Category Archives: Featured

Theo hosts annual #SBS Small Business Sunday event

On Tuesday 12th January Theo hosted the #SBSevent2019, the annual event, just for the winners of his #SBS Small Business Sunday competition.

800 small businesses headed to the Birmingham ICC for a day of networking, guest speakers and business advice. New winners could collect their certificates and have a photo with Theo to help their publicity and marketing efforts.

New for this year, Google’s Head of SME Marketing, Raja Saggi, took to the stage to present on Digital Best Practice, covering the importance of website speed which many winners could then test themselves. Also joining Theo on stage were Webroot, who revealed key statistics from their Cyber Security report released that day. It focussed on the the idea that businesses are never too small to focus on what data they need to protect.

Theo’s special guest this year was celebrated entrepreneur and philanthropist, Sir Tom Hunter. He started out, like many of the #SBS winners, selling trainers from the back of a van which grew to become Europe’s Largest independent sports retailer, Sports Division. He sold his business to his main competitor,JJB Sports, for £250 million. As Scotland’s first homegrown billionaire his journey was an inspiration to the small business owners. He covered his lessons in business and the importance of not giving up when it does not go right the first time.  Discussing risk with Theo, a topic close to a lot of small business, he said that “the best entrepreneurs are not risk takers, they are risk managers.” He spoke earnestly about the importance of mentors, his own being his Dad, who had helped him on his journey to success.

Along the road to business success, Sir Tom had read about a Scot named Andrew Carnegie who said “he who dies rich, dies in disgrace”. This set him on a road to philanthropy, setting up The Hunter Foundation which has since donated more than £55 million to charitable causes. Both Theo and Sir Tom then took questions from a captivated audience who covered off everything from “What would you do if you were the Prime Minister for a day” to “How did you know it was the right time to buy a business?”

The afternoon saw all the new winners receive their certificate and have a photo with Theo, while breakout presentations from the sponsors Ryman, Robert Dyas, iLaw, HP, Square, Western Union, DHL and Autumn Fair continued. These covered a huge range of topics from how to make the most of Trade Fairs and how they can grow your business, a guide to intellectual property rights and a journey to ecommerce success. Winners could have 10 minute 1-2-1 sessions with the sponsors to have all their burning questions answered.

Three #SBS winners also did breakout presentations for their fellow winners. Sarah Pittendrigh of Simply Bows and Chair Covers shared her journey of franchising her business across the UK, David Speed of Graffiti Life spoke about overcoming fear and Nicole Martin from Pinpoint Marketing ran a marketing workshop for the attendees.

Throughout the day games from #SBS winners,Garden Games Hire and a selfie Mirror, from Oden Events, kept the winners amused and new for this year was an HP Photo Zone where winners could get a new headshot for their website, business cards or linkedIn.

It was the biggest #SBS event yet, with fantastic guest speakers and business advice – Theo has already begun to think about #SBSevent2020!  

Theo is Awarded Retail Legend Award by the RetailTRUST

On the evening of the 31st January Theo, and many of his colleagues, attended the annual RetailTRUST event to celebrate the excellent work the Charity does for those in need in the retail industry. Theo has been part of the charity for many years, supporting the incredible work it does.

To help celebrate the work of the RetailTRUST, some well known faces took to the stage. The event was hosted by Rory Bremner, had a live auction by Charles Ross and included moving stories from individuals who had been helped by the Charity.  There was also an artist who created fantastic artwork of Freddie Mercury and John Lennon, that went on to be sold in the silent auction.

Occasionally the RetailTRUST recognises an individual who has made an extraordinary contribution to the Charity and industry as a whole, known as the Retail Legend award. The award goes to someone who has worked at every level of retail and supports both those on the shop floor and the boardroom.

This year Richard Bowland, CEO of the RetailTRUST, gave this prestigious award to Theo, highlighting his passion for the industry which has spanned over 40 years. Rory Bremner then spoke of Theo’s philanthropic work both to small businesses through #SBS Small Business Sunday and charities, such as raising over £4 million for Comic Relief with his businesses Ryman and Robert Dyas.

It was a fantastic evening which saw Theo join a list of very few to receive the Retail Legend award.

Theo Visits The Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital

Theo visited the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital to see the hard work that goes on day in, day out by the team and to see how the money raised from the Many Hands Campaign has been used to make a huge difference to the children who are treated at the hospital.

Theo visited Ward 78 which is the Spinal, Orthopaedic and Neurosciences ward where children suffering road traffic accidents, nervous injury and diseases are treated. Lisa Stephens, the Ward Manager, introduced Theo to the hard working team and got to speak to the children about their injuries and their care at the hospital.

