When Andrew Patterson listens to the long motorway tailbacks on the traffic news each morning, he allows himself a little smile.

For, after 25 years in the retail industry, 18 of them spent on the road as a roving regional department manager for a major supermarket chain, Andrew took the decision to quit the ‘rat race’ and find a gentler life – running a mobile coffee van.

Just a month after launching his new business, Andrew’s Little Italian Van and freshly-brewed coffee is fast gaining a reputation around South Cheshire, Crewe and Nantwich.

Swapping his tie and company car for an apron and unique Italian van, he sells different types of coffee with Italian biscuits and treats. A world away from his old job, Andrew’s greatest pleasure now has nothing to do with being a high-flying manager.

“There’s nothing better than having a customer come back and order a second cup of coffee because they thought the first one was so marvellous,” says Andrew proudly.

Andrew took the plunge to dramatically change his life after finding support from the Government’s New Enterprise Allowance. Through the scheme, we offer support, mentoring and access to financial assistance to unemployed budding entrepreneurs like Andrew, who can demonstrate they have a viable business proposition with the potential for growth in the future.

Andrew’s inspiration came after he attended the Nantwich Food Festival and spotted a coffee van doing a roaring trade. “There was a long queue and it made me think that if they could run something like that, then I could too,” said Andrew.

So when Andrew was made redundant from his job, he decided to take the plunge, pouring his redundancy package into buying a van, fitting it out, buying supplies and getting his health and safety and food preparation certificates.

“I could see the changes that the supermarkets are going through, and a never-ending decline that my previous employers were offering their customers. I knew that only the people who jumped out and acquired new skills would be the ones who survived,” he recalled. “At my time of life, you don’t get these opportunities very often.

“I’ve spent that much money on coffee over the years, I thought it would be nice for me to make some money by making good coffee for other people,”

After being referred to the New Enterprise Allowance scheme by the job centre, Andrew met NEA advisor Beverley Leslie to get help to build up his business case and pull his figures together.

“Before, when anyone asked me how much I thought I’d make, it was almost a case of sticking my finger in the air and having a guess. I didn’t know,” he admitted, “I thought I might need an accountant, but Beverley showed me how I could manage my money, giving me an indication of what I should prioritise. One of the first things she did is make me go home and write down all the bills and that became the basis of my first year plan because I knew then how much I’d have to make to cover my living costs.

“I set a goal in my mind a target amount of cups of coffee a day that I had to sell, breaking it down to the number of days a week I would have to trade and costing out each cup. I knew if I hit that target, I’ll cover all costs to be solvent. I’m already at 50%, after less than a month, so I’m proud of that.”

“Beverley also encouraged me to look at the large business parks around Crewe where there are about 100 offices and suggested I go back to knocking on doors and introducing myself. I’m quite confident so I can go in and give a little talk and invite people down for a free coffee. I’m now trying to establish a routine because everyone wants their coffee at the same time, so I have a route that I follow.”

One of Andrew’s stops, of course, is our office in Crewe, where staff are keen consumers of his coffees.

Andrew is also seizing every opportunity to promote his business, speaking to businesses about advertising on his van and putting their logo on his coffee cups, and booking slots at festivals and local events. He has also won the support of Crewe and Nantwich MP Edward Timpson, who is organising a photo-call with Andrew to highlight the Small Business Saturday UK campaign on December 5.

Looking back at his old life, poring over spreadsheets, organising training schemes and travelling up and down motorways, Andrew has no regrets at swapping it all for the Little Italian Van.

“I’m trying to create a better work-life balance,” he said. “My daily commute now is about eight minutes and, for the first time, I feel like my destiny is in my own hands.”