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Have you ever watched an opportunity show on TV and wanted to be one of the contestants or the judges in the panel?  When I was a teenager, I was obssessed with this kind of TV show - something like 'Dragon's Den' these days.  I used to write my own business pitch and present it in front of my family and friends.  If they were not interested, I would present it in front of the mirror! Yes, I was THAT desperate!  And then one day (about 15 years later) I found myself presenting a similar pitch in front of a bank manager with my husband to discuss about a business start-up.  Yes and that was the birth of Bridges 21 years ago!

Last month, I was thrilled to receive an invitation from Charlotte of 'Form the Future' which is a social enterprise that inspires students by connecting them with local businesses.  They visit various schools (both state and independent) helping students from primary school pupils to sixth form students.  And they need some volunteers from the local businesses to talk to teenagers and role-playing something like "Dragons Den" for a day.  Of course, I didn't say no to this.

On Tuesday 13th June, myself and volunteers from various businesses, including catering, engineering, legal, computing, finance and sports management, met with a very enthusiastic group of 13 year olds in Cambourn Village College, to work on feasible business plans. We had 25 students each to inspire and advise. In total there were 160+ students we were working with.

I led my group to the library, and told them in more detail what I do and how I set up my business. We discussed the important elements we all use in business every day, the old theory of 5p’s (Product, Place, People, Price, Promotion) and to recognise a USP (unique selling point)

In the ensuing brainstorm session we heard some brilliant ideas.  Lots of their peer group laughed about the impossibility of some of what they call ‘weird’ ideas, but after discussion and modification, nothing seemed to be impossible!

Once they decided on their product or services, they moved on to think about location, target customers, assigning tasks, decide the market position in pricing, think about the logo and media and means of promotion etc and most importantly ‘what makes them stand out’ from the others.

After an hour of discussion, 5 businesses plans emerged.  They included:

  • 'The Advisory' – A unique advice café in the centre of Cambridge

  • 'Gaming XL' – A game shop set up locally but also have branches nationally and products available online

  • 'HECCAI' – The combination of a gym, sports centre and sportswear shop on the top floor and on the roof of Grand Arcade

  • 'D-Design' – An interior design company, providing both structural and interior changes to higher-end houses

  • 'Props World' –  A props hiring company for movie and film making.

I was impressed by the various personalities of the characters in the classroom environment .  What a mini picture of the real world – a combination of different roles in the business world.  Having children myself the same age, it was really interesting to see the school day in action.

After more than 2 hours of planning and group discussion, they started the wording and drawing of some posters.   Some went directly to the computers.  By the time I had turned round,  I saw slide after slide of colourful  Power Point presentations.  You just can’t believe how quickly this generation pick up skills so quickly with their little fingers. It made my head spin!.

Without letting them know, I had a task to do while they’re working hard – to observe who had the ‘best leadership skills’ and which group had the ‘best teamwork’.  Before they were ready for the presentation, I quietly prepared certificates for these 2 awards.

After a well deserved break, students were presented in front of their classmates and us.  There were hot debates, but it all proved that they were all engaged in the subject and each others’ businesses.  Lots of laughter and questions ended the five brilliant presentations.  

For the in-class presentation, I had to decide who would go to final.  It was such a struggle to decide, as they all had very different, innovative and amazing ideas.  Finally, ‘HECCAI’ – the gym company won my heart. This group not only thought about the business side of the industry – covering all the area of 5P’s we discussed in the morning, they know their USP,  and they presented brilliantly.  Most important, they emphasised the ‘No Judge’ policy. They considered the misconception and self-consciousness of body image.  They introduced ‘Plus size’ in a positive manner.  Personal trainers would not only focus on clients figures, they would also work on the nutritional side of health, but most important the mental well being overall.  I was very confident to put HECCAI to the final.

After lunch, the winning team of each class met for the final.  A total of more than 160 students all sat down quietly to listen to the 7 winning teams to present.  It’s really eye-opening to hear the other 6 amazing business ideas including:

  • ‘Collied’ – A light-weight collar & lead for big and small dogs

  • ‘I-Drone’ – A drone that can beat the traffic for emergency supply e.g blood to another hospital

  • ‘Cool Band’ – A child tracking wristband which can digitally connect to parents’ phone to avoid missing children

  • ‘Spectulla’ – Innovative glasses with windscreen wipers and a camera to stop the pain of glasses-wearers

  • ‘Sports Design and Create’ – A sportswear brand design for personal need

  • VRs –  Virtual reality goggles to give a near real sports experience

After hearing all 7 in-class winners presenting brilliantly, it was such a difficult task to decide who the final winner was.  Among us, the panel decided ‘HECCAI’ as the overall winner!! Apart from what I mentioned earlier, they did even better after the first warm up presentation in class.  When faced with questions like ‘how do you get permission from council to build such a big project on top floor and the roof of Grand Arcade?’ Team leader Kai paused for a second cleared his throat, answered in a calm voice, ‘My uncle’s cousin’s friend’s dad is working as the head of council’. Everybody laughed and clapped.

How brilliant!  It’s obviously a joke.  But in the business world, isn’t it important when a solution couldn’t be found quickly, to have a light heart to face our everyday issues calmly, have a sense of humour and put a smile on the team's faces before start thinking how to beat the problem together?

