I feel very lucky to have a business that’s been able to run during a global pandemic,” Hannah concludes.
Folkestone Community Works was set up in February 2018 after Folkestone & Hythe District Council successfully secured £2.5m from the European Regional Development Fund and the European Social Fund.
The money is helping people in the East, Central and Harbour Wards of Folkestone build businesses and increase employment. For more information about the Folkestone Community Works project, visit folkestonecommunityworks.com
For more information about The Little Greek Bus, visit facebook.com/thelittlegreekbus