Director, Saaj Kanani
interviewed by Zoe Schoon

Navrtar is the UK’s first free-roam virtual reality and bar experience.

You recently opened in Dicken’s Yard, Ealing. What can people expect from the Navrtar Experience?

Navrtar is the UK’s first free-roam virtual reality and bar experience. The Navrtar experience is the next generation’s version of a social experience, which combines virtual reality alongside a bar. Our main package is broken down into a 30 minute demo and then 30 minutes free-roam where we have a bespoke choice of experiences. Perfect for friends, families and corporates… Navrtar promises to immerse you within a cool virtual world in minutes.

What is a “free roam” gaming experience?

As mentioned before, the term ‘free-roam’ means being able to roam freely in a huge space without the limitation of wires. It caters for group experiences (up to 5) however, it is available for individuals also. This gives customers a real feel of the game and a sense of immersion giving them that feeling of being inside the experience. Again, when you’re able to engage in something like this with other people at the same time with capabilities such as communication, it really makes a huge difference. As tech advances it should entice more people in and take experiences to the next level.

You have entirely 5 star reviews on Trip Advisor! What do people tell you they like most about their visit to Navrtar?

The fact that it is an exciting, fun and unique experience. A lot of the things in and around London offer the same or similar things but with different aesthetics. Navrtar on the other hand not only implements a cool and futuristic theme, but is a next level experience that has not been done before. Customers have said the experience is fun and uncomplicated, meaning it can be experienced by the majority. It is also great to see frequent mentions of how nice and helpful our staff are!

What do you think makes Navrtar so unique?

The fact that it’s something new and something different. It’s an exciting social experience with a futuristic feel that the majority haven’t tried before, and Londoners thrive off new things to do; especially when it’s an experience you can do with friends, families and corporates – it really takes the enjoyment to another level.

E-gaming is a relatively new phenomenon here in the West, (although relatively common in Asia) what do you think are the driving factors behind its success?

The competitiveness and the fact that people are getting into gaming from a young age! Most children and teenagers love gaming and can’t get enough of it as they grow up. I think it’s an easy option in the sense that limited effort is required and it’s there at the switch of a button. With the current level of technology, young people get used to gaming in their spare time. It’s addictive, requires skill, and as there are so many gamers out there, there’s been enough interest and interaction to turn it into a massive industry. It’s something I can see growing more and more especially as the tech is becoming more advanced every year. It’s so realistic and people love the immersion; that’s what engrosses people and the fact that ‘online gaming’ is available gives it that competitive feel. Most people get carried away when it comes to being better or being the best!

This is your first UK centre (in London). Do you have plans to expand to other cities?

We are definitely open to the idea of expanding! London had to be our first location due to the influence it carries. Having Navrtar in other areas across the UK is something we’d consider if the opportunity arose.

Purple Dragon

Founder and CEO, Sharai Meyers

interviewed by Nick Garston

Backyard Cinema

Founder and Creative Director, Dominic Davies

interviewed by Dominic Tixerant


Founder and Managing Director, Andrew Macleod

interviewed by Emily Spencer

Founded by Andrew Macleod to fulfil his lifetime dream of opening the best pasta restaurant outside Italy. Emilia’s is an immersive, authentic Italian experience. Where did the idea behind Emilia’s come from, and what are the key factors that have set it apart from other Italian restaurants in the competitive…


Head of Sales, Sophie Caulcutt

interviewed by Charlotte Roberts

In addition to being an internationally acclaimed luxury clothing, designed to showcase feminine aesthetics and timeless style, Beulah’s staff, sourcing, manufacturing and charity are focused around positively impacting victims of human trafficking. At what point did the idea turn from a concept into a reality? After a trip to India…

Schofield’s Bar

Co-founder, Daniel Schofield

interviewed by Zoe Schoon

You’re opening Schofield’s with your brother Joe, who won International Bartender of the Year in 2018.  It’s interesting how you’re both in the same field.  Can you tell us what drew you both to Bartending in the first place? Joe actually started working in a local pub at the age…

Imad’s Syrian Kitchen

Founder, Imad Alarnab
interviewed by Thea Rowe

After fleeing Syria, Imad was determined to rebuild his life and successful restaurant business in London. Imad’s Kitchen is authentic Syrian cuisine cooked from the heart.

It must have been so hard leaving your home, and successful restaurants in Syria as a result of the war, what does it mean to you to be able to rebuild this in London?

It means getting to face the challenge of building a successful restaurant business again and in that way I am lucky. It’s going to be different in London and it’s not easy but I am quite sure that it will be successful.

How challenging has it been to start your brand in London, and how has the support from companies including UNICEF Next Generation helped?

