A considered equity investment in a team with a collaborative 40 years’ experience in the commercial energy sector. When founder Nicholas Till, who boasted 10 years working for British Gas before starting U4L, saved us considerable money on our restaurant group’s utility bills, it opened our eyes to an opportunity. We asked Nick if he was looking for investors to help accelerate his growth. He was. U4L’s team has now grown to 10 energy experts. Revenue grew 300% to the end of year 2. We decided to exit the business and sold our shares in late 2018. U4L has gone from strength to strength. www.u4luk.com
Elite Ticket (2015-2018)
With a growing number of event promoters wanting to sell tickets on our Elite Living platform, we decided event ticketing needed it’s own home, and therefore launched Elite Ticket. After growing over 20,000 subscribers, we decided to merge the website with our voucher platform, Elite Living. www.eliteticket.co.uk
A project we launched off the back of our U4L investment to focus on the residential utilities sector, working direct with Scottish Power and a number of other national suppliers. After securing partnerships with multiple estate and letting agents, we decided to end our residential campaigns to focus on our commercial energy interests. We sold TurnKey to competitor, JustMoveIn.
We launched a ‘for profit’ online raffle platform for UK influencers and brands to take advantage of their digital following to raise money for their chosen charity or cause. They engaged with their audience by offering a once-in-a-lifetime experience with them as a prize, randomly selected from those that made donations which count as entries.
We worked with Jamie Laing from Made In Chelsea, Ray Winstone, The Vamps, AFC Bournemouth and Jodie Marsh, raising £20,000+ for various charities, before parking the project. We will pick this up again in the future, when we have more time on our hands.
ELITE BLACK (2015-2016)
Off the back of our deal website Elite Black, we had the idea of launching a subscription-based model, whereby customers could purchase a ‘discount card’ which enabled them to gain discounts and exclusives from hundreds of local businesses throughout the year.
We had a fast, selling hundreds of memberships in the first few months, but usage was below projections, and growth stalled. We decided to sell the business to a similar local enterprise that was in the process of going fully-digital on an app-based system (a system we should have employed from the outset, in hindsight, with a freemium model).
BURGER SHOP (2013-2015)
Our team developed the branding and marketing strategy for Burger Shop, in partnership with Harry and Mark Redknapp. Burger Shop was a raw, street-food style brand serving up the first gourmet burgers available in Bournemouth at the time. Trade was strong from the outset, and a second site opened in Ashley Cross, Poole.
After 2 years, and a number of discussions about roll-out plans with investors, the decision was made to exit owed to a negative projection on the immediate future of casual dining. A great shame as the brand was gaining traction. The Bournemouth site was sold to a Chinese restaurant operator, and the Ashley Cross site was sold internally to ourselves, and we converted it into our 3rd Chicken & Blues operation.
TIKI HUT BARBADOS (2012-2015)
Off the back of PRIVA Barbados’ launch and success, we decided to take the opportunity to purchase the lease of a bar opposite the venue, turning it into the island’s first Tiki inspired venue. A small, 150 capacity bar, Tiki Hut won many fans on the west coast, especially on Sunday nights, as part of the areas street parties.
Tiki Hut was sold at the same time as PRIVA Barbados in 2015.
PRIVA BARBADOS (2011-2015)
An opportunity arose to open a nightclub in Barbados, a holiday destination that my family had enjoyed annually since the early 1980’s. It seemed like the perfect fit, and essentially it was. PRIVA Barbados was the first out-and-out VIP nightclub on the island, and hosted Hollywood stars like Gerard Butler alongside private events for Rihanna, Sean Paul and many others.
Running a business in Barbados, as an international, is not straight forward, in more ways than one. Running a nightclub business in Barbados posed a number of other issues that were not foreseen. In 2015, we decided to sell the club and treat Barbados as a holiday destination once more, although the love has been slightly tainted.
I’m pleased to say we did it, as it has at least provided lots of decent stories to tell over dinner with friends. That’s about it though.
After the launch of PRIVA, the landlords hounded us to take on the restaurant adjacent to the club, which of course we had owned years before as Jimmy’s Lounge Bar & Brasserie. We got offered preferential rental terms, so we decided to take it on, but in turn create a new brand, concept and experience. The decision was made to create an upmarket brasserie and bar, with a relatively expensive menu and highly skilled executive head chef. We delivered on our vision.
Unfortunately the timing was terrible. With the advent of Groupon, Living Social and the like, and the market singing the praises of price point led promotions and the growing street-food scene, there simply wasn’t a need for Monkberry’s on any other nights than a Friday and Saturday. It became an occasion restaurant, and financially just about washed its face.
We sold the site to my friend Andy Lennox, of Koh Group, which became his second site. It’s good to see it in good hands and trading well.
