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Recruitment

Neil Simmons

TN Recruits

“I left school with very few qualifications and initially coached Football and Gymnastics but fancied doing something a little bit different, so I worked in entertainment. I was a Blue Coat for Pontins and then became an Entertainments Manager for Airtours overseas. Towards my late 20’s, my wife and I decided we wanted to move back to the UK and settle down. I was originally from North West London, my wife and her family were from Tunbridge Wells and the surroundings. Having visited a number of times, we fell in love with Kent and Tunbridge Wells quite quickly and realised it was the right place for us.

When we arrived here I didn’t really know what I was going to do. I sold advertising for the Courier for three years, which gave me a grounding in sales whilst finding my way around Kent and Sussex. I then discovered recruitment and quickly realised it was something I really enjoyed as it combined all the people skills gained during my ‘university of life’ along with the opportunity to be directly rewarded for working hard. After eight years in recruitment, my Dad passed away, he was only 66 and at the time I was 38, based upon those ages I had 28 years left. This experience gave me the kick up the backside I needed to start my own business. I believed I had some good ideas that I could put into practice and wanted to put my own spin on things and so TN Recruits was born. Because of my love of Tunbridge Wells and the surrounding areas, I was motivated to help local companies and candidates fulfil their potential. Along the way I joined BNI, Tunbridge Wells which helped me to meet a number of local suppliers who are now my support network. TN Recruits now has ten members of staff to date and will continue to expand in the coming years.”

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Personal Training

Felix Leech

Superflex Coaching

“When I was a kid, I was never very good at sport or any kind of fitness, I was always the last to be picked for the football team, I didn’t really enjoy PE that much, I got shoved to the back a lot and got less attention. Therefore, I didn’t really have a very good relationship with physical exercise back then. When I was about 12 years old, I got into skateboarding, I had quite an obsessive personality, so I did it a lot, quite religiously, also watching it on TV. I then saw something called Free Running, which I had never seen before – they were jumping over fences, doing somersaults on the pavement, I thought it wasn’t possible, the sort of stuff you only get in video games or movies.

I really wanted to be able to do it myself, and at that stage I had just started some personal responsibility with my own fitness, so I put more of a focus in being able to do it. I started to learn some gymnastics, I taught myself how to do cartwheels and handstands, I did some martial arts too and really rode that for a few years. I grew up with that into my late teenage life and the more and more I got into it, the more I learnt. I learned about the stunt register, which is a guild of stuntmen, it handles the insurance side and the credibility etc, so I started to pursue that. They have six skills you have to achieve, out of about twelve; things like rock climbing, horse riding and scuba diving. Once you achieve those skills and they trust you, they put you on the board and you get recognized for some big jobs. I started working more towards that and originally was just working on gymnastics and martial arts, I thought - it’s all you need to do, be like Jackie Chan! Several years later, I realised I had been wasting my time, so I picked up things like rock climbing and scuba diving to build up my portfolio, spent more time with people who were also trying to become a stuntman and really pursued that goal. One of the reasons why I liked the idea was because it brought real structure to my physical training, having a clear pattern for fighting and gymnastics gave me a real structure. In 2014, I became officially accredited and I started working on some movies – my first movie was Dracula, I also did the Star Wars movie. I had a bucket list of three things – work on Star Wars, work on a Marvel film and work with Jackie Chan and I achieved one of those within two months of being a stuntman. I was very pleased with that! I also worked on Game of Thrones, so it was a good start. My most memorable stunt was doing the splits between two trains in the new Paddington film, just like Jean Claude-Van Damme! But it was tough, hard to build your income and your sustainability, so I re-opened the business side of things. My biggest asset was my flexibility, so it seemed like the obvious direction to take – I got asked a lot, how I did the splits, how did I get so flexible and how I could help others get flexible too, so I’d give them tips and after a while, I decided to make it more of a business. I Pursued some business coaching and learned how to coach people face to face, so the business and the stunts grew themselves organically and now it’s like a tango between two different passions. I used the things that I learnt in being an elite athlete and a stuntman to pass on to others. Now that the stunts are going so well, I can run my business in a very relaxed way, I can coach people that I love coaching and do things I really enjoy, like helping people. At the same time, I can completely leave all of that, go into a different world by being a Zombie in a movie, which is completely different. I really enjoy it.”

