Article by Materahub – Photo Credits: Gran Caffè Matera

Antonio, 29 year old, lives in Matera, South of Italy. He owns Gran Caffe, a family run bar/cafe that provides baked goods and beverages.

How long have you been an entrepreneur and what is your business venture?

I started working in this industry ten years ago, when I finished my studies. Gran Caffe is a family-run business, the venture was created in 1906, and it was passed on to my family about forty years ago. Being a family business means that I have always been around the cafe with my dad, and I grew curious in learning a profession. I started becoming a pastry chef for the cafe, and over the years, I gradually took more and more responsibilities. When Matera became a tourist destination a few years back, we all shared the role of entrepreneur in my family, and now that my dad is going to retire, I am handling more and more the business aspect, even if I still enjoy making pastries every morning.

What is your favorite part of being an entrepreneur?

I am still a young entrepreneur, and still have many things to learn, and that is the aspect I like the most about it. When you are working for yourself, there is always the possibility to grow and the limite to your learning is the one that you choose, it is not imposed by anyone else. I also enjoy seeing directly the reward of my own work.

Two years in, in what ways has the covid pandemic affected your business and your well-being as an entrepreneur?

Being in the food and service industry, the pandemic had a big impact on my family business. We had to close for several months, and when we could reopen, there was not enough work. We had to reduce our staff and make adjustments in our production in order to limit the costs. A great part of our activity runs thanks to tourism, and without any tourists in town, it has been very difficult. Luckily, we do also have a regular local clientele, and this is what has helped us going through these two years so far. This situation has been causing a lot of stress to my family and I. The constant changes in limitations and regulations, the restricted amount of people that can enter the bar, the check of sanitary passes, asking people to wear their masks indoors, and then outdoors, it has been a great source of psychological stress as we try our best to follow hygiene measures and the law without putting too much pressure on the clients. Dealing with the stress of the customers has been very challenging too. But this situation has also been the occasion for me to take a step back, especially during the long months of lockdown, and to reflect on a better way to achieve my goals, by learning new things and getting a better work-life balance, which is really not easy with the job I do.

You also participated in the digital well-being webinar in November 2021, what key points did you take from this webinar?

I am really not a digital person, and so for me, the points mentioned during the webinar were all interesting and new. I had already realised the importance of having an online presence and what it can bring to a business, even more so since the pandemic, so this webinar was perfect for me to understand better what I need to do for my own business, and it opened the door to a world of digital possibilities.

What are your reasons for joining The Circle project, and what are your expectations?

The main reason I wanted to join The Circle is that, being a young entrepreneur, I am looking to learn and gain new skills that will help me give my family business a push. Especially after the hard years that we have been going through, it is important for me to get more ideas on how to diversify my business, test my knowledge and competences, and meet other entrepreneurs with whom I can share my experience and learn from theirs.

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