How I got to where I am now:
I studied a real estate course at Oxford Brookes University. Throughout my time there, I became involved in running events for Oxford University and Oxford Brookes. That moved on to me working with a fashion label called Jack Wills, which was pretty small at the time. I continued to do that and built up a reputation for throwing events to help their marketing in Oxford and London.
That was where I began building an appetite for hospitality and events. I graduated from Oxford Brookes and went to work for a property firm in Canary Wharf for a short time, at the point where the recession hit.
So I came back to the world that I knew that was bars, clubs and restaurants, and I went to work for the owners of Just Mihiki, who had just opened Whisky Mist. I worked for them for around three years, during which time they opened a number of other venues.
I went from there to working with Absolute Vodka as a consultancy partner, which freed up some time to explore other avenues. My business partner, Alex Potter, then approached me with an opportunity to do our own site which was at the time Miss Q's in Earls Court.
For the project, we partnered with two other friends of ours – Frazer Shipsides and Stevie Thomas. So there were four of us with some time on our hands and a site in Earls Court. We threw our funds into it and it became PING.
Alex and I also co-own an event called Love Brunch and I founded a menswear website called Young Thread. Everything I’m involved with is all about generating a great atmosphere and experience. We then made an offer on another site, which became The Rum Kitchen on All Saints Road. And we’re off on a bit of a roll as both venues have gone incredibly well. We’re now in a position to grow, perhaps without it being as hectic as those two were.
My greatest achievement:
Our greatest achievement has to be the opening of both PING and The Rum Kitchen in a six-month period and receiving glowing reviews from the likes of AA Gill. We’ve always put a lot of attention into making the products we offer and the atmosphere they are provided in is right. And I think the success of the two sites is testament to that.
My biggest challenge:
The most interesting and somewhat bazaar challenge was when we took the All Saints Road site for The Rum Kitchen. We were approached by a fairly well-dressed local who informed us that it was crucial that we should sacrifice a chicken doused in Sambuca and throw it onto the street in order to see the success of that site.
He claimed that countless operators had tried to make that site a success but it had been cursed by voodoo and continually had problems. That was on the day we were about to launch, which was slightly disconcerting.
Luckily, he was wrong.
What I love about restaurants:
I’ve always been a people-person. I love working with an assortment of individuals. I enjoy engineering and being the organiser of an event or experience, more than I have attending it.
What I don’t like:
This industry gives later nights than one would hope and earlier mornings. If you have one restaurant, you can run everything but we’ve found now that we might be on-site at The Rum Kitchen until 2am and then back in the office at 9am the next morning.
So it’s an industry that works around the clock and that can sometimes be tough – there’s not a lot of off-time. But I’m not complaining.
My advice for young entrepreneurs:
Sticking at it. Once you’ve made a decision, have faith in it. Hundreds of people can give their opinion about a project you’re working on and it can make you double-think about what’s best. We’ve come up with slightly off-the-wall ideas and just gone with them, despite what others have thought or said.
If it’s well-executed, you’ll always get the customers. If you plough enough energy into anything and you really believe in it, you can make it work.
Something else which is really important nowadays is all the marketing collateral that you can generate for free. There’s never been a better time to create buzz about business on a low budget. So social media is crucial and you should use it to your advantage.
We’re opening another Rum Kitchen in Soho and looking very closely at and also in Shoreditch.
There is an appetite to look at university towns for the growth of Ping as well. We might start to look at the likes of Bristol and Oxford, go back to where we used to play and we’ll see whether there’s an opportunity there, but nothing’s been secured yet.