I received support from Unicef, Appear Here and The Hampstead Kitchen. Volunteer work is not something that typically happens in Syria, but with most of these people the support has been unconditional, and it has shown me how important it is to do volunteer work. It’s something I am planning on doing more of myself. I’ve been working with Oh My Good Nosh on a Syrian ready meal that’s currently being sold in Sainsbury’s, where the profits from sales will go straight to the Syrian border. Also since starting Imad’s Syrian Kitchen I have been supporting four families who are still in Damascus. Over the longer term, I would like to set up my own charity in Damascus and I believe that I have enough energy, luck and strength to do this, and I will have enough to share.

What do you think are the benefits of having a pop-up store for young restaurants?

When I was in Calais I thought I would try to open a small restaurant somewhere outside of London. However, after I arrived at Kings Cross at midnight and walked to Euston I decided that I had bigger dreams. I thought that it would take me until at least 2020 to be able to open a restaurant in London. My plan was to work in a car business and save money until 2020. The pop-up has made things move much more quickly, it gave me the opportunity to build a brand.

How have you found the response to your food, and the story behind the brand?

It’s been amazing. The only complaint I had about the pop-up was that is was super crowded.

Do you find the restaurant industry in London different to that in Syria, and if so how?

Yes, in Syria all you need is a good location, good food…and lots of it. In London it’s more complicated, you have worry about things like social media. Also the small plate concept that is so popular in London doesn’t exist in Damascus.

Where do you see the brand in five years time?

I’d like to open at least three branches. The most important thing is that they all have queues outside!

Where have your biggest influences come from?

Definitely my mother. She was a much better cook than I am, but I’m sure that she would be proud of me.

What areas of London/UK do you find most interesting for the growth of the brand?

Finding the right site can be difficult, so we are looking a a variety of areas in central London. The most important thing is that we find a property in an area where there are people who appreciate delicious food and great hospitality.

What do you think are the key challenges for the restaurant industry today?

Keeping quality at the same level, there can’t be any ups and downs. You can’t afford to have a bad day. This becomes especially tricky when you have more than one site, so it’s important that you get the first site to the point where you don’t have to be there every day before looking to expand.

Holly & Co

Founder, Holly Tucker MBE

interviewed by Emily Spencer


Founder, Nick Philpot

interviewed by Katherine Hajiyianni

Luna Mae London

Founder, Claudia Lambeth

interviewed by Charlotte Roberts

Bad Brownie

Co-founder, Paz Sarmah

interviewed by Thea Rowe

Bad Brownie are the gourmet brownies specialists, sell their fine products across many of London’s markets. Paz Sarmah and Morag Ekanger left their careers in branding to pursue their passion to become chocolate experts. What do you think are the benefits of having a pop up store for young restaurants/retailers?…

The Vurger Co.

Co-founder, Rachel Hugh

interviewed by Tracey Pollard

Rachel and Neil began The Vurger Co to elevate the humble veggie burger using the very best vegetables, seeds, nuts and legumes, Rachel and Neil began The Vurger Co to elevate the humble veggie burger using the very best vegetables, seeds, nuts and legumes. How has the fast casual dining…

The Marshmallowist

Founder, Oonagh Simms

interviewed by Emily Spencer

Founded by Oonagh Simms who was inspired by the Parisian’s passion for the confectionery treat, the Marshmallowist is the first producer of gourmet marshmallows in the UK. After studying as a chocolatier in Paris, what made you decide to focus your business in producing marshmallows? Well, I originally trained in…

The Swallow Bakery

Founder, Andrew Thomas
interviewed by Charlotte Roberts

The Swallow Bakery is a handcrafted artisan bakery and cafe, founded by Andrew Thomas who has taken influences from Australia, America and Scandinavia.

You came from a fashion background, why did you choose to open a bakery?

I guess you could have asked the similar question to Irvine Sellar, he built a successful fashion empire and then became a property developer and built the Shard. Some people are happy at doing one thing in life. I have always been interested in new concepts, to be an early adopter of trends and to capitalise on them. I guess you could say I am a serial entrepreneur. I like developing things. Sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t but it makes for an interesting life…

What have been the main contributors to your brands success?

I wanted to bring back the home baked artisan bakery which had almost disappeared from the “high street” due to increasing rents and competition from the large supermarkets. I used to travel to the USA and Europe with other business interests and admired the fact that there were still individually owned bakery shops, particularly in France yet we were allowing our artisan bakeries to fade away.

Due to the recession sites became more affordable and I decided that the time was right to open The Swallow Bakery seven years ago. We then also decided to diversify into Festival catering by converting two American Airstreams and taking the bakery out on the road. We started at Glastonbury and now operate at many events.