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Charity & Social

Olga Johnson

Nourish Community Foodbank

“When my husband retired from the BBC, he always wanted to live in an oast house, so we bought one, which was in an interesting position, as it was in the middle of a huge council estate. Some people considered it to be a disadvantage, but we loved it! We could really see the life around us and I became very much aware of the large families passing our gate that we would also see and talk to in the local shops. Sadly they were buying cheap, very unhealthy fast food. The headmaster of the local primary school was a friend of ours and I learnt from him, that they had some serious issues with the kids going out at lunch time and queuing up at the chip shop – their diets were not good.

At the same time, Jamie Oliver was doing his ‘grow your own school dinner’ programme, so I suggested to the headmaster that we should look at doing that. He thought it was a great idea, so did the kids! Most of them had never seen a potato before, they thought they came chipped in bags! It was a real eye opener to them. Through all this, I got to know some of the families, and they were having a really hard time making ends meet. Fortunately, I also knew a senior manager in the local housing association, responsible for all the property in the area, so asked her if they were going to set up a foodbank. She said they might and then suggested I might like to do it - we called it Nourish Foodbank. They donated £10,000 to start it up! They funded us for a few years and we also did a deal with the local big yellow storage space and Nourish grew from there. We started off with a lot of volunteers, mainly neighbours and people that we knew who had never done anything like it before. We distributed about 100 food bags in our first few months. It then quadrupled very quickly, so we really had to start running it as a business. We hired an operations director, who lives locally, on the housing estate and knew a lot of the people that were in trouble, so she was able to build really good relationships with them. She was also well connected and knew all the charities in the area who would refer people to us. This was really important because you can’t just rock up to a foodbank and ask for a bag, you have to be genuinely in need so, people from Citizens Advice, Gateway and DAVVS who work with people suffering domestic violence and were known to our operations director offered support. She is a real asset to us, and also has a good business sense. If you want to do something, she’s the person to make it happen! We now have five storage areas in the big yellow storage space. We also decided that we would not have a central area for collection, so we have volunteer drivers, who use their own cars to take food to those who need it. We just pay their petrol. We didn’t want a central area for collection because some people are embarrassed to be seen in a queue for food bags. Because of my experience at Sherwood Park School with the dietary issues, we also felt that it was really important to help people to eat a balanced diet with fresh food so, we enclose vouchers for £5 so that people can exchange them with a local butcher for fresh meat and a local fruit and vegetable shop for fresh fruit and vegetables. Five years ago a local legal practice who chose Nourish to be their charity of the year, worked with us for 12 months and a small group of their senior advisors suggested that they did recipe cards for our food bags, using the contents of a food bag. It was great and they were really, really successful. I think it’s really important to eat a balanced diet, and no other foodbanks do this. It’s what sets apart and we are really proud of it! It’s a really rewarding role, we have an excellent board with senior professional people to do marketing, fundraising and finance and have expertise in social services. It’s run as a values led business.”

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Finance

Kadi Wyke

Associate Partner of St. James’s Place Wealth Management

I’ve been advising private clients regarding banking and investments for 20 odd years now. Over this time I have done several Relationship Management roles including being a branch manager and a relationship manager for some of the biggest banks in the UK. Being a branch manager and doing relationship management meant I always gravitated towards the personal stories. People would come to my branch asking for loans and overdrafts and I could sometimes see how much they struggled. Some of these people had good jobs and incomes and all they needed was to have a robust budget planner in place which I was able to do with them on countless occasions.

