National looks, but local values

Running your own business calls for boundless passion and belief in your own ability.

Running your own business calls for boundless passion and belief in your own ability. Alastair Gilmour meets a man with lots of both.

There is nothing more inspiring than being in the company of a Great Believer.

Bill Croney is one. He and his wife Theresa own Kaffeccinos coffee and sandwich bar in Newcastle's Grainger Street and run it along Fair Trade principles where producers - often in Third World countries - get a fair return for their labours.

He is a great believer in justice and equality; he is a great believer in the able looking after the less fortunate; he is a great believer in humour and generosity as business facilitators. And he is a great believer in the positive attributes of his native city - where he can trace family roots back hundreds of years - and for the North-East as a whole.

Bill's beliefs were nurtured through 21 years as a trade union official in the civil service then as a franchise manager at Durham Pine and Benjy's, the national sandwich chain, before thoughts of running his own business took hold.

He says: "I'd always wanted to open my own café - somewhere that wasn't just a welcoming place to meet friends or sit quietly on your own, but a principled, ethical business.

"I thought, `why should I be doing this for other people?' The big chains are taking over and the small independent traders are closing.

"At Kaffeccinos, we're independent but want to have the feel of a franchise - it had to look like part of a national chain. The foundations to this business are courtesy and respect. Part of that courtesy and respect is giving people confidence, making them feel valued as customers and that we genuinely care about them."

So, when it comes to supporting the North of England's Passionate People Passionate Places campaign, there is no questioning Bill's belief.

"I've seen the television campaign and the logo on The Journal vans and read all about it in Contact, the North-East Chamber of Commerce magazine," he says. "It sums up what people have been saying about the North-East for years. It really says everything.

"People in the North-East are quick to change - in less than a generation we have developed out of a shipyard culture."

The Croneys have invested well over £300,000 in Kaffeccinos - but it's what you have to do to reach the levels of quality and practicality that 21st Century food hygiene demands.

"We sold the family home and are renting now," he says. "It's got to work. We researched the marketplace and spent three years sourcing coffee before we opened. We sell the same coffee as they do in The Savoy - it's the highest quality in the world.

"The open-plan kitchen (where customers can see their orders being prepared) is an important feature and we've got the same flooring as they use in science labs. We spent £15,000 on that alone. We've only been open seven months and a lot of similar businesses have taken a lot longer to get to the position we're in now.

"If there's a Fair Trade product available I'll source it. We make sure people get a fair return for the fruits of their labours - I'm a great believer in people not taking advantage."

The Passionate People Passionate Places campaign launched 18 months ago by regional development agency One NorthEast has raised the profile of the region enormously on the international stage. It has twice been recognised for its effectiveness by being awarded the world's leading marketing campaign at the World Travel Awards in 2005 and 2006.

Bill and Theresa Croney are equally proud of their own distinctive business ethos.

"Our USP is we've got the cleanest toilets in Newcastle," he says. They're cleaned three times a day. You wouldn't believe the number of new customers who say `this is lovely, we'll be coming back'."

Passionate People Passionate Places is about belief; Kaffeccinos is, too - believe you me.

Some of the other businesses in the region supporting Passionate People, Passionate Places, North-East England:

The Bowes Museum

Codeworks

Hartlepool Marina

Kimmerston Riding School

Locomotion - The National Railway Museum at Shildon

Newcastle Racecourse

North-East Chamber of Commerce

Northumberland National Park Authority

Port of Tyne

Press Ahead

Reed Print & Design Ltd

Rothbury Golf Club

Seven Stories

Simon Bailes Peugeot

Sunderland Housing Group

Tolent Construction Limited

Tyne & Wear Fire & Rescue

Leighton Group

Dinamic Ceramics

Northern Heritage Service Ltd

Passionate People, Passionate Places is the award-winning campaign to promote North-East England as a great place to live, work, study, visit and do business. Hundreds of organisations in the region have already chosen to get behind the initiative. For more information on how your organisation can show its support, contact the regional image team on (0191) 229-6861 or visit www.northeastengland.co.uk

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