FARNHAM entrepreneur Penny Power is preparing to bring the first Business Cafe to Farnham.

Penny, 53, was awarded an OBE in 2014 for her services to entrepreneurship in digital and social development after founding business networking site Ecademy in 1998.

Along with business partner and co-founder Gail Thomas, the goal is to create a network of cafes across the country that require a free membership to enter a private lounge-style environment, selling food and beverages for business owners.

Penny said: “There are three main pillars of The Business Cafe. The first is so the hundreds of small businesses in Farnham can connect with each other.

“Secondly, each business owner can bring a different set of skills and knowledge to the cafe as well as acquiring digital knowledge while they are there.

“But most importantly The Business Cafe is about creating a loving and friendly community for business owners.

“It can be very isolating being a business owner, and many struggle with mental health problems. This is why our slogan is ‘friendship first’.

“There is strength in sharing a worry or vulnerability. Coffee shops across the nation have become a temporary office for many, but the problem is you don’t know anyone else in there.

“There could be someone in there who has great design skills, but they may have just found out their partner has cancer.

“This is what The Business Cafe community is all about, having a place where business owners can network, share problems and help each other out over a coffee.

“Networking events can be so forced because everyone is there to hard sell to each other, which isn’t the point of the cafe.”

Penny strongly believes that businesses are the heart of any community.

“If people rely on the giants such as Amazon, and our high streets die, there will be no reason for us or our children to stay in Farnham.

“We would love to get young people in Farnham to apply for an apprenticeship scheme offered by the cafe.

“They would be trained to become ‘digital friends’ who are there to offer free support to cafe members through apps whether that be for book-keeping, social media, marketing or anything else to help their business.

“They would be employed full time and paid a salary.”

Food and beverages sold in the cafe will stay aligned with their values.

“The food will be sourced from suppliers within 50 miles to support the surrounding communities and the coffee will be ethically sourced and fair trade.”

The menu includes a porridge bar, New York-style deli bar, juices and coffee.

The cafe is in its final stages of planning.

“We have everything we need to get going except money for the actual premises.

“Every time a business moves out of Farnham I walk past the empty shop and think it could be great there.

“We are looking at crowdfunding so we can share the ownership of the cafe with the people it serves.

“You can register on the website how much you would like to pledge to become a shareholder without any commitment at this stage.”

Penny hopes there will be a cafe in every town that wants one, but the first will be in Farnham.

Learn more by visiting thebusinesscafe.co.uk or emailing Penny at [email protected].