‘You have to micromanage’ – meet the 11-year-old in charge of business for the week in Tooting cafe

A group of pupils from Burntwood, Graveney and Epsom and Ewell schools launched and ran their own café at Tooting’s Trident Business Centre this half term.

The four youngsters have been selling sandwiches, cakes, tea and coffee alongside Boba Tea (or bubble tea) – a Taiwanese tea-based drink made with tapioca pearls – in the centre’s kiosk, after 11-year-old group leader Daulah Cajee discovered the drink on a family holiday to China.

Profits from Trident Business Centre fund the affiliated youth enterprise charity Business Launch Pad, which supports 16-30-year-olds in London via workshops, masterclasses and incubator cohort programmes.

Kajal Ruia, growth and investment manager at Trident Business Centre said: “We have a different business in the space every week, and as a special one-off initiative because it’s half term, we were able to offer our kiosk base to Boba Tea.

“It’s nice as a young person to be able to take something on and do it yourself. The young people have been brilliant – they’re more professional than a lot of the other entrepreneurs I work with!”

Daulah Cajee, 11, Lily Smith, 13, Verity Newkey-Burden, 13, and Thomas Dowley, 13, have spent their entire half term staffing the café – but insisted they enjoyed running it during their break from school.

Daulah said: “Ever since I was young I just really wanted a business. My parents got me a book about all the different businesses I could start, and when I found out that I was able to get a pop-up space I was really excited.”

PROFESSIONALS: The youngsters have been running the cafe during their half term holiday.

The Boba Tea café has been a profitable success and received plenty of community support over the past week, including from community nurses at nearby St George’s Hospital.

The teenagers devised and managed every aspect of the café – from design and marketing, to food supplies and costing – and made sure to deliver a professional service.

“Thomas does the cash register, welcomes guests and asks if they’d like anything. Verity cuts the cakes for us – she handles how big the slices. Lily makes the boba tea, the regular tea and the coffee. I make the toasties,” Daulah said.

He added: “I’ve learnt how to be patient and how to take care of staff. You have to micromanage, but you don’t want them to understand you’re doing it or they’ll be a bit annoyed at you! At first it won’t be big, but then it will become better and better as more people know about it.”

The success of Boba Tea has only fuelled Daulah’s entrepreneurial spirit.

“We’ve had no major disasters and I really want to find somewhere where I can do it permanently. It’s a good feeling to make your own money,” he said.

According to Natasha Best, centre relations officer at Trident Business Centre, working with the school pupils to set up the café during half term has been one of the best things they’ve done.

She said: “The charity enables us to do things like this and provide space for young people. We want to encourage more young people to get in touch and share their ideas. We can also offer support via our website, and there are Trident Business centres in Brixton and Battersea.”

Feature image shows (left-right): Thomas, Lily, Verity, Daulah.

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