Before offering to provide them with the loan or overdraft they required, I would sit with them and complete a thorough budget planner and not be afraid to challenge them if I think they were over spending in certain areas. Most times I would give ideas of the simplest change they could make from starting a regular savings plan to over-paying a small amount each month on their unsecured debt. The idea really was to educate and help them build a rainy-day fund and reduce their debts which would lead to a much better credit scoring and thereby secure less expensive credit and build up a better financial future. That’s how it all started for me and made me realise I’m really good at talking to people and advising them. I really enjoyed helping them look at their future, understand that today may be fine but they have to protect their tomorrows, making them really connect with their future self and know that the responsibility lies with them to build a secure future for them and their families. Becoming a Relationship Manager meant I worked very closely with a selected number of individuals and their families rather than looking after a whole branch. This helped me understood family dynamics and the desire for parents or partners wanting to protect their families. This group of people understood the bigger picture and the importance in protecting their children, partners, parents and their wealth and how my role fits into their lives. After working in Banks for over 15 years, I decided the personal touch was being taken out of relationship management with some of the banks I worked with. I didn’t enjoy the changes and felt my skills were not being used or valued. I decided to join St. James’s Place Wealth Management as an Associate Partner. I look after my clients and I am responsible for the advice and ongoing service they receive. Building lasting relationship is not a numbers game, it’s about finding that one person you trust to look after your interest for a long period of time and that can adapt and change as your needs and objective change. That’s what I enjoy doing - helping people.

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Human Resources

Sophie Forrest

Forrest HR

"I wanted to have the option of running a business the way I wanted it to be run, being able to supply a professional yet simple service to clients who need HR support.

I started the business in April of this year after being made redundant for the second time within a year, so I decided as a result of that I wanted to do something a bit different, something professional but still being able to manage my family commitments. I’ve lived in Tunbridge Wells since I was 8 years old, so born and bred more or less and I've never really explored the business side of the town and I feel like I'm really doing that now"

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Automotive

Jordan Clarke

Slammed UK

"I’ve been into cars for as long as I can remember so when I took the plunge quitting my job to go full time with my automotive clothing company SlammedUK I was very excited. This was back in 2013 and I have since expanded into Automotive Events where I am in my third year with my own car show, Gravity. Taking this all on with no previous business experience was certainly a challenge but I love what I do and enjoy teaching my self something new every day.

It’s great being able to do what I love and having my whole life revolve around cars from all areas of life is amazing. I’ve met many of my closest friends through the car community and now have friends all over the world because of our shared love and passion for cars. I take great pride in what I do and travelling around the world doing it is a great privilege, it’s great talking to people every day about what I do and teaching people about the car world. You’ll probably see me about in Tunbridge Wells in my very loud R8, stop to say hi if you do!"

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Plumbing

Tony Field

Field Plumbing

I left school at 16 and went straight into full time college for the first year, then for the second year, I found a plumbing company to work for, they let me go to college for one day a week and after three years I achieved my City and Guilds in plumbing. However, I wasn’t earning enough money, so I went and worked on building sites in London and my income pretty much doubled overnight. I was doing site work, so I gained a lot of experience with various plumbing work from working with councils and then in maintenance, which is where I spent five years at Downing Street and at the Foreign Office and government buildings.

I learned a lot as it was on a much larger scale, still with basic plumbing with radiators and heating etc but also with large cylinders and boilers. I then got into insurance work and moved to Tunbridge Wells in 2003 and that’s when I started my own business, advertising in the yellow pages and using my own website, but the more that time passed, the less I had to advertise. Everyone in the area was recommending me and I didn’t need to go back to London to earn the bigger money, I had enough work in Tunbridge Wells. I also started a copper bath business and a property business with my Dad, picking up some buy to lets, but it was in the financial crisis in 2008, so we had to keep some of the properties that we renovated as they weren’t selling and we still have them today. It turned out really well in the end and I’m glad we still have them. I love the plumbing so I went back to it and over the last few years the properties have calmed down and now look after themselves. I now want to just concentrate on the Plumbing business, build that up and generate a nice income from it. I have some nice ongoing contracts with some large local businesses that generate a steady amount of work each month and it’s nice good work. I still have the same enthusiasm for plumbing now, that I had when I first started, I’m really lucky to still have that energy, I feel blessed that I’m doing something that I love.

