In a historic building on Glasgow's Great Western Road, which was originally home to Kelvinside railway station.
What service does it offer?
Our a la carte menu offers Italian classics and modern international cuisine. Located directly above The Italian Bistro, the Partners Suite comprises a private cocktail bar, sun terrace and a function suite.
Who does it sell to?
The general public and local businesses and organisations.
What is its turnover?
Having purchased the restaurant only last month, it is too early to say. I hope to build turnover significantly over our first financial year, particularly through attracting more locals and community organisations to use The Partners Suite.
How many employees?
16 full and part-time staff
When was it formed?
We took over the restaurant in July 2012. It has been operating as The Italian Bistro for several years, prior to which it operated under a series of different guises under various owners, including Carriages, Stazione and Lux.
Why did you take the plunge?
I started my career as a single mother waitress earning a minimum wage. Having worked in Italian restaurants for many years earlier in my career – including spells at North Rotunda Pizzeria, L'Ariosto and Saninno's – I jumped at the chance to return to Italian cuisine and bring my career full circle, after many years in Asian cuisine. I wanted a new challenge and I saw the tremendous potential in developing The Partners Suite.
Despite the challenges of the current economic climate, I decided to embark on this new venture because I felt that I'd become overly reliant on Ashoka restaurant franchises, always having someone else telling me how to do things and knowing there could be a moment he might decide to sell up. I've been dabbling in the stock market lately and have been fortunate with spread betting, so I thought I would buy my own restaurant. It's what I know, it's what I'm good at, so I decided to take a chance.
What were you doing before you took the plunge?
I started working in restaurants at the ripe old age of 17 after leaving home because I wanted more independence. In my opinion, this was an unusual move for someone who had been brought up in a very traditional Pakistani home.
My late father took me on holiday to Pakistan at the age of 14 and got me engaged to my first cousin. I didn't complain then. In fact, I was quite excited at the time, returning to the UK engaged to be married in a few years, but I left home before the marriage could take place.
After leaving home, I had to grow up the hard way, becoming street-wise, having previously been so sheltered. Luckily, I came into the hands of Glasgow's much-respected restaurateur Charan Gill, who owned the Harlequin Leisure business and gave me a job in its Ashoka West End restaurant when I was 17.
Mr Gill taught me how to become the best waitress in the west end at the time, or so people tell me – honest!
I went on to work in a series of restaurants while raising my son and made an unsuccessful attempt to open a restaurant of my own before working for Sanjay Majhu, who bought the Harlequin Leisure Group. One day in 2001, Sanjay asked me to buy the franchise for the Spice of Life because he was expanding. I used my credit card to the limit to pay for stock and one month's rent up front and took over the reins. I never looked back.
From there I took on the franchise for the Ashoka West End in 2004 and then Ashoka Ashton Lane in 2006. That led to various awards and nominations because I aggressively marketed my outlets myself and worked hard in them all. I would take a trip through them all in one night, talking to customers all over and hardly took any days off. I remain a partner in Harlequin Leisure's Ashoka Ashton Lane and was fortunate enough to be named Scottish Asian Businesswoman of the Year in 2007 in recognition of the success of my restaurants.
However, I wasn't ever lucky in relationships throughout because of the hours I had to put into my businesses. I decided at a very early age that one has to be independent.
I have one child. He is an only child but never a lonely child. I've had to sacrifice my life in various ways to be there for my son, but I tried very hard to be there for him always. I've always managed to take him on holidays and spend time with him and I don't think I would have had the drive to work so hard if it wasn't for him.
What was your biggest break?
Taking over The Spice of Life from Harlequin in 2001, which taught me all I needed to know about running restaurants!
What was your worst moment?
The worst moment in my life was when I was 28, thinking I knew it all, and promptly went bankrupt with my first restaurant venture – Bertolini's in Argyle Street. I was so young and naïve and nobody helped me. I didn't know much about running a business and didn't know how to market the restaurant – and everybody just left me to it.
What do you most enjoy about running the business?
Meeting people from different walks of life. Running a restaurant is like being at a party every day – to me it's more like having a day out than actual work. When I was younger, as a single mum, getting out to work in the restaurant sometimes felt like a much-needed break. Now I enjoy meeting people at work – I'm a real people's person.
What do you least enjoy?
I hate how the global recession is affecting the whole world, and the restaurant sector in particular. It seems that many people who have some wealth are becoming more cautious because they're uncertain.
What are your ambitions for the firm?
To increase turnover by 20% by the end of this year.
What are your top priorities?
Keeping our customers happy. I aim to do that by refreshing our menu, refurbishing the premises and maintaining our staff levels.
What could the Westminster government and/or Scottish government do that would most help?
Just offer more support. As much as the Government genuinely wants to help SMEs, it has a tendency to tinker around the edges without taking on board the very grave concerns of SME employers.
What was the most valuable lesson you learned?
To be dependent only on oneself and to realise – which to me means to open the third eye and use my real eyes – what's going on around me.
How do you relax?
When I'm stressed out and go home, which is not till about midnight every day, I enjoy a hot bath with some religious reading. I go to bed about 1am and rise about 9am every day, shower and go straight to work.