Rare cancer survivor needs crowdfunding support to launch Haggerston coffee business

Olivia Abbatt and her Piaggio "Ape" van

Olivia Abbatt and her Piaggio "Ape" van - Credit: Archant

A brave young woman who battled ovarian cancer as a teenager has decided to be her own boss and become a barista in Haggerston – and her story will be aired in a documentary.

Olivia Abbatt, 28, was diagnosed with the rare form of cancer a decade ago and is one of just 10 people in the world known to have survived treatment.

Since then she has been through a string of jobs after undergoing several operations for chronic health problems, and has always found it awkward explaining the gaps in her CV to employers.

But last summer she decided to take her career into her own hands and launch her own coffee business – making coffee – out of a three-wheeled Piaggio at Haggerston Overground station, using roasted coffee locally-sourced from London Fields.

Ms Abbatt had given up employment at a library when she fell ill following an operation, and made the decision with the support of the Prince’s Trust as she was claiming employment and support allowance.

She said: “Having a job for me has meant letting people down, getting stressed and not being able to cope with the commute. I realised maybe running my own business would be good for me.

“There are a lot of thing to consider for someone who’s ill, and with running a business it’s about finding something that can adapt to your needs plus something that’s not incredibly stressful.”

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Ms Abbatt thinks the coffee business will be ideal, because once it’s up and running she could employ someone else to work as the barista should she fall ill again.

She said: “Right now I’m quite well and I am lucky I can put the energy into doing this, but last year I got really down after the surgery, and was thinking, “Where’s my life going, which employer won’t mind this, what’s going to happen if I have another operation?

“The business side has given me a lot of hope and helped me feel positive.”

She now needs to raise £10,000 on crowdfunding site Kickstarter to convert her three-wheeler Piaggio van into a coffee-selling machine, and has raised over half the target since launching the campaign last week.

She said: “Because of my situation it’s not easy to get financial support through banks. It is hard and intimidating to try to get funds, but I think there is also a lot of goodwill around for new businesses who want to have a positive impact, particularly locally, so it’s good to hold onto that to keep morale up.”

Her story will be told in a documentary, Young Upstarts, which follows four young business owners at the very early stages of running their businesses, and she hopes to develop a resource for others affected by illness.

She said: “I’m going to look how this works out for me and write about it as a case study. Obviously I’d love to be more ambitious and create a scheme in the future.

“Nothing like that exists right now. I left jobs and ended up claiming employment and support allowance, it’s good it’s there but it’s incredibly hard to get, and so many people have been through the experience of persuading them that you need it – when you are ill it’s hard to keep up with the momentum.”

Young Upstarts airs on London Live on July 22.

o To see her crowdfunding campaign go to www.kickstarter.com/projects/makeithappenhere/make-coffee