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Hospitality

Tom Dainty

Bemanic Events

“When I’m not running an event, or researching new ways of creating amazing atmosphere for any upcoming parties, I’m either spending time with family and friends or occasionally away skiing in the alps.

I often get asked why the name ‘Bemanic Events’? Bemanic actually stands for Beth-Maxene-Nick, which is my mother and her siblings. When their names were combined, I couldn’t believe what an appropriate name it would be for my business. I pride Bemanic Events on being professional, creative and fun, but the forefront of the business is always what our clients want. Our client’s satisfaction is the most important aspect when running an event – it’s their party so it’s important we listen to every tiny detail of what they are looking for. The events industry is continuously evolving and changing with technological developments so it’s vitally important that we stay ahead of the game. Our state of the art equipment and our trusted suppliers make sure all the events we run are both creative and fun, while remaining safe at the same time.”

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Recruitment

Robert Dutton

Recruitment Solutions

"Having worked within Recruitment for the whole of my career, both locally and within in London, I formed Recruitment Solutions in July of 1999 with one simple objective - to deliver to both candidates and clients alike, the service that I would wish to receive. The name was a simple choice, Recruitment Solutions, because it does what it says on the tin!

Built on my passion, the business has grown with a team of like-minded consultants sharing the passion for changing peoples’ lives and we now have 2 offices, one in Tunbridge Wells and one in Sevenoaks – all working with shared aims to 'build teams that build businesses and careers that reward' Understanding the needs of a company is of pivotal importance when shortlisting a selection of candidates for them to meet - people buy people and people want to work with people aligned to both the skills requirement and culture. Consequently, we place great store upon our in-depth interviewing to really build a picture of the candidates skills, experience, wants and motivations – after all changing jobs, starting a career, career back-shifting or returning to work, are amongst the biggest decisions somebody will make. It’s our role to understand and through that understanding, get clients to see candidates and candidates to see clients through our eyes. People are our passion, everyone has an interesting story and the more that you understand about somebody the more you can help them find their passion! We found ours and love helping people find theirs."

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Recruitment

Dean Hunton

DSR Global Limited

"I often hear people saying they fell into recruitment. It was never a career choice at school and yet everyone knows somebody who is in this sector. Well, that was definitely the case with me and I guess I have to thank my German teacher at secondary school for that. Mr McDonald also taught rugby and when he asked me to be captain in the 3rd year (today’s year 9), I started showing more interest in his subject! All this fuelled an interest in modern languages and a few years later I found myself studying German at university with a year in Cologne and even managing a ski season in Austria, not knowing then what I really wanted to do.

My working career started temping at a bank in London and when a recruitment agency said we have an interview for you doing IT recruitment I wasn’t sure what I was letting myself in for. It turned out however to be a perfect match; IT Link was a start-up recruitment business specialising in a software called SAP that only happened to have its headquarters in Germany! In 2005, after 9 years within the same organisation, I was starting to get itchy feet and decided to set up my own business. Ideas flew past me from Starbucks to corporate training, but in the end I decided to better the devil I knew and stuck with SAP recruitment. DSR was born! When I look back over the years, business has been solid and steady but it wasn’t easy though at the start. Re-mortgaging in the first year and digging into savings were tough decisions. Six months in I even had to borrow €20k from a couple of friends because one of my suppliers was late paying me. Having worked in big corporate teams, working on my own initially was tough, making all the decisions yourself, with no one else to bounce ideas off. It was the one thing I hadn’t really considered. More than 10 years on, DSR has developed into an £8 million business with 15 staff. Our customers and candidates are from all over the world – from Boston to Beijing. Tunbridge Wells is a great place to run a business from and we have built up an amazing team with most living in the local area. We’ve created a strong work family, looking out for each other’s best interests as we have grown. The opportunities ahead look very promising for all. On the whole, I’d have to say I loved every minute of my career (well, almost!) and have a lot to thank the recruitment industry, and Mr McDonald, for!"

