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How I bought a pub

How I bought a pub

Debbie always wanted to buy a pub and has finally realised her dream

Debbie D'Abreu has always wanted to run her own pub.

And her drive and determination to become her own boss spurred her on and kept her focused, especially when she encountered obstacles she hadn't anticipated.

"It's been a long time coming," admits Debbie, 39. "Finding and buying the right pub was a lot harder than I first anticipated. But my life has been tough, and I realised that if I was going to get anywhere I had to go out there and grab my chances.

"I've watched programmes like Risking It All and seen people on there putting thousands of pounds into businesses that fail. But I admire them for trying, and that inspired me to take that kind of chance myself."

Debbie managed to stay near to her previous home in Essex, and is now the proud owner of a public house in Braintree. "I looked all over, but I did want to stay in Essex if possible," she says.

Debbie looked online and offline and used various business transfer agents (effectively the estate agents of the business buying process) in her search. She also considered companies such as Punch, which rents pubs to entrepreneurial retailers.

Creating a business plan ensured that she thought about all aspects of running a business - aspects she admits she wouldn't have considered otherwise.

"My brain just wasn't thinking about the marketplace and the competition. You really need to think about everything."

Bad fortune

Debbie thought she had struck gold with her first bid for a business, but buying it didn't turn out to be an easy ride.

"I put in an offer, which was accepted," she recalls. "I then got accountants in to look at the books.

"I think this is one of the most important things - after all, you have to ensure that you can keep the place running before you go any further.

"I was more than happy with the first business, but then someone offered to buy the freehold outright and I couldn't compete with that - so I lost out."

Bad fortune struck again when Debbie found a second business she liked from among the pubs for sale on

"I had a lot of trouble getting hold of the right accounts. At this stage I was getting my finance through the bank, who wouldn't help me because they needed to see more information.

"It took me ages to get the accounts from the owners, and even then I still hadn't got what the bank really wanted to see. In the end, there were three of us bidding for the business, and whoever got the money together first ended up with the property."

Debbie struggled to raise the finance for her third attempt, too. Again she tried to get funding from the bank, but it became clear that she could not finance a purchase with the amount and terms they were offering.

She finally struck lucky when she found the pub in Braintree. She turned to Marlborough Leisure, the UK's leading independent provider of funding to the licensed leisure sector, and a family member helped her raise funds without having to contribute money himself.

"Originally, I shied away from Marlborough because their interest rates were high," she admits. "When I incorporated their fees into my plans I couldn't afford the first business I wanted to buy.

"Now my dad is standing as a guarantor on a seven-year loan."

Debbie paid between £60,000 and £70,000 on a leasehold.

Great advice

Marlborough also provides tailor-made funding schemes to allow leisure business owners to build extensions, buy out a partner, pay off a brewery and many other things.

"I would definitely recommend them," says Debbie. "I think they're brilliant.

"They have given me some great advice and have been very supportive. You go through the various stages of the buying process with them and they stay with you during your first year of business."

Marlborough Leisure, along with the local council, was Debbie's main source of helpful advice during the buying process, although she adds: "Everyone has got their own bit of advice and it's all helpful in some way."

So what has Debbie learned from the experience? "A lot - and I'm still learning. You can't just say that buying a pub is what you want to do, hand over the money, and then it's yours," she warns.

"There are so many people you need to talk to. There is a lot of information you need to gather."

Debbie had a fair amount of experience working in pubs, so knew her way around the bar. "I was in the trade for eight years, but that was almost 10 years ago now.

"My ex-husband's father was a partner in a pub chain. I started out as a barmaid, worked my way through the ranks and ended up as a manager."

Hands-on experience managing a bar was invaluable, but Debbie wisely recognised that running a pub required an extra skill set. "I took a one-day business course and that has helped me learn more about the business side of things."

Running a pub is not easy, but Debbie has not lost her sense of humour. "I've needed to do what I've done to gain experience. They only thing I would do differently if I could is win the lottery - then I could then buy the freehold!"

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