Meet Olivia Abbatt a 28 years old cancer survivor launches her coffee business: ‘make; coffee’ on Monday August 4, at Haggerston Overground station, serving fresh locally supplied coffee from her newly renovated Piaggio Ape van.
After raising over £10,000 from a ‘Kickstarter’ campaign and a road trip to Newcastle to get her van kitted out by experts in coffee van transformations, Abbatt can’t wait to get her brand new business off the ground.
She has a remarkable story to tell about self-belief and determination and spoke to East London lines about her illness and her journey to launch her own business.
Abbatt decided to set up her own business having struggled to hold down a normal 9-5 job for over a decade due to her illness. Once its launched, her aim is to work with the Teenage Cancer Trust to raise awareness amongst other young cancer survivors, about how enterprise can be a life changing experience for young people affected by illness.
Ten years ago Abbatt was working as a waitress and planning to go to South America before starting University. However just before Christmas 2004, her plans had to change as she was diagnosed with a rare form of Ovarian cancer.
“Ovarian cancer symptoms are vague and if you’re young, it’s not tested for,” Abbatt explained “Once diagnosed the tumour grew really quickly.”
Due to the rare nature of her tumour, she was treated in isolation at the Royal Marsden Hospital in Fulham , where she had to undergo an experimental treatment, which wiped out her immune system. This meant that for 18 months the risk of infection was so high it could be fatal and prevent her from finishing her course of chemotherapy.
Olivia needed 24 hour care and her mother was worried about her busy treatment schedule taking over her life. She was unable to make friends whilst in hospital and did not know anyone else her age in a similar position. This was when the family sought out the support of the Teenage Cancer Trust.
“[Mum] would look after me in hospital and we’d talk about how it would be good for me to meet more people. I went to a conference that [Teenage Cancer Trust link here to trust] organised at CenterParcs and met a lot of other young people.
“I made a very good friend who was treated by the trust, but he sadly died four years ago, so I distanced myself after that as it was so sad.”
Abbatt spent two years rebuilding her strength and her immune system and finding the confidence to leave home and go to Manchester University. Unfortunately, after university, she fell ill again, and had to have five more operations meaning she had to start and stop work.
Her treatment has caused long-term heath effects. These include internal scarring and weakened lungs plus she has been diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder. As if that’s not enough to deal with, Abbatt’s treatment has also affected her fertility. She said: “I’m going to do a treatment this year to see if I can extract eggs as I only have one fallopian tube.”
After another bout of illness last year, meant she had to leave her job in events, Abbatt had an idea to try and create a pop up restaurant and attended a ‘Start Up Britain’ workshop on starting your own business. Whilst there she learnt about the Prince’s Trust, and a four day training course on offer to help her develop a business plan.
“I didn’t realise how accessible the Prince’s Trust is as they publicise it for people from a more disadvantaged background. They told me that anyone under 30 and has a business idea is eligible or if you’ve been out of work for three months or you’re working less than 16 hours.”
She got a business loan on the back of the business plan she’d created during the course. She then borrowed £2,500 from a family member which covered insurance and council fees and her most important purchase – a Piaggio Ape van. The cost of the renovation for the van was the inspiration for the Kickstarter campaign, which Abbatt was absolutely thrilled to have reached her target in 30 days.
“I can’t really believe it has happened and am so happy that I will really be able to make this project come to life.”
Olivia is determined to make the project not only work for her but also for the local community. She will be serving locally supplied coffee, as she was keen on it all being part of the appeal.
“I chose them, as I really liked how they work plus their coffee is delicious. They have very nice trading practices, work with small producers and cooperative farms, and are eco-friendly. Plus they are only a mile from Haggerston which means I can keep my carbon emissions low when I’m picking up the beans.”
Olivia has also re-connected with the Teenage Cancer Trust. Through her new venture she is working with them to raise awareness of how her ‘make; coffee’ enterprise can help young cancer survivors overcome the challenges in employment and create their own path too.
Follow Olivia’s progress @makecoffeetime. Her trading hours from August 4 11am-1pm, following week August 11th 6am – 1om