After the tour of the Ward Theo was taken to see the Mini C Arm, it is a specialist piece of equipment that can take X Rays while the patient is on the operating table, so the surgeon can see exactly what is happening during the operation. The Mini C Arm had been funded by the Many Hands Campaign, and was a great opportunity to see how the money raised makes such a huge difference to the hospital.

After 10 years, 2018 was Theo’s final year with the campaign and it was a fitting way to end his journey with the charity by seeing how the campaign has changed lives.

Theo Visits Many Hands Campaign Winners

On Thursday 17th January Theo headed up to a very sunny Manchester to meet the winners of the 2018 Many Hands finals, We are Gntlmen.

Back in October We are Gentlemen were crowned the winners of the 2018 Many Hands Campaign. The initiative sees businesses compete to raise a minimum of £1000 for the charity in 6 months. Over the years Theo has been witness to all sorts of wonderful ideas and this year the competition was as fierce as ever.

For the campaign, We are Gntlmen created an exclusive shirt called the ‘Humphrey’ shirt. It was a white Oxford shirt with brand logo and the Many Hands charity mascot, ‘Humphrey’ embroidered onto the cuff. The shirt was sold for £40 and all the proceeds went towards their total. To add a bit of showbiz to their campaign they enlisted the help of singer songwriter Frank Turner, who backed the campaign and helped to raise awareness.

Theo visited the offices in Manchester,  where they chatted through the different shirts and their inspiration for their campaign, the Humphrey bear. They even discussed an exciting plans for the business, launching soon.

It was a fantastic way to end Theo’s support for the campaign which has seen him judge 10 years worth of pitches and seen 180 businesses raise money for the charity.

We need a cunning plan…but sadly that’s not what we’ve got!

As we get closer to the Brexit precipice, I am more and more inclined to believe that it is perhaps worth losing the battle now, to go on to win it another time.  By that, I mean perhaps we should step away from stubborness, personal political agenda, saving face and the current political pain we are all experiencing, on all sides, and stay in to influence from the inside.  Currently it feels like Blackadder, Baldrick and Captain Darling going over the top in the last episode of the series…and that seemed all too pointless as well.

Why are we here?  Because Cameron and Co threw us under a bus by holding the Referendum in the first place, and we must also hold the EU accountable too.  They did not budge an inch on any of Cameron’s negotiations on control of the borders etc, and thus left him and the Tory party with no leverage or incentive to persuade those already wavering on the EU fence to come back over to their side.  Now, having cancelled the meaningful vote because of a blatant lack of confidence in it, Theresa May is also off to Brussels with cap in hand again. Perhaps she will also come back with as worthless rewards as Cameron; 3 christmas baubles, 2 unhelpful changes and a partridge in a pear tree, or even worse, as it looks, a painful Baldrick shiner.

Clearly, this deal will end in tears. We won’t be able to agree terms and the Northern Ireland challenge is a BIG problem.  If we keep pushing this deal up the never-ending hill, gathering moss and more obstacles as it goes, we will be looking at decades of uncertainty and pain for business, the political system in the UK, the good people of our country and a likely impact on EU trade too.  We need stability, and this deal is a million miles from it. Theresa May could do with one of Baldrick’s cunning plans….a giant ‘political’ turnip that, for him, would save the day. At this point, I’m not sure anyone has planted it, let alone found it !

We are at a crossroads, and we must make robust decisions.  In my world, if the conditions change, I make a different plan, I don’t just carry on blindly saying this is the plan, when it is no longer fit for purpose and will drag us all into the wasteland. Things change and you make the crucial decisions based on those changes.  To now wait for a vote to happen before the 21st January is to continue the farce. The EU has said that there is no room whatsoever for renegotiation…so what is going to change by that point? It is bordering on criminal to delay the vote to so near the Brexit deadline that MPs have no choice other than May’s terrible deal or ‘armageddon’, due to a lack of plan B.  This is reckless and is almost a criminal act against democracy !

Have remainers made it so difficult for us to negotiate anything meaningful, have the Brexiteers stirred the pot so much that many have been blind-sided, has the EU been so intent on making us the example of the naughty child that they have given us no leverage, is the Northern Ireland issue insurmountable and are we flogging a dead horse?  Perhaps the answer to all of these is sadly yes. There is much wrong with the EU, and I still believe it plays a part in the very fabric of our future, but to leave at any cost because Theresa May won’t see the wood for the trees doesn’t cut it. Even a cunning plan from Baldrick can’t save this one. We need to put our best fighting trousers on, and realise that maybe everyone has found this too hard, the timing isn’t right and rather than sticking two pencils up our nose and being done with it, we need to hold our hands up and say right sentiment, wrong timing.