The food is beautifully prepared and tastes amazing, how do you ensure consistency as you grow the brand?

You need to be constantly aware of trends and quality. Everyone working in the business needs to understand the standards expected and should not be shy about policing those. It is then a team responsibility to take pride in what is presented to the customer. Inevitably sometimes there will be mistakes but as long as everyone is striving for the best then that is the way forward.

What are your current plans for your company?

Having previously started and grown retail chains I am not interested in doing that in catering. There are some very good chain operators out there but as people become more discerning then they will want more individuality in the eating experience. However, good tasty food does not have to be at Michelin star prices. I feel that there are still food genres that have not yet been fully exploited and I am keen to work on these.

Where do you see the brand being in ten years time?

I don’t see it as a brand, as brand conjures up chain in my mind. I think that a collective is appropriate, a concept where you operate different offers each suited to the location and customer profile.

What future challenges and developments do you foresee in the restaurant industry?

Probably oversupply in some towns and the lack of individuality to inspire the customer. Food is such an emotive element to life, we all need to eat and drink but it is now perhaps one of the prime leisure activities, its more than just fuel for the body, its about experience and social interaction. Recently there have been some interesting and amusing concepts in catering, the blind restaurant for example and I think there was even one where everybody was naked! (I don’t know if the chef got his kit off, could be tricky frying chips!?)

The other challenge could be finding enough talented staff but we will not know how the industry will cope until the outcome of the Brexit negotiations are concluded.



Founder, Holly Anna Scarsella

interviewed by Emily Spencer


Founder, Télémaque Argyriou

interviewed by Alex Mann

Duke & Dexter

Founder, Hugh Wolton

interviewed by Dominic Tixerant

Duke & Dexter is a British born footwear label, specialising in premium loafers. Designed in London and handcrafted in England, the brand launched in 2014. How important is a combined internet/bricks and mortar approach for your core consumer? An omni-channel approach is essential to serve the needs of our customers.…


Founder, Jeremy Simmonds

interviewed by Alex Mann

Founded by the Institute of Competitive Socialising, Swingers is based on a 1920’s golf-club set in the English countryside. Swingers takes crazy golf, street food & amazing drinks combining them all into one incredible social experience At what point did the idea turn from a concept into a reality? We…


Founder Wayne Sorensen

interviewed by Emily Dumbell

A British fashion brand inspired by artists, drivers and butchers. Wayne Sorensen began working on SØRENSEN in 2015 and was inspired by the work ethic of archetypal professions. What have been the main contributors to your brand’s success? I found myself surrounded by an amazing group of individuals who are…

London Grace

Founder Kristen Hazel
interviewed by Alex Mann

Upon returning from New York, founder Kristen Hazel wanted to create a nail bar with quality products and convenient hours. London Grace has become an award winning nail bar, cafe and bar with their own collection of free-from nasties nail polishes.

What is your background and how did it lead you to starting London Grace?

I started my first business ‘Party Staff Ltd’ at 16, after recognising the need for waiter and bar staff in my local area. A year later I had 60+ staff on my books, providing waiting staff for up to 16 events a week. I’ve always had an entrepreneurial personality; I enjoy spotting problems and coming up with solutions. After graduating I worked for a consultancy in the city but quickly realised that working for a large corporation was not for me and missed the buzz of running my own business. The idea for London Grace was conceived in the autumn of 2013. Having studied in New York where a manicure and a coffee was a way of life and one that was available around a working day and at the weekend, I returned and noticed the lack of choice and quality of nail bars. I began to look at ways to transform the maintenance of a weekly manicure, into a fun, social experience.

Where have your biggest influences come from?

I come from a family of entrepreneurs and inventors so you might say it’s in my genes! Other leading ladies in business like Tamara Mellon (Jimmy Choo) and Bobbi Brown inspired me to take the leap and leave my job as a technology consultant to start London Grace. One of the great advantages of our customer facing business is that we are in constant contact with our clients, who of course influence us. For example, if our clients feel there is a colour missing from our palette then we can incorporate this when we launch our next polish collection.

What were the biggest challenges that you faced when setting up London Grace?

With no prior experience in the beauty industry, launching the business was a challenge in the first place. However, the advantage was that I was able to look at everything with a fresh perspective and I quickly learned the importance of having a good team with complementing strengths. I felt it was important to develop our own range of polishes that are five-free to promote the London Grace ethos of healthy, happy nails. We also streamlined our treatment menu with a ‘no nonsense’ approach, so unlike many other nail bars we don’t offer acrylics, nail art and our treatments performed are dry. It is a challenge communicating a new message but we’ve found that letting your knowledge guide you and committing to a clear brand ethos attracts your target market.