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Chartered Surveyor

Amal Uddin

AU Consultancy Commercial Property Services

"I started my property career in my beloved City of London and spent over 10 years in the corporate property world, working for corporate property companies. Magical days. In 2010 I set up AU Consultancy as part of my pre-designed 10 year plan and worked out of the City, similar to the the previous 10 years.

Between 2010 - 2015, AU Consultancy continued to focus on corporate and institutional (nationwide) property portfolio instructions. However, in 2006 after coming to Tunbridge Wells, on a property matter - a new romance began with this lovely town, that ultimately led to the decision to leave London for Tunbridge Wells in 2015 and reassemble my business here. The move completely transformed my work/family life balance, and has been a true delight. Tunbridge Wells is a wonderful pro-business town and over the past few years I have got to know many of the leading business figures, many of whom are now very dear acquaintances, of a wonderful growing list. I look forward to seeing both Tunbridge Wells and my business evolve in the years ahead."

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Graphic Design

David Barden

David Barden Creative Ltd

I always knew that I wanted to work for myself, even whilst still an art & design student - I just didn’t see myself as someone reporting into a line manager every day for the rest of my career. But gaining industry experience was crucial in laying the foundations, so employed graphic design roles in publishing, financial services and for advertising agencies provided that, and paved the way to head off in my own direction.

I certainly didn’t do it the easy way - starting a new business in the middle of a ‘financial crisis’ back in 2008! It was certainly a challenge but the company is now 10 years old, going strong, and many of my current clients have been with me from day one - I’m so grateful for that. Maintaining and developing client relationships has been fundamental, and constantly reminds me that it’s not just about the creative output - people are just as important and I love working closely with my clients. I consider myself lucky to still do something that I love doing after 20 years in the industry, and I firmly believe Tunbridge Wells is the perfect place to continue doing it, with so many other creative professionals in the town. Roll on the next 10 years!

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Health & Lifestyle

Amber Parker

Mojove Introductions

“I am a true believer in love and that there’s someone out there for everyone, I’ve now made it my business to do my best to prove this theory. I didn’t want other local people to endure the same challenges, disasters, dramas and disillusions that I had with dating sites and apps so I set up Mojove Introductions to help other professionals find that someone special.

Finding someone special can literally transform your life, those butterflies you get, those shared memories, the laughter and intimacy, there is nothing like it and it is one of the biggest decisions anyone could ever make, yet many people may leave it to chance, or hope that by playing the numbers game on numerous dating sites, that eventually they will find ‘the one’! In a world of social media, winks, swipes and likes, I want to bring things back to basics by helping real people make real and meaningful connections face to face. My discreet, friendly and professional matchmaking service will not only provide you with matches, we will obtain feedback after your date to see how it went and will work together to ensure we find the perfect match for you.”

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Fashion

Lorenzo Colangelo

The Gallery - Hair and Beauty

My Dad, Tony, came over from Italy in 1957, he trained as a barber and a tailor, there wasn’t much going on in Italy, so he came over here and started working in private houses. He worked for the Astor’s and at Scotney as a butler and doing personal grooming etc. Over the years he decided he would set up his own business and in 1982 he bought The Gallery, which was Barnet Fair back then. Having built up clients over the years from the private houses, he started the business and it was a real old chintzy salon, nothing flash at all.

