Start-Up Stories: De Meló, Middlesbrough

In this month’s Start-Up Story, Imran Ayoub of De Melo Coffee House and Dessert Lounge in Middlesbrough tells us about his incredible journey from new business owner on the block to the BME Tees Valley Business Person of the Year.

In setting up Middlesbrough’s first artisan espresso, patisserie and dessert restaurant, Imran and his wife Nadia received support from TEDCO through the Start & Grow programme and a Virgin StartUp loan.

What an incredible journey it’s been so far! We will be turning 2 years old this July and our adventure seems to be growing week on week. In December we launched our very own range of handmade authentic Italian gelato after receiving training from the Ferrero Rocher family. The result is that we now have a product that can go toe-to-toe with some of the best gelatos in the world, not just the UK.

After realising that one of our biggest costs in the first year was the purchase of ice cream from a national distributor, we set out to come up with solutions to try and minimise this cost without affecting the quality of our products. Our cone supplier Tony Rovardi of the Greco Brothers (who is Italian, of course) suggested that we start making our own gelato.

After crunching numbers and realising that this could be a big cost saver in the long run (as well as having its own revenue stream) we decided to take the plunge and set up a small production facility in which we can start manufacturing. We approached the Tees Valley Business Compass who helped us get a 30% grant towards the start-up costs and machinery. Tony helped us approach the Ferrero family who also supply gelato flavours. We were able to have 3 days with Albert Van Groodenbroeck (Cristiano Ferrero’s right-hand man and Head of Tech Ops) and on December 9th we officially launched our gelato to the people of Middlesbrough. 

The quality of our gelato speaks volumes for our mission statement of producing authentic quality products. Together with the strength of our brand identity, we have now started supplying our gelato to local businesses including the Middlesbrough goalkeeper Dimi Konstantopoulos’ restaurant Great. 

In February, I won the BME Tees Valley Award for Business Person of the Year, an accolade I’m very proud of. At the same awards, De Meló came runner-up in the Business of the Year category.

Our current plans are to start growing the wholesale of our gelato on a local level. We are supplying 4 businesses at this point in time, and plan to have our facility at maximum capacity within 9 months, producing up to 150 tubs per week. We have employed 2 part-time staff members to help with the facility to keep up with the demand of our product, both for other businesses as well as our café. The ultimate goal is to have De Meló Gelato recognised as a leader in the gelato market in the next few years. We’ve made a start with this mission by entering ourselves into the Virgin Foodpreneur competition to win the chance to have our gelato stocked with the likes of John Lewis, Waitrose and Ocado.

However, not everything over the last 6 months has been sunshine and rainbows. We have come across hurdles in every aspect of the business on a daily basis and mistakes have been made. But these mistakes are some of the most important things to have happened to us. They have allowed us to discover solutions that we otherwise wouldn’t have known or thought about. Learning from mistakes is incredibly important, and understanding why those mistakes were made in the first place, allows you to grow as a businessperson. 

To finish, I’d like to give you a glimpse of life growing up in a working class home in Middlesbrough. My father has always been known to have a way with words. He has been involved in our journey from the start. Here are the 3 mottos he has helped me to understand:

Take each day as it comes.

Work for the future by building on the present.

There is no substitute for hard work.

If Imran’s story has inspired you to pursue your idea for your own business, why not contact the TEDCO team today and find out how we can help you Start & Grow. Email us at