International Women's Day 2021 –
The Success Series: Cath King
In our first instalment we catch up with Cath King, owner and Director of Truro Business Hub, to discuss her journey from a global military training brand to transforming one of Truro’s most treasured properties.
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From delivering military training in Italy to running jazz nights in Truro, it’s all about exceeding customer needs, according to Cath King, Owner of the Old Bakery Studios and Richmond House in Truro.
After years spent travelling all over the world, delivering training to military units with their first business, Cath and her husband Nigel made the decision to sell the business and look for a more a local venture. In 2015 they were presented with the opportunity to take over the management of one of Truro’s most iconic harbourside buildings, Old Bakery Studios.
“Once I stepped through the door, you couldn’t get me out of there.”
While some might have baulked at the challenge ahead of them – at 30,000 square feet, it’s a huge undertaking – Cath immediately saw past the challenges and gut instinct took over.
“It reminded me a bit of a cottage which hadn’t been touched since the 1960’s with carpet up the side of the bath, but I could see underneath; I could see the beauty.”
And a true beauty it is, standing proud on the banks of the Truro river. Initially focusing on driving revenue from the space, which is now home to an eclectic mix of small businesses, artists and entrepreneurs, Cath focused on building relationships with her tenants, and building her reputation within the community. “It’s really important to me to see things through and whether that’s responding to emails, refunding a ticket, returning a deposit, or arranging a site visit, excellent customer service is key. We want people to always have a positive experience.”
Taking on a second property, Richmond House, was an opportunity Cath couldn’t turn down. “It’s a beautiful Georgian property with thick walls, offering tenants a higher level of confidentiality and quiet.” It’s clear Cath knows what people need and the tenants in this space, who are equally diverse, benefit from the privacy it offers; they include various charities, as well as planning and marketing agencies. “It’s important we can meet individual’s needs and create the right atmosphere.”
Then Covid hit. Cath’s commitment to her tenants, the community and the properties was evident.
“We were determined not to leave anyone behind, so I became an expert in grant applications. Helping all the small businesses felt like the best use of my time.”
But in addition to supporting her tenants to receive the support they needed, Cath faced another challenge.
The Bakery’s ground floor event space, which had been booked up months ahead, had to close its doors abruptly. “It started to hurt at about six months in.”
Not only did this mean no income, but it also affected the wider community of freelancers: promoters, light and sound engineers, event planners. Cath successfully applied for an Arts Council Cultural Recovery Fund grant, which was successful, and has since launched a YouTube channel called OBTV, bringing cultural content to people’s screens, and ensuring all those involved are paid a fair wage.
As lockdown eases and venues are allowed to reopen, Cath has secured a stellar line-up of music and comedy gigs and cannot wait to welcome back audiences. “Let’s get back to it!”
It’s clear Cath’s heart and future are in Truro. The Old Bakery is a flagship example of how to transform an iconic property at the heart of its community for the benefit of those who live and work there. Cath is keen to see Truro thrive, and is heavily involved with the Town Deal Board in transforming the city, while ensuring it maintains its character. “Giving back to Cornwall is important. We want to continue to give independent businesses, talented artists, small and micro business owners a home where they can find their feet and grow.”
The Old Bakery is a true success story and one which has captured the imagination of the whole city.
“An artist once called the Old Bakery the building that keeps on giving, which at the time I thought was fanciful, but it is true. The opportunities these giant stone walls and the character of this building gives us all have been wonderful. And there is still a long way The Old Bakery can go – watch this space!”
More from the Success Series
Jan Lever MBE
In our second instalment we meet with Jan Lever, founder of Jigsaw PHSE, to discuss how she took “an idea that just wouldn’t go away”, and turned it into a business which provides services to more than 5,000 schools across 38 countries.
In this third instalment of the Success Series, we meet Anne Doherty-Lyons. Not one to sit still for long, her latest business, Wild Hearts Gang, was driven out of a conversation with her husband and his daughter.