BRITISH BEACH POLO CHAMPIONSHIP (2009-2011)
When the British Beach Polo launched in Sandbanks in 2009, the event owners approached Café Shore to provide some catering for what initially was intended to be a ‘Beach BBQ’ after the polo matches.
We pitched the idea of a collaboration with not only Café Shore, but PRIVA too, delivering a beach party in a nightclub style, investing heavily in infrastructure and hosting 2,500 guests across 2 nights on the beach. Year 1 was a success, and then followed another 2 years of growth, partnering with brands such as Hed Kandi, and celebrity guests such as Jade Jagger. After 3 years, we passed the baton on to the next promoter.
PRIVA BOURNEMOUTH (2009-2013)
Having spent 3 years in the 1000+ capacity nightclub space, we decided to take the opportunity of acquiring our former Jimmy’s Club site on Poole Hill in Bournemouth, and re-entering the VIP table club market.
This space was, and is, service and crowd focused. We launched it with a social seeding and invite only strategy, which took 4 months but was worth the effort. We went from hosting 20 guests on a Saturday night to both the front and back door having queues all night and turning hundreds of people away.
The club was welcomed into ‘World’s Finest Clubs’ – a website that listed the top 200 VIP clubs in the world. We hosted parties in London and Marbella with special guests. The Bournemouth club generated, pound for pound, a higher spend per head than any venue in Bournemouth’s recent history. Unfortunately, it also brought with it some unwanted attention from licensing teams. They didn’t want a club of this ilk on the periphery of town, and did what they could to make life difficult.
In the end, our 3rd appeal was lost, and the council served us notice. After moving to another location which was never right, the decision was made to get out of the game for a while.
CLUB 2020 (2006-2009)
Our first foray into the ‘super club’ world, with a 1,000 capacity 3-room venue on the outskirts of Bournemouth. We got enticed, and entered into a programing war, booking the biggest and best entertainment the world had to offer at the time. From Erick Morillo, to David Guetta, to Wiley, to Stanton Warriors, to Mark Ronson.
The club was voted in the top 5 clubs in the UK 5 times. We also hosted the Radio 1 Essential Live mix, broadcast from the club around the world with Annie Mac. Customers filled the club 3 nights a week for the duration, we couldn’t have been any busier.
Then the credit crunch happened, and like many businesses at that time, we went bust.
LANDMARC THEATRE (2005-2009)
What started as a £1.2million renovation of a decommissioned church of Bournemouth Square, took on a life of its own as we quickly pivoted into exclusively a dinner and show venue.
From there, we hosted up to 6 shows a week, style varying from a weekly residency with the world famous Comedy Store, to tribute shows, DJ led nights, and named artists such as Angie Brown, Simon Webbe, Peter Andre, NeYo and many many more. The venue won ‘Best Night Out’ at the Tourism Awards, beating the BIC into second place.
After 4 years and some fantastic trade, the credit crunch happened, and like many businesses at the time, we went bust.
LANDMARC LIVE (2005-2007)
Landmarc Live was a brand created to look after our larger-scale events with special guest artists. Namely, we promoted concerts at the BIC with Missy Elliott and NeYo during our short jaunt into the more ‘involved’ promotions business.
We made a bit, and lost a bit. I wouldn’t recommend it, unless you can promote at scale by buying tours as opposed to one-off dates – which is what the big boys do to such great effect.
JIMMY’S CLUB (2001-2003)
The site next to Jimmy’s had become available, which had previously been a bar, and so we decided to bring the first VIP bottle-to-table club experience to Bournemouth. With waitress/waiter service to the 16 tables surrounding the dancefloor, Jimmy’s Club was a hit with a niche market in the town that appreciated the concept.
Resident DJs played an open format music policy, also new to Bournemouth, which in the main had dedicated music policy driven venues, nights, and rooms. The club was a runner up in the national boutique club category at the BEDA awards, which was a great achievement for the team.
After 2 profitable years, the business was sold.
JIMMY’S LOUNGE BAR & BRASSERIE (2000-2003)
Our first foray into the town-centre with a New-York style brasserie and bar. This venture was a hit from day 1, despite the inevitable nay-sayers advising that the location on Poole Hill was terrible.
We created a true destination venue that was busy every day and night, and also managed to put together a fantastic team of hard-working and ambitious people that believed in the project and made it happen.
After 3 profitable years, the business was sold.
CAFÉ SHORE (1999-2015)
A greasy spoon café on the Sandbanks Peninsula was successfully turned into a spectacular restaurant and bar, which was far more in keeping with the growing high net-worth crowd in the area, and on brand in consideration of its future intentions as a destination.
The venue extended over the peninsula and traded successfully for many years, before being sold to Rick Stein in 2015.