I thoroughly enjoyed the day.  It fell on a busy day of my own schedule, but I’m very pleased to have put aside my routine for this day.  I’m pleased to have chosen to spend time with a group of students of my own children’s age, to experience a day in the classroom, to feel the long lost memory of school life, and surprisingly satisfying – to smell the long forgotten smell of books (!!) as we were working whole morning in the library.

At the start of the day, I was aiming at inspiring a group of young people in this business world, but honestly, I was totally inspired by them.  They were full of energy, full of positive and ‘possible’ attitudes. They were loving the challenges, loved to talk, ask, listen and loved to have their views being heard.  They were not only talking about practicability of business models, they considered the soft side of the human world – and ‘with a smile’

Getting involved with Form The Future is highly recommended and it’s a day well spent.  If you want to volunteer and spend a day with young people, please contact Charlotte Steggall of Form the Future UK.  

Or if your organisation can take on work experience students, please give them a ring.

To find our more abour Form The Future, visit their website here.

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In May each year we celebrate #NationalVegetarianWeek at Bridges. Although many of our dishes are veg based already, we love to promote higher vegetable consumption from the 15th to 21st. For us, it's to remind ourselves that there are loads of beautiful recipes that are plant based. 

Some people worry about protein or iron deficiency if they cut down on meat. We particularly like using tofu in stir fries with lots of seasonal vegetables as it's packed with protein. And it happens to be gluten free, high in calcium and an excellent choice for vegans. Our recent trial of tofu was so popular, it's now going to be a regular item on the menu. Give it a try at home, it's nutritious, easy to make and really yummy! 

We have noticed that many of our customers are turning to a more vegetarian diet, as they realise that meat can take longer to digest. They have noticed that they do not feel so bloated after a meal. I personally believe in gut health, and a veg based diet lightens the load on our kidneys and digestive system. But I couldn't cut meat out completely,  as I do enjoy small amounts of it.  We loved these posters that @CambridgeFoodCycle put on social media this week (credit: and There are so many different kinds of beans and pulses that are protein and calcium rich, full of vitamins & minerals.And it just goes to show, we could go meat free and still have a balanced diet.

There are so many way to cook tofu.  Here is a quick and simple one to share if you want to have a go at home.

Summer Tofu Dish with Fresh Vegetables

Serve 4


- Fried Tofu (230g), cut into bite size

- Shiitake Mushroom 200g, quarter each of them

- Corn from 2 fresh corn on cob or a small can of sweetcorn

- Fresh Garlic Shoots 100g, cut and blanched 

- Cherry Tomatoes 10 pieces, halved & seared

- Freshly chopped garlic, spring onion, a small piece of ginger, 

- Mix 30ml gluten free soya sauce with 60ml of water and a tablespoon of sugar

- Mix a flat tablespoon of cornflour with 20 ml of water


1. Grease pan with a tablespoon of oil, put the pounded ginger into pan to give oil gingery flavour before adding the tofu gently brown the edges.  2. Add fresh corn, chopped garlic, mushroom into the pan and stir fry for a minute or two 3. Add the soya sauce mixture (with water and sugar) and cover with lid for a minute or until the tofu soaks up half (but not all) of the sauce 4. Add the blanched garlic shoots and mix well 5. Add cornflour mixture to thicken the remaining sauce by stirring in quickly 6. Put into serving dish, add seared cherry tomato and the chopped spring onion on top


- In this simple recipe, I use fried tofu so minimum oil is needed to brown the tofu, but if you are using fresh tofu, just spend extra 10 minutes at the beginning to lightly fry the tofu with oil that has higher cooking point (Olive oil or rapeseed oil are my favourite). Just a reminder, sesame oil can be added at the end but not for frying due to it's low heat point

- If you are buying fresh tofu, choose the firm ones (the soft ones are for adding to soup, not for frying)

- I'm using fresh corn cut off from the cob here but if you are using canned sweetcorn, add it after heat turned off

- It can be served hot or cold. A bed of stir fried beansprout or a bed of blanched green vegetables underneath will make a great party dish, homemade garlic sauce can be added on top (mixture of soya sauce, water and lightly fried chopped garlic & white part of spring onion, a drop of honey & sesame oil) after veg is cooked 

- Any ingredients listed here can be replaced by other easily available vegetables.  I have attached a few pictures below to show the nutritious vegetables we love to add to this dish for daily variation.  

- blanching is the best method for the green to put underneath the cooked tofu, hot bath before an ice cold rinse followed by ice cold garlic sauce pour on top of the green

Hope you enjoy this simple dish and let me know if you have other special ways to cook tofu. Would love to hear from you! 

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We would love to share our latest review with you from Emma Rutter for Varsity.

Top marks from Violet's food critic for a quaint café that asks little in cash or calories Five Stars

We had no idea she was coming, so the review is an honest account of her visit. Its great to understand the student's perspective, and we are glad that our healthy offering and sensible pricing is appreciated. We hope she will come back another day to try our other breakfast choices. 

Emma tried our popular 'Cold Shot' Juice, smooth Coffee and healthy Crush Foods granola.  

We have an extensive breakfast range, including croissants and pastries, various omelettes, avocado with soft boiled egg on toast, and a selection of loose leaf teas.

We are happy to serve our popular breakfast dishes at any time of the day.  Many can have the addition of a salad or bread, including gluten free options.  Just let us know what you like, and we can happily oblige.

To find out more about Varsity, the independent student newspaper of Cambridge University, visit and more of Emma's review, visit

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