Founder of The Dough Shack

Esher Alumni Conor Hadfield

Conor Hadfield is one of the founders of The Dough Shack.

Conor and his friend Aaron, set up The Dough Shack in 2016 selling authentic wood fired pizzas from their state-of-the art vans across Greater London and Surrey.

School: Hinchley Wood School

Left Esher: 2011

Subjects studied: Maths, Further Maths, Economics and Geography

How we started the Dough Shack?

Esher Alumni Conor Hadfield Dough Shack Van

My business partner, a friend from school, and I started The Dough Shack in September 2016. We started out with a Start-Up Loan from the governments Small Business Loan Scheme which had favourable rates and repayment terms.

We started with one food truck selling authentic Wood Fired Pizzas across Greater London and Surrey doing regular evening pitches at key locations and popular local events. Today we have 3 food trucks and a standalone static restaurant pizzeria in Wimbledon with a fourth truck currently under conversion.

My favourite part of running The Dough Shack?

No two days are ever the same. The unpredictability of my days excites me and challenges me. I am in control of my own future. This is a hugely rewarding feeling which brings massive responsibility and a unique buzz.

Owning a business means working all hours of the day. You can forget Monday to Friday, 9 to 5. In my previous role in finance, I would be home at 5:30pm most days and never gave work a second thought once I had left the office.

Since starting The Dough Shack, it has been the complete polar opposite. Emails, calls, WhatsApp messages at all times of the day are just part and parcel of the responsibility and demands of running your own business. Supplier calls at 6am and client calls at 9pm are common. The fluidity and unpredictability of my days can be challenging at times but the fact that my success is in my own hands rather than that of a faceless corporation holds the highest value for me.

Top tips on becoming an Entrepreneur:

Esher Alumni Conor Hadfield Dough Shack Sign

Back yourself! If you have an idea that you have researched and strongly believe will be successful then go for it.

You will have niggling doubts, that is only natural – when we first took on the responsibility of the loan and bought our first food truck, we were a bit anxious about the next steps and the uncertainty of the future but we backed ourselves and have never looked back!

Slightly unconventional but you don’t have to be qualified for your idea to be a success.

I am not a Chef. I didn’t have the first clue about what makes a good Pizza, what Wood Fired Ovens are best etc etc. I had an idea; I saw an opportunity and I went for it. I think it can be restrictive when people tell you that you have to be passionate about what you do to be successful. My passion was the business opportunity rather than the product itself.

In these current times, how have you managed working remotely?

The nature of my business means I have been working remotely for some time now – over 8 months, so the recent changes and restrictions have had little or no impact on my personal working habits. I run the finances, emails and bigger picture operations from my laptop regardless of where I am in the world – currently in South America.

However, for the day to day business in the current climate we have been really fortunate. People still want takeaways and because restaurants are closed, we’ve been perfectly positioned to service more customers now during quarantine.

What advice would you give you 17 year old self?

Again, probably another piece of advice or insight that is a little unconventional. Seriously consider if University is worth it nowadays.

After leaving Esher College in 2011. I went on to do a Degree in Maths and Finance at Brighton Uni. I was in the last year before the fees tripled. Having secured my degree, I have only ever “used” it in a couple of short finance roles. With the current fee levels what they are, it is a long-term financial commitment for a 17-year-old and their family to make.

If the Uni is a top range one where there’s a lot of potential at the end of the course then go for it. If it’s a mid-level institution, I would question if it’s worth it. If I was 17, knowing what I know now, I would go and live in Brighton with friends who went to Uni, have the whole experience there because it was great, but just work and make plans for my future outside of the fees. Uni was amazing, but for me it was the location and friends that made the experience, not the course.