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Richard's inspired invention
Richard Woollet had only been in business for a couple of weeks when he hit his first problem.“We had queues at lunchtime and we are selling out of some things,” he said.
Many start-up sandwich bars would be delighted with such difficulties, particularly since he has done virtually no advertising.
Even more impressively, his shop, Little Oh, is competing in the fast-moving environment of Oxford’s Cowley Road, already home to a dazzling choice of different takeaways from around the globe.
He knew after the first week that he had a winning formula and he says that he may need to recruit more staff to cope with demand.
“Customers have been coming in and offering to e-mail their friends about it,” he said.
He says his success is due to a truly original concept — the ‘dohkie’ — plus hard work.
The idea came to him two years ago in South India, but he emphasises that he is not aiming to compete with the area’s Indian restaurants.
He is the inventor of the dohkie — a milk-based flat bread, baked in the shop at 116 Cowley Road, with a variety of flavours. “The name was easy (ohkie dohkie), but the recipe was not,” he said. He also serves salads, soups and cakes.
He was working in India as an intern as part of his masters degree in international marketing at Sheffield Hallam University.
Richard added: “I used to visit the local ‘chat stalls’ that served fresh salads and bread. Each little bakery or stand had their own variations.”
He was impressed by the colour, taste and freshness, with a mix of aromatic spices, combined with creative assembly.
He said: “It was never my intention to come back to England with some enthusiastic idea, or grand plan on how I should start a food company that could approach things differently – I was supposed to come back and get a ‘proper job’.”
He decided on Oxford because his girlfriend live here, and spent months pounding the streets before he found a new shopfront which was part of the redevelopment of the Old Music Hall.
He then spent two months working 18-hour days fitting out the premises, teaching himself plastering and joinery by watching YouTube videos.
He said: “It was either this or a corporate job in the City. I want to have a challenge, rather than sitting in an office all day.”