To celebrate the end of a busy term the MSc Enterprise students and staff set off on a Christmas adventure – a “Walking Tour” of entrepreneurial enterprises in Leeds! We started at Magpie Communications (www.wearemagpie.com) which is conveniently situated about 100 metres from the CEES offices. Magpie was founded by CEES Enterprise Ambassador Becky Edlin and her co-founder Ged Savva. Ged hosted the visit and explained how he and Becky learnt the ropes of marketing and comms whilst working for Leeds University Students Union and then one day realised that they were now so experienced and so well networked in the student comms field that they could set off on their own (ad)venture. That was six years ago and Magpie is now a flourishing agency who’s “USP” is its closeness to students across the country and its understanding of the latest trends. Clients are very keen to target this demographic. Ged took us on a tour of the offices and we were fortunate to witness staff dressed in their “Christmas Jumpers” to celebrate the season! We were also given lots of chocolates which was a great way to start our “tour”. So many thanks to Ged and Magpie.
We then walked across campus to the Opposite Café (www.oppositecafe.co.uk), which is located in front of the main Parkinson’s Tower building. We entered the busy café at the end of the lunch period and were met by Louisa Henry the founder. Lou’s story is fascinating. She dropped out of Leeds University and set up the café when she saw that the basement of a prime site was available to rent. This was about ten years ago. Lou exemplifies the entrepreneur – full of bright ideas and always looking for new opportunities to exploit. She entered the National Barista Contest and came runner up to the winner in the finals in London. This raised her profile and she has remained friends with the winner ever since. He has set up a business importing fine coffees from around the world and is now a key supplier to Lou. Lou has recently expanded – opening a second café in the up-and-coming Chapel Allerton suburb of Leeds and a pop-up café in the prestigious Victoria Arcade in the city centre. Both of the new locations provide specialist coffee which Lou describes as the “third generation” of coffee shops. Starbucks, Costa et al being the “second generation” as exemplified by the TV show “Friends” – somewhere with nice sofas and decent coffee where people can meet and relax. The third generation takes this further by providing specialist coffee that really excites the taste buds. Wow!
Having “caffeined up” we set off to our third business – the IT company Calls9 (www.calls9.com) in the city centre – about a 10 minute walk downhill from the university. Our host here was co-founder Pete Mills. Pete was a lawyer and won a company award for his IT innovations. But he became increasingly frustrated with the lack of support for his ideas in the large law firm and decided to set up his own IT business with fellow lawyer and co-founder of Calls9 Adam Roney. Calls9 has steadily developed from a company providing programing services to a product-based business with the great success of its Nucleus content management system for websites and apps. Like many software companies before them, this represents a “step change” in the business and gives Calls9 a clear product to sell to clients – making the sales process far easier than before. It has also provided Calls9 with an identity in a very crowded marketplace and Pete was clearly enthusiastic about this new direction and momentum. We were offered coffee by Pete but having just come from the Opposite Café everyone was “full”!
Our tour ended at Bundobust (www.bundobust.com) in the city centre. Their website says it all – “Bundobust is not a restaurant, it is a bar that sells Indian street food with an extensive selection of the world’s best craft beer”. The founder, Bobby Patel, was our host. Bobby attended the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses programme run by LUBS (as did Lou Henry of Opposite Café and a number of our Enterprise Ambassadors) – again proving that “it’s not what you know but who you know that counts” in the world of Enterprise! Bobby is clearly passionate about his business – which was launched in Leeds last year to great acclaim. Its proposition is fun and fresh – to combine tasty authentic Indian street food served in small pots, with a great range of beer – including one at 10.9%! Of course we had to sample that one – but thankfully we managed to keep consumption under control and find our way home at the end … Bobby spoke of his family and how his parents came to the UK from India in the 1960s. His mother is the chef behind their original restaurant, Prashad, near Leeds. She always had an eye for customer services and the restaurant built up a loyal local following. One day the family decided to apply to feature on Gordon Ramsey’s Best UK Restaurant TV show. They were accepted and came runners up – leading to fame and a massive increase in custom. The restaurant was expanded but not by too much. The family took the view that if they wanted to grow their business they should diversify. Bobby was keen to combine beer and Indian food and thus was born Bundobust. The bar is very atmospheric, tucked away in a little street near Leeds station. We arrived at 4pm on a Wednesday afternoon, but by 5pm the place was heaving. Clearly very popular! So much so that Bobby is opening a second bar in Manchester in 2016 and has eyes on a third in London soon. Needless to say the food was great – lots of pots exploding with variety and flavour – washed down by tasty beer. What a great way to end a whistle-stop tour of four very different business – each showing a different aspect of enterprise and entrepreneurship in Leeds. Students and staff really enjoyed the afternoon and it was a lovely way to get to know each other better at the end of another busy year at Leeds.