I grew up with that as our salon and it wasn’t long before I saw Bentley’s and Rolls Royce’s parked outside and they were all coming in to this old fashioned salon, but it was all because of the great service my dad offered. He was very customer focused and I had done some training with him and had also worked in the West End where everything was business focused. I worked out if you could connect the great customer service with the business element, you would see a good marriage. So, in 1995, I took over Barnet Fair and renamed it The Gallery, then in 2000 I brought the property next door, then in 2005 I brought the property next to that, which gave us complete ownership of the whole site. I worked really hard in creating a good team, many of which are still with me from the start. We saw the niche in creating a good business with strong customer service and in 2014 we entered the hairdressing business awards, Salon of the Year, which we won and then won it in 2015 and 2016 and then went into the hall of fame. It was an amazing thing! An amazing coming together of our vision and our customers were so involved with the process. It was a huge family thing, not just with our own families and staff but with our customers as well. Then in 2017 I bought the final piece of our property, which allowed us to take out staircases, re-organize entrances and complete the final project. We’re offering a real touch of the West-End in the heart of Kent, when you walk in, you get that wow factor that you don’t get from many places. But above all, it’s not about the chairs that you sit on, or the plushness of the salon, it’s about the welcome and that family feel which makes this place very unique.

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Creative & Marketing

Doug Rubashow

Studio44

“I’ve been working for Studio44 for eight and a half years now, Larry, our MD and I, have been friends since school and I had always said, if there was ever anything within sales and marketing that he thinks I could help out with, then it would be great to have a chat about it. One day, out of the blue, he said he had an opportunity for me, the business was growing and they were at a point where they needed someone purely focused on the business development side and that was how it started and how I got involved.

My background was in sports management with a focus on golf at university, it was basically training me up with a view to becoming a golf club manager. I love golf and I still play a reasonable amount, but I decided that actually, I think I’d rather keep golf separate and have it as my hobby, as opposed to looking at going down the teaching or golf club management route. So I got into this space via a random opportunity with a conversation with Larry and it’s grown and evolved. It’s an industry that’s constantly changing and growing, every day I’m learning new things that we can do to help drive our clients web presence forward, which is ultimately what we are always trying to do. Nothing is more rewarding than having a conversation with a client who has seen a significant upturn in business as a result of our work!”

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Travel

Mark Kempster

CT Travel Group

“I left school at 16 with virtually no qualifications at all. I worked for McDonalds in Tunbridge Wells for a little while, my family and I have always been local. In 1985 I got a job with a company called Pickford’s Travel, and after working with them for around 18 months, I got a job in London, arranging corporate travel with a company called Statesman Travel. Then, after about two and a half years of working for somebody else, I thought - I could do this myself!

I’ve a great passion for the outdoors - walking, hiking, climbing and mountaineering and I had a friend in Tunbridge Wells who had a shop called Country Trails on Mount Pleasant. So, I came to an arrangement with him, where I would rent some space in the back of his shop, with the aim of selling holidays to people who were buying walking and climbing gear - the real dream was to take people away on those type of trips, as I had the love for it. It was back in the late 80’s so there was no internet and people would come into the shop to book holidays to more regular places, rather than the hiking/mountaineering holidays. I spent around six years doing that and employed two or three people. After about six years, an opportunity arose to do some corporate travel, so I ran the two side by side, but still from that shop. After nine years the shop next door became available, so we decided to take on the lease for that as well, turning it into a restaurant called Pierre Victoire. We were then running the outdoor shop, the travel business and the restaurant. The restaurant came with space upstairs, so we knocked a hole in the wall and it became the corporate side of the travel business, and when we grew out of that space I took more office space on the other side of the road, above what I believe was Pizza Piazza at the time. We took two floors there and were employing around 27 people, just on the travel side of the business. The internet then really took off and because bigger brands like Thomas Cook had much bigger budgets, it made it difficult for us to sell our holidays competitively. So we re-focused from selling package holidays to selling more up-market, bespoke, tailor-made trips, which is what we still do today, and with the help of my brother Thomas and other co-Directors, David and Clare, we run a profitable business with a turnover in excess of £36m and employ more than 80 people. Over the years I’ve dabbled in lots of different businesses, I owned a paintball site in the early 90’s and I’m now involved in four other key businesses as an investor and non-executive director; one is an internet-based radio station called FUBAR Radio. We’ve also just exited from a software business and we’re involved in some property development. I absolutely love anything to do with mountaineering and big walks, I used to do a lot of local climbing on the sandstone rocks, which is where I met the guy from Country Trails, it’s always been a big thing in my life and probably always will be. I also love skiing. I climbed the Matterhorn seven years ago and have done quite a few other climbs in the Swiss Alps. I’m off to Nepal in November, so as you can see, it’s a bit of a pattern of mine! Over the last 30 years I’ve seen lots of ups and downs in the business, but the proudest thing is that we’ve never lost money, even during the property recession in the early 90’s, the global wars that have been going on and terrorist attacks etc. I put this down to a little bit of business acumen on my part and a lot of hard work, I think it comes down to at least a third hard work, a third good idea/business acumen and a third, right place, right time.”

