The Steel Cauldron finds its feet in lockdown with Business Sheffield support

Robert and Nikki Downham bought The Steel Cauldron in Broomhill at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, signing for it just before the first lockdown. They’ve faced the challenge head-on and now have a beautiful café and shop themed around the wizarding world and all things magical, as well as a themed apartment for family breaks upstairs. They do a roaring trade on evenings and weekends, and are beginning to find ways of working with the local community to make sure the space is used to its full extent throughout the week.

It's been a trying time to start a new business, though; and Rob and Nikki have really valued the support of Sally Pepper, Business Information Officer with Business Sheffield. The Information Officers are a team of highly experienced business people who work with high-street businesses to make sure they have all the tools and support they need to thrive.

“When we first opened we had lots of visits from the Council,” remembers Rob, “with people checking that everyone was wearing masks, the Licensing team checking on us, things like that – making sure that things were being done right. They were all really nice about it, but Sally came with quite a different purpose. She just wanted to learn about our business and find out how she could help us.”

“When we first met I was working through some process documents,” he continues, “and I just said ‘Well, can you have a look through these and see if they make sense?’ It’s great to have someone who both understands business and has the time to go through the small stuff with us.”

The couple found that COVID regulations had a big influence on the form the business took and how they used their space, as they tried to configure it to meet safety requirements and stay open through as many restrictions as possible. Sally, with her extensive experience in shop layouts and visual merchandising, helped them to take their space in hand and make the changes work for them. “She gave us the confidence to change the shop around,” says Rob. “When you’ve never done retail before, it’s easy to think ‘Is this ridiculous?’ She gave us confidence in what we’re doing and helped us focus on the small things we should be thinking about, like how to place certain things in the customer’s eyeline. Now we find that changing the space around regularly helps to pique people’s interest – they say ‘Oh, it’s all changed since the last time I was in here’ and then they go round and have a look.”

Sally’s available to support businesses in Crookes, Broomhill, Ranmoor and Woodhouse. To get in touch with her, email or call 07740 373272

If your business is in a different area and you’d like some support, get in touch to find out who your Information Officer is. If your business is somewhere different, contact Business Sheffield to find the right person to support you. Email or call 0114 224 5000

To explore the Steel Cauldron, email, call 07411 975619 or visit


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