My name is Darcy, I’m from the UK and I am just starting a 6-month exchange in Romania. When I left school, I went straight into the catering and hospitality industry, and over 5 years progressed through many different roles. My professional experience in restaurants, bars and catering sparked my interest in starting my own business in the service industry.

I wanted to learn more about how small businesses in the catering industry are operating outside of my direct environment, particularly in the sector of natural, organic/home grown ingredients and home cooking. I felt continually frustrated at the quick in-the-microwave meals I was serving to customers in restaurants, and started to think more and more of the meals I had experienced in my time traveling in Eastern Europe. Nutritious, locally sourced and delicious, while still served all day at busy restaurants and making a profit. If it was achievable to go ‘farm-to-table’ without a high-end price point there, why wasn’t it here? These thoughts were only multiplied during my experience at university, where I was surrounded by students with little to no cooking and nutritional knowledge, missing their home-cooked meals and with no other option than expensive, unhealthy convenience food. It felt like there was a clear solution to all of these issues, and after sharing my thoughts with a long time friend, and professional chef, the idea for Student Street Food came to be.

Leading up to the pandemic we learnt as we went; catering for several events on campus. As the university population moved to remote working, I wanted to utilise the time we were unable to operate practically to benefit the business plan in another way. I had heard from a friend about Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs, and signed up for the program in hopes of working with a small, quality-driven catering company with similar values and an experienced entrepreneur I could learn from.

Connecting with Dali on the EYE platform was incredibly good luck. After our first skype conversation, I knew that we were a good match. She has built her business from the ground up, and for the last decade continually invested back into the company to  become the success it is. I immediately knew I could bring a fresh perspective to her strategy, while learning both foundational strategies and expansion techniques from her.

Arriving in Transylvania and beginning my exchange has been brilliant. Dali has already introduced me to entrepreneur strategies and techniques that I had never considered before. As a small business owner, operator and manager in a rural area, she has quickly demonstrated to me how essential establishing friendly relationships with the local area is to growth and success. After I had finished my quarantine period, I was quickly taken aback by how much Dali and her business are entwined into the community. There is not a single person in the area, from suppliers and clients to other business owners whom Dali will not know by name and happily chat with. I’ve already begun rethinking my approach to the development of business relationships within our university campus, and have received great guidance from Dali on taking productive steps through connections and collaborations.

I am extremely excited for what the next six months have in store for me, and have high hopes for the development of my business and myself.