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Case Study: Amy Does Dinner

Amy Mandale was one of the many individuals who were made redundant in 2020 as a result of the pandemic. Her background was in Marketing, Events and Video Production but she had always had a passion for food.

Amy had always loved cooking and entertaining and her dream had been to start a business selling soups – so that’s what she did! Amy Does Dinner began trading in December 2020 and Amy has never looked back. She delivers chilled soups to people in Carlisle and surrounding areas.

Amy said: “When I was made redundant in July 2020, I had no desire to search for a similar role. I came across a file where I had started the beginnings of Amy Does Dinner 10 years ago and thought ‘what am I waiting for?’ I’d reached this turning point in my life and if it wasn’t for being made redundant, I probably wouldn’t have had the courage to take the next step.

“It allowed me to take stock of what truly makes me happy and fulfilled in life!”

Amy signed up onto the New Enterprise Allowance (NEA) scheme offered by the Department of Work and Pensions which aims to help those claiming unemployment benefits become self-employed. “I’d made it clear to my work coach from the offset that I wanted to start my own business. It was my work coach who told me about NEA.

“The criteria for claiming the allowance was to start a business mentorship scheme with Cumbria Chamber of Commerce which involved undertaking some training and working with a business mentor to produce a business plan.

“All of this was music to my ears. The idea of NEA was great but having a business mentor to guide me through the process of starting up was what really interested me.”

From the NEA, Amy was enrolled on the Business Start-Up Support scheme which offers free support and advice to those wanting to start a business, or those in the early years of trading. The package includes a 3-day course on starting a business, one-to-one meetings with a business adviser, training and help with a business plan.

Amy had the support of Growth Hub adviser, Justine Douglas. Amy said: “Justine was a fantastic business mentor. She had a wealth of knowledge and a proven track record in mentoring business start-ups – plus she was so personable and easy to talk to.”

Justine’s help was particularly welcomed when putting Amy’s business plan together. Amy said: “I still refer back to my business plan now to make sure I stay focused and on track with achieving my goals and objectives for the business.”

Amy’s customers have said her soups are “ a godsend during lockdown” for those working from home or home-schooling. She said: “Starting a business in the middle of a pandemic was daunting but I realised I had inadvertently seized a new market opportunity… I hope my soups have provided a small comfort during a really difficult time.”

My soups are handy lunches on the go for not only my husband and his colleagues on site, but with friends who are frontline nurses too.”

Amy has sold over 1000 pots of soup in the couple of months she’d been trading. Amy said: “I’m not sure that I would have had the courage to start trading had it not been for the support of Justine and Cumbria Business Growth Hub.

“Having the support of a business mentor made things a lot less daunting to me and made me feel like I wasn’t going it alone. We’re so privileged to be able to access support like this, and I do believe it’s played a crucial role in making my business successful.”

Future plans for Amy Does Dinner are to offer pop-up soup kitchens and she may venture into other meals when the warmer weather returns. Amy said: “following my passion and starting my own business has been the best thing I’ve ever done and I can’t wait to see where it takes me next.”

When asked what advice she’d give others wanting to start their own business, Amy said:

  • “Run your idea past family and friends and listen to their feedback, but as far as the fundamentals of your business go – listen to your own intuition but get some professional advice!”

If Amy’s story has inspired you to start your own business, you can access help and support through the Growth Hub’s BSUS scheme. Get in touch today on 0844 257 84 50, or email us at You can find out more about the Business Start-up Support here.

ERDF logoThe funding that supports the Growth Hub comes from a range of sources including Cumbria Chamber of Commerce, the European Regional Development Fund, Sellafield Ltd., Carlisle City Council, South Lakeland District Council, Penrith Industrial BID and Cumbria LEP. The Growth Hub is receiving up to £2,528,767 of funding from the England European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020. The BSUS project is receiving up to £1,112,686 of funding from the England European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020. The Ministry for Housing Communities and Local Government is the Managing Authority for European Regional Development Fund. Established by the European Union, the European Regional Development Fund helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support innovation, businesses, create jobs and local community regenerations. For more information, click here.