Name: Shahid Razzaq
What is your business called?
Premier Mo's Convenience Store.
Where is it based?
Our 1000 sq ft shop is in Blantyre, South Lanarkshire. We are working all the hours to open a new shop, twice the size, in High Blantyre, which will hopefully open in November.
Who does it sell to?
What is your turnover?
£30,000 a week.
What service does it offer?
We have an off-licence and serve the usual grocery staples as well as hot 'food to go'. I try to source from local suppliers - since I started buying from three local butchers, sales of meat have grown by 10 times. I've known many of the customers for 20 years so we've also become a hub in a community which has had its share of tough times.
How many employees?
Eight people working a mixture of part and full-time.
When was it formed?
I popped in once to mind the till and help my brothers out. That was 20 years ago and despite my family moving on to other things, I'm still here.
What were you doing before you took the plunge?
I studied business at Bell College and made ends meet by selling clothes to other students. I managed to scrape enough together to rent a shop in Bellshill but I knew I wanted to take control of my own destiny.
There's so much supermarket-bashing in our sector but I actually admired what the big boys were doing and wanted to replicate that at a community level. The supermarkets really think about how to merchandise shelves clearly. They innovate with seasonal promotions and create theatre for customers. There is no reason why this can't happen in the corner shop.
We think carefully about placement and keep the shelves well-stocked to make the most of the impulse-buyer. The team here regularly hold events - the latest of which was a summer fair which raised £2000 for charity.
Why did you take the plunge?
There is never an ideal time to get into convenience retailing. The sector was under pressure when I got involved but I had a strong faith that each outlet stands or falls on its own merits. You get to influence every last detail of your shop and that detail could just make the difference. Knowing that I held the responsibility in my own hands is what drove me on.
What was your biggest break?
Bricks and mortar. Getting the keys to the Blantyre shop gave me a chance to shine. From day one, I've learned to innovate or die. I regularly walk through big supermarkets to see what they're up to. I introduced a "bake-off"service recently and am using unsold bread as the basis for pizza-style flat bread. It saves waste and offers a new service for customers.
What was your worst moment?
In the early days, we were running low on cash and couldn't order enough stock for the Christmas promotion. I remember being in the shop at 4am worrying and stacking the shelves as best I could. The local people rallied behind us and you find your real steel during those times in business.
What do you enjoy most about running the business?
Somebody popped into the shop the other day because they were having problems with the council and wanted some advice. That summed it up for me. Becoming a fixture in the local area really means something. When you work in a shop for 15 hours a day you don't serve the community, you are the community. We've used the shop as a base to start two youth football teams, which the staff coach. We take as much pride in our merchandising as Tesco but our social responsibility is washing the football strips, not multi-million pound sponsorship deals. Sustainability is also part of this. We've got ahead of the game with the new Waste Regulations coming in next year by separating out our cardboard and plastics to cut waste bins down to just one a week saving us just shy of £3000 a year. It helps the local community to have less waste and gets us on the right side of the law.
What do you least enjoy?
We are duty-bound to be open for the postie starting his round in the morning and the night shift worker popping in for a pint of milk. The hours are relentless and every penny is earned the hard way.
What are your ambitions for the firm?
We are putting our heart and soul into the new shop in High Blantyre. It's going to be based on a discount model of convenience shopping to bring some of the success the big players like Aldi and Lidl have had, but on the street corner. I'll be stocking one key leading brand in each category and offering a price-marked alternative to benefit from healthy mark-ups. It offers customers good choice and value and simplifies the stocking of the aisles. It will take every ounce of experience I've gained to make this work. Some of the waste management policies will help manage the bigger-size shop but I know that it's good customer service which makes the difference, so at the moment finding good people is my immediate ambition!
What could the Westminster Government and/or Scottish Government do that would most help?
It would be very helpful if they abolished business tax for smaller business to give people the confidence to start out.
What are the most valuable lessons you have learned?
Don't only think about number one. Think bigger picture and your business will prosper in the longer term. In the simplest sense, if a customer has a problem with anything they've bought here, I replace it. In community retailing, goodwill is everything.
How do you relax?
I'm the secretary of the two youth football teams the shop manages. A lot of the kids have been with the teams up through the age brackets and it's good to see them improve.