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18 November, 2013 - 15:46 By Tony Quested

Angel takes steak in Cambridge venture

Matthew-Cleevely

Cambridge technology entrepreneur and angel investor David Cleevely literally took a steak – and then a stake – in a new UK business venture after launching a novel ‘cook-off for cash’ challenge to the founders.

Dr Cleevely was sticking with core technology investments having made a rare sortie into the world of cuisine by backing his son Matthew’s successful Italian restaurant in London.

So when he was contacted by My Business FD seeking potential investors for catering entrepreneurs Richard Holmes and Benny Peverelli for a new Cambridge enterprise – the Pint Shop – he was ready to pass the plate.

He decided to issue a challenge to the duo to cook for his whole family. The meal was so good that Dr Cleevely agreed to tuck in as main investor. And there have been ‘afters.’

Not content with investing just his money in the project, son Matthew has joined the board to add his experience to the team and his wife Ros supplies artwork to decorate the walls from her Byart Art studio on King’s Parade.

Opened on November 4 to rave reviews, The Pint Shop secured over 1,000 bookings for its first few weeks in business.

“It’s great to know that the funds we helped to raise were a sound investment,” said My Business FD’s Chris Chapman.

Richard Holmes and Benny Peverelli both cut their teeth at the successful healthy fast-food restaurant chain, Leon. Peverelli was the executive chef from launch, while Holmes worked for over three years as operations manager, in charge of the day-to-day running of the restaurants.

This left them with a wealth of experience in the restaurant trade, so when they left to set up their own enterprise it was no surprise that they chose to launch a new concept in drinking and dining.

The Pint Shop harks back to the Beer Rooms of the 1830s which offered craft beers in an intimate setting – often someone’s home. Holmes said: “We wanted to do something with its roots in the past, which is why we only sell beer, whiskey and gin – the drinks that were historically drunk in Britain. We offer 16 British craft beers, 45 gins and 25 single malts as we decided to do less but really specialise.

“On the food side, we didn’t want to offer dull, generic fare. Most pub menus are all the same so we chose to do very simple, well-sourced British food. We cook over real charcoal, grill over coals and slow-cook underused cuts of meat and our menu changes all the time.”

While the founders had the experience and vision for their new venture they lacked financial expertise – hence the approach to Chris Chapman at My Business FD to help.

Holmes said: “My Business FD liked our plan but we had to raise a lot of money. We needed help modelling our business plan from a financial point of view and advice on how to build the investment case. They made us look at what returns we could offer investors and what value we could put on the business. Chris made sure we got in front of the right people and secured one of our cornerstone investors.”

Chapman spoke with a range of investors but top of the list was always David Cleevely following his investment in his son’s restaurant, the Bocca di Lupo.

Chapman reveals: “Before they'd even settled into his office sofa, David had made it clear that he wasn’t in the market for supporting another food related startup, but two hours later he was interested enough to agree to meet Rich and find out more.

“Several meetings followed across the coming weeks and then a successful evening where David challenged Rich and his team to cook for his whole family. The food was fantastic, the deal was sealed and the cornerstone investor secured.”

• PHOTOGRAPH SHOWS: David Cleevely

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