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Natural networkers: the importance of community for entrepreneurs

In our latest entrepreneur interview, Dr Nighat Awan explains how entrepreneurship is a skill that can be shared and applied to any business.

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Dr Nighat Awan OBE is the CEO of Indian restaurant and food chain Shere Khan, and director of property management company Lightning Management. Having also owned successful businesses in the floristry and fashion industries, she knows the importance of keeping an eye out for new opportunities.

We spoke to Dr Awan about what it takes to become a successful entrepreneur and why she’s so passionate about mentoring young people. She also provided some valuable insight into why networking is so important, and how to expand your connections to help unlock your potential.

How did Shere Khan start?

After I got married in 1975, I opened a fashion boutique in Macclesfield and was very successful from day one. My husband and I built up the boutiques into a chain, but one day he decided he wanted to start a restaurant in Rusholme, which we opened in 1987. He wanted to change the concept of curry and a beer to be more trendy.

My role was to pick out ideas for the décor from my boutiques, and I’d arrange evenings of music and change the whole feel of the restaurant. Unfortunately in 1991 I got cancer, so I took a step back for a year.

Meanwhile, my husband was looking for other restaurant sites, such as Liverpool and Chester. Then we moved into fast food, so it escalated into a new business concept. I always felt like I was behind my husband, but I was actually in front because I was doing all the PR.

 

What skills do you think it takes to be an entrepreneur?

One thing I’d like to say about entrepreneurship is that when you learn something, that doesn’t mean it’s only specific to a particular field. You can often apply this knowledge to anything. An entrepreneur is an all-rounder who can visualise something and then fill in all the gaps in between to make it happen.

“An entrepreneur is an all-rounder who can visualise something and then fill in all the gaps in between to make it happen.”
Dr Nighat Awan

How important has it been for you to mentor people?

I think mentoring other entrepreneurs is the most important gift you can give to somebody else, and that's what I’ve done for the past 20 years. I’m a great believer in mentoring young people because they’re our future.

To be honest, I think I learn more from younger people than they learn from me. There's never a time when you stop learning.

 

How can an entrepreneur find a mentor?

There’s so much around now – you can go online and find the details of numerous events and seminars. They’re virtual at the moment, but even then you can find opportunities and see who’s out there. A true entrepreneur will find the opportunity but has also got to believe in their abilities.

 

What’s your experience with networking and how important is it when being an entrepreneur?

It’s important to go to networking events – somebody always wants to sell something, and somebody always wants to buy something. You’ll always find that at least one deal has been successful after a networking event.

Entrepreneurs are natural networkers – it’s in your blood. Having been in business for more than 40 years, I still believe that networking is key.

 

What advice would you give someone trying to expand their network?

You’ve got to go out there and meet people – there’s always an opportunity somewhere. But you’ve got to hold some of your cards close to your chest because you don't know who’s listening to your ideas.

You have to learn to analyse other people and determine their strengths and weaknesses. And if two people understand each other, it can be a very good mix. But without trust, there's nothing.

 

What’s your experience been with the Coutts network?

I feel very confident introducing people to Coutts because of trust. When you trust and understand a brand, you feel honoured to introduce people to it because you know the efficiency and resources behind it. At the same time, if I want to explore ideas with somebody, Coutts can help me make that connection.

 

Do you have a role model?

My mother was a business woman who came to the UK in 1951 and I watched her work hard. She hosted a music evening at home on Friday nights with around 20 guests. She’d fit music in, she’d fit cooking in, she’d fit work in – she was a wonder woman.

So, I told myself that if she could bring up five children and work that hard, I should be able to do at least a quarter of that.

 


Coutts Entrepreneurs Month

In a sign of our commitment to support the UK’s leading entrepreneurs, we dedicate each October to helping them share knowledge and experiences though our Coutts Entrepreneurs Month.

 

You’ll find news of events, interviews, articles and more on our entrepreneurs’ hub. 

read the RESULTS OF our 2020 Coutts Entrepreneur Survey here

THE 'EXPECT BETTER' PODCAST SERIES

 

The ‘Expect Better’ podcast series looks at the thrills-and-spills of life and the meaning of wealth. From the West End maestro with a passion for philanthropy, to the gender equality campaigner who invests for her cause, this exciting 6-part series brings together some of Coutts’ most fascinating clients and industry contacts. Perhaps you’re intrigued to find out the secrets to being a successful entrepreneur?

Find out more here
 

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