It was after his second year at the University of Sunderland that international graduate Shi Shi was inspired to set up his own business. During a trip to Asia over the summer break, Shi Shi spotted a gap in the market when visiting a dog café and began thinking up his idea of bringing the concept to the North East of England.
Dreaming up his idea, Shi Shi researched the Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur visa which he needed in order to set up a business in the UK. After discovering the University could endorse him to set up a UK business, he contacted the Enterprise Place team and started his business journey.
In order to apply for the endorsement from the University, Shi Shi had to write a business plan, which he received help with from business advisers at the Enterprise Place who revised his plan before submitting it to the panel. Fortunately, his plan was successful and he could finally begin turning his idea into a reality.
With an initial one-year on his Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur visa, Shi Shi could begin setting up his dog café. He identified premises and was able to fit out his café ready for the public and his six resident dogs.
In June 2017, Dog and Scone was launched with dogs Momo, Lucky, Yuki, Coffee and Laughing welcoming customers. With the breed growing, Sugar joined the pooches a couple of months later.
Talking about Dog and Scone, Shi Shi said: "I wanted to spend more time with my dogs so I set up a dog café to be able to work with them every day. Dog and Scone isn't your typical dog-friendly café, it's a place for dog lovers and people who can't own their own dogs to come and meet our resident pooches. Customers can play with the dogs while they enjoy a cup of coffee and a piece of cake."
To support Shi Shi with his business venture, the Enterprise Place offered him membership which enabled him to meet with expert business advisers on campus. Shi Shi said: "I didn't have much knowledge of starting a business in the UK in the beginning but the business advisers have taught me business skills and have been able to answer all of my questions about how to start-up. I am fortunate to have a friend who owns a café in Newcastle and she has provided lots of valuable information.
"As well as the business advice, the Enterprise Place offered me a place on their six-week Start-Up Skills course which was very useful. Both the Enterprise and Gateway teams were a great support in helping me apply for the endorsement and Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur visa.
"Being an Enterprise Place member makes me feel very proud, I feel I suddenly have lots of reliable friends that I can trust, discuss my difficulties with and ask for advice. I am extremely grateful for all of the help I received during the last two years from the Enterprise Place.
"I feel very privileged to be an entrepreneur in the UK and it is great to be able to create employment opportunities for my staff. The best part of my job is being able to work with my dogs and see lots of genuine smiles from happy customers every day."