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Interiors

Alexander Thomson

DIYgogo

"It was a dream of mine to cycle around the world, so I headed off, spinning through Europe, Turkey and Russia, and ending up in Kazakhstan. During my winter stay in Almaty, Kazakhstan’s capital, I started to develop some strange medical symptoms. Following the advice of a doctor, I returned to the UK to resolve the issue. I remember saying to the friends who I left my bike with: “Right, guys, I’ll see you in a few weeks; this won’t take long.” That was three years ago! It’s been a complete medical mystery – perhaps fate for the project’s sake.

The inspiration for this project was born out of the observations and experiences from my time on the road. Villagers would invite me into their homes for meals, shelter, and sometimes a bed. Of course, communication was a little limited, but that only added honesty and simplicity to the moment – communicating by hand gestures and the odd understood word. When I walked into their houses, the first thing I noticed was the scarcity of the basics: A kitchen consisted of a few worn cupboards, a small sink, a well-used worktop, and a ‘60s-style fridge standing in the corner, with rust coming up the sides – all well used and cherished. Much like bike touring, everything you carry has a purpose; you value it, you look after it, and you maintain it. When I returned to the UK, I was struck by the amount of materials that were thrown away, and from working on various construction projects, I soon realised that there was a real need to upcycle DIY waste. This was the impulse that started the project. Since then, the building blocks have been falling into place, including receiving National Lottery funding (a big ‘thank you’ to all who play the lottery, as without them, this project wouldn’t have been possible). The website is up and running, and we’re now looking at the launch. In time, we hope that the project will help to reduce the amount of DIY reusables that are needlessly thrown away, while providing more property restoration and maintenance opportunities for all."

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Food & Drink

Alessandro Tinti

The Imperial Pub

“I decided to take on the pub here in Southborough after six months of research, and moving to the UK to run a business on my own, mainly because five years ago in Italy it was a bad idea to start a business and now it’s even worse, so I’m really happy about my choice. Part of the idea for the project was to give my daughter a chance to study in Kent because in Europe the education system here is probably one of the best in the world, so I thought that even if the business wasn’t going to be good, it doesn’t matter because I’ll be able to give my daughter a good education.

Luckily from the beginning, the business has been extremely good and we have actually never stopped growing, we have a lot of competitors, lots of new businesses have arrived in our area but this hasn’t affected us and over the last four years, business has been great. In Italy I had a completely different job, I had never run a pub or a restaurant, I was an operations manager for several Italian companies including a ten pin bowling company so my skills are in logistics, purchasing, production planning and manufacturing and my idea was pretty simple, it was to create this kind of marriage between English beer and Italian food, very simple. Running a pub is quite tough, it’s extremely hard and you must always be very focused on the business, the pub never closes so more or less you have to always be here. I have been able to find the right place, in the right position, in the right moment for the kind of project I had in mind, so it’s been a combination of luck, commitment and of course, my Wife.”

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Office products

Maddy Bishop

Bishops Office Products

Simon (my Dad) set the company up back in 1991. He worked as a furniture sales rep at the time and believed he could do things better and decided to set up on his own. He came home, told my Mum – which I’m sure wouldn’t have gone down well, as my brother was about six month’s old, but that’s how it all began. We changed our name a couple of times eventually settling on Bishops Office Products, very imaginative! Originally we concentrated on furniture doing installs, desks, chairs, screens etc and later added stationery. Gradually the stationery grew and grew and because of the repeat orders it has now become our bread and butter. Businesses will fit out their office once every 5 to 10 years, it’s not a constant commodity like the stationery.