How important have your properties been to the success of London Grace?

Our aim is to build a High Street brand so the properties and locations we’ve chosen have greatly contributed to our success. As our stores in Putney and Clapham are in prime High Street locations, they are convenient for clients to reach with great transport connections and having popular shops and restaurants nearby makes the locations even more of a destination to visit.

Will there be more stores in the future?

Absolutely, the idea with London Grace has always been to create a brand, not just another one off beauty salon on the High Street. We have a clear strategy outlining the key locations where we would like to open stores, both in London and across the UK.

Where do you feel the beauty market is heading?

Consumers are definitely becoming more savvy to the ingredients in products they’re using, so our free from nasties polish and ‘healthy, happy nails’ ethos are positively received. We are also looking forward to exploring the way smart technology can build and strengthen relationships between brands and their audience.


Co-founders Rik Campbell and Will Bowlby

interviewed by Alex Mann


Co-founder Joan Murphy

interviewed by Alex Mann


Founder and CEO, Georgia Cummings

interviewed by Alex Mann

Daniella Draper Jewellery

Founder Daniella Draper

interviewed by Thea Rowe

Founded by Daniella in Lincolnshire, Daniella’s jewellery is now worn by the likes of Kate Moss, Ed Sheeran & Chloe Moretz. Daniella Draper Jewellery draws upon inspirations from travel & romance to create a unique range of keepsake jewellery. What have been the main contributors to your brand’s success? The…


Founder and CEO, Ed Stanbury

interviewed by Alex Mann

BLOK is a fitness space in Clapton E5, located in a refurbished victorian tram depot. Founded by Ed Stanbury & Max Oppneheim, the BLOK philosophy is that training is about more than just breaking a sweat. Ed, What is your background and how were you led to opening BLOK? I…

Noble Rot

Co-founders Mark Andrew and Dan Keeling

interviewed by Alex Mann

Wine brought together Mark, head buyer at independent wine merchant Roberson, and Dan, who was once the MD of Island Records. After launching their wine magazine (Noble Rot) they’ve finally fulfilled their dream of opening a wine bar and restaurant. When did Noble Rot, turn from an idea into a…

Skinny Dip

Co-founder, James Gold
interviewed by Tracey Pollard

James Gold, Richard Gold and Lewis Blitz co-founded Skinnydip after seeing a major gap in the fashion accessory market.

You have achieved so much for such a young team, is your age an advantage or a drawback?

I think the biggest advantage of our age is our lack of fear. We run Skinnydip in a very direct, fast paced manner cutting out middle management and reacting directly and quickly to new opportunities which I believe has been integral for our growth.

At what point did the idea turn from a concept into reality?

Launching our first concession into Topshop Oxford Circus in August 2013 was our first foray into retailing. We achieved our weekly sales target in a day and loved the responsibility of being in control of what the range looked liked and how it was displayed in store. Two and half years on, to walk down Oxford Street and see Skinnydip products on so many people is such a great feeling.

Do more stand alone stores feature in the growth plan for the business?

At the moment we are quite happy with our portfolio which is dominated by our concessions with a few key stand-alone stores. However, should the right opportunity present itself and we believed it would benefit Skinnydip and introduce the brand to a new customer, it is something we would definitely consider. One area we are very interested in is international expansion, in particular in the US and Japan, two territories where we receive huge traffic on our website.

How important is a combined internet/bricks and mortar approach for your core consumer?

It is essential. Online continues to grow rapidly for us and in terms of revenue, is our number one store. However, what you don’t get online is the ‘experience’ aspect that is the most important element of our bricks and mortar locations. Skinnydip has built up a cult following by being different to every other brand in the market and we try and show this by offering the most incredible customer experience we can. We throw regular in store parties and whether it’s having DJ’s in store, nail bars, braid bars or just handing out a selection of donuts or sweets, we ensure something is always going on. In turn, we have found this leads to increased brand loyalty and in turn drives customers either online or back into store.

As entrepreneurs at such an early age, will you ever be able to work for anyone else?

Who knows what the future holds but having started Skinnydip straight out of university, it would be difficult!

What part of your role at Skinnydip do you enjoy the most and why?

Seeing the growth of the brand, especially over the last year has been beyond enjoyable. From starting with just my brother and best friend to the current team of over 50 people all working to try and build one of the biggest accessory brands in the world makes going into the office every day a pleasure. Also, just walking down Carnaby Street and seeing the Skinnydip shopfront never feels real and is something that has made all the hard work worthwhile.