On Monday 28th September our Business Brainstorm event was held at Wella Studios in London. A fantastic lineup including one on one interviews as well as a question and answer session with all proceeds going to the industry charity HABB.

Edward Hemmings welcomed everyone to this new business event concept which is he described as “a series of business events with a different approach that promises to be very exciting”, before introducing Chairman Hellen Ward to the stage for her interview with designer Cath Kidston MBE.

Hellen had a previous knowledge of the personal and professional career of Cath Kidston MBE and she referred to Cath Kidston’s book, which she had in hand, as a “fantastic read”.

Cath Kidston MBE began by talking about why in 1999 the lack of effective internet had led her to use her own name as a way of her existing clients being able to find her. Hellen prompted her to discuss how she came about opening her first shop in Notting Hill, which she owed to seeing a gap in the market, and she went on to entertain the audience with stories of successful town hall sales and even forgetting to lock the shop door. Cath Kidston MBE suggested that at that time she saw the opportunity to open a shop offering what she described as “cheerful practical things for the home” with her accessories providing style to interiors without the need for big decorative changes.

The passion for her brand was evident throughout and Cath Kidston MBE stated to Hellen Ward that she only stopped working every day in December last year. Her brand is now recognised internationally and she provided further expertise on how she manages a large team throughout the world. Hellen then opened the interview up to questions from the audience and Cath Kidston MBE was able to provide information on how she overcomes challenges and her previous and current history with business franchising.

After a fascinating interview Hellen Ward and the audience thanked Cath Kidston MBE for her time and knowledge before Edward Hemmings returned to the stage to welcome the second guest interviewee Des Gunwardena CEO of D and D London.

After a video demonstrating the success of his restaurant chain Edward was able to question Des Gunwardena on how his background has led him to where he is now.

Des Gunwardena started by talking about how he had moved from Sri Lanka to London at an early age with him providing personal anecdotes throughout. He referred to doing multiplications in his head at the age of four which he went on to suggest had led to his degree in economics many years later.

He spoke fondly of those he had initially worked with and those he still works alongside, and this related to his development within both property and design to where he is now. From an early age he wanted to be involved in business and in the tough recession of the 80s he turned his attention to restaurants and fine dining.

A distinct lack of ‘restaurant culture’ was what Des Gunwardena described as his reason for introducing his restaurant to the London scene. Cities like Paris had created an experience when dining and this was something he saw potential in.

With 31 restaurants and 1 hotel D and D London now have locations in Paris, New York and also London, and have been expanding over the last 20 years. Des Gunwardena spoke of his second restaurant opening with 400 covers which was a concern during a recession but with its popularity soaring he spoke fondly with Edward of past memories.

It was then an opportunity for the audience to ask their own questions to Des Gunwardena and he was able to offer ways to maintain staff and suggest solutions when opening up new establishments.

Both interviews were incredibly well received with both business experts providing expertise and knowledge in an open and entertaining interview format.

After a short coffee break Edward Hemmings returned to the stage to welcome our panel of industry experts for a question and answer session with the audience. Clive Collins from HOB Salons; Patricia Buller from Ciente and Sean Hanna from Sean Hanna Hairdressing joined both Hellen Ward and Edward Hemmings on stage for this opportunity.

The session discussed various topics with all of the panel providing open and honest responses to individual questions. Topics included the change to the minimum wage; creating your own salon product range and establishing and maintaining a strong working team. It was an incredibly interactive session and the information available was phenomenal and the expertise was very apparent throughout.

This was a very successful introduction to the new business event format with the response being very positive from everyone involved.

Charlotte Johnson, from The Annexx, said “It was fantastic listening to such successful and inspirational individuals. Cath Kidston MBE and Des Gunwardena spoke about the good times and the bad times which have led them to where they are today. It was really fascinating! Following this was the panel from our industry and they discussed how we can progress and move our businesses forward, which was really interesting. It is so important for someone like me to attend these events and I am really looking forward to the next one”

Edward Hemmings said “What a truly brilliant event! It was incredible to meet and get to know Cath Kidston MBE and Des Gunewardena in such a fantastic interview format. Listening to the real stories of adversity and triumph was inspiring. Adding to the whole event was the question session to our panel which was really interaction and such a great opportunity for the audience”.

Photography by Alphonso Grose.

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