We moved in to our present premises on Chapman Way one weekend when I was 10. I used to climb up the racking in the warehouse and fall asleep, I was meant to be helping but think I was more of a hinderance. The image we’ve always tried to portray is that we are a independent family business employing local people suppling local businesses. We use as many local suppliers as possible and support charities in and around Tunbridge Wells with our toner recycling programme. All I’ve ever known is my Mum and Dad working together, hats off to them. It’s really been instilled into my brother, sister and I the importance of hard work. Seeing our parents work long, long hours through tough times, has set a great example to us. I left school in 2012 and worked for another stationery company in London, which was encouraged by my Mum and Dad. After 18 months with them, which was a very valuable experience, I’d had enough of the travelling. I did a little stint with Nationwide locally and then decided to join the family business.. The Sales Manager that was working for Mum and Dad was planning to leave and so they said to me: “why don’t you come and work here as a sales rep” that was in January 2015. I’ve worked my way around the business and now look after all our marketing, oversee the office staff and am due to take on the role of purchasing in a couple of weeks.

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Hospitality

Ant Scragg

The Spa Hotel

“My father was always in the industry, he built up a chain of hotels called Marston Hotels for which he was chairman and Managing Director, from one hotel to 22 hotels at the most, they sold that in 2006 to Q hotels and then he bought The Spa Hotel in May 2007.

I left school quite early and was playing Pro Tennis until I was 20, I quit that and then naturally had to quickly find an income, I was put in touch with a hotel manager that he knew and I worked on the leisure desk. Obviously I’d been around hotels my whole life, listening to various management conversations in the car when Dad would be on the phone to work, listening to the stories at dinner after he got home from work etc. Apparently the General Manager of this particular hotel saw something in me, then he put me on a management training course which was basically 3 months in every department, housekeeping, reception, kitchen, waiting, just about everything and then I went to work for another hotel in Rochester, earned a couple of promotions and a then had a brief stint abroad. When he, and the Marston Family bought this place he asked me to come and work for him. I worked at duty manager level in 2007 when we started and then made my way up the ranks, in 2013 I was made Deputy General Manager. I took over in January 2016 and then started to build my own team, generation two! From there we’ve just grown and grown, moved with the times, changed the image of the Hotel and the quality of product we are offering has improved a lot also. I’ve started to network a lot more, which I think we’d lacked before and managed to put the right people in the right roles. We have big plans for the future so hopefully we can continue on this path!”

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Creative & Marketing

Carolyn Markham

Markham Marketing

Starting my own business wasn’t in my original career plan – I always thought I was a corporate person through and through. After studying Marketing at university, I went straight into the Financial sector and spent 15 years in London working my way up the career ladder in companies such as Fidelity Investments, Lloyds Banking Group and ending up in senior management within the Corporate & Commercial Marketing division at HSBC. I loved the work, the hectic pace and the lifestyle – I couldn’t see myself ever leaving.

However, when the credit crunch hit and marketing budgets were drastically reduced, it gave me time slow down and seriously reflect on what I really wanted from life. So, after taking a 2 year career break to start a family, it was time to start looking for another new challenge. This is when I realised I could really add value to smaller businesses locally by sharing all the knowledge and expertise I had built up. Markham Marketing was born in 2013. I wanted to give local businesses access to the quality and professionalism of a top London marketing agency but with the flexibility required by smaller businesses to deliver tangible results. I offer the full suite of marketing services from developing strategy and delivering campaigns through to design, both web and marketing materials, social media, blogs and copywriting. I love the diverse range of clients I work with and seeing projects through from initial development to end result is very rewarding. Whether a business is just starting up or an SME looking to grow – I can work alongside as part of the team to help achieve their goals and ambitions.

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