Cameron didn’t have a plan B when he called the election, and he must take responsibility for his part in this satire.  The lack of plan B for Cameron didn’t end well and created the playground of discontent that our politicians, and sadly the rest of us, are now playing in.  Theresa May also doesn’t have a plan B. Did we learn nothing? In business, you have to have a back-up plan when external influences create difference. To not have a back-up is reckless, and leaves us the laughing stock of Europe.  

The decision to leave was not necessarily a bad decision, but as in anything, the execution is the measure of it and the politicians were unfortunately not up to the job.  I don’t want to hear any more nonsense about the people have made a decision, we can’t go back on it. Politicians aren’t playing by those rules and Theresa May has constantly flip flopped over decisions.  ‘No election’…announces an election a few days later, ‘we are definitely going ahead with the meaningful vote’…announces vote deferred minutes later, ‘the Cabinet are united’….resignations. Democracy is all about people being able to change their mind, especially when the facts and conditions have changed and weren’t what was voted for in the first place.  

With no consensus in parliament, nor the likelihood of one, perhaps a second referendum is our only option now, with just two binary questions; May’s deal or withdraw Article 50 and stay in.  Our future rests on a knife edge. We should live to fight another day; a worthier battle with meaning. It now feels to me that the only sensible option we have been left with is to rescind Article 50 – the antidote to the ailing May Chequers Deal – and escape the tarnished handcuffs that it would leave us in; strangled by an everlasting Backstop.  In business, if the deal isn’t a good deal, you step away from it and that’s what we need to do here. One step back to be able to step forward in the future or risk terminal failure.

Theo chats to BBC Breakfast and BBC 5 Live’s Wake up to Money about dyslexia

On 15th October Theo spoke to BBC Breakfast TV and BBC 5 Live’s ‘Wake up to Money’ show about how having dyslexia has brought about his success.

A report released by charity Made by Dyslexia, showed that 40% of self made millionaires are dyslexia but yet only 4% of the public think that having dyslexia is a positive trait. The report also said that people with dyslexia have a “unique set of skills”.  These include reasoning, communicating and visualising – all identified as key attributes for a modern workforce by the World Economic Forum.

Talking openly about the difficulties he faced during his years at school, Theo spoke about the benefits it has brought about for him in later life:

“For me dyslexia was an advantage, as painful as it was…If I hadn’t had dyslexia I’m pretty certain I wouldn’t be here today because I wouldn’t have gone down the path I went down.

“Even as an 11-year-old I remember quite clearly learning to get round the things I had to do and finding another solution. Whatever it was I had to find another solution.

“It really gave me that confidence to be able to tackle anything in business, but not from an arrogant point of view or a false confidence, but how hard can it be? To look at the problem, break it down find a solution.”

He added: “I think the early years of dyslexia, where you learn to deal with those issues, are the best lessons of life you’re ever going to have.”

Theo said that the reason many entrepreneurs are dyslexia is two-fold “one, they are good at problem solving, but secondly no one else would give them a job.”

Theo inaugurated as Chancellor of Solent University

On Thursday 11th October, Theo headed to Southampton where he was inaugurated as Chancellor of Solent University. On a day steeped in tradition, Theo was warmly welcomed by the Vice Chancellor, Graham Baldwin and many of the University’s representatives.

On arrival at Solent, Theo was able to chat to some of the local media about his new role and discuss his ambitions for the University. He mentioned that his motto for life is “be the best you can be” and he believes that Solent gives its Students the opportunity to do just that with its fantastic facilities and brilliant teaching staff.

Two students who are studying for a Multimedia Journalism degree at the University came to interview Theo. It was an opportunity to learn a bit more about student life, after which Theo even said “I wish I was a student here!”

At 6pm guests started to arrive which included friends, family and local business leaders who were greeted to a reception at the state-of-the art The Spark building which Theo opened in 2017. At 6.45pm the ceremony began with a precession onto the stage alongside many of the University leaders.

The ceremony was opened by the University Orator, Professor Peter Lloyd, which was followed by an address from the Vice-Chancellor which covered the fantastic progress the University has made in the last 10 years. The pro-chancellor and Chairman of the Board of Governors, Phil Cotton, then delivered the encomium for Theo, the formal welcome and introduction of Theo and his achievements. This was followed by the official inauguration which saw Theo receive his black and gold Chancellor gown.

The President of Solent Students’ Union delivered an address which welcomed Theo on behalf of the students and furthered the points raised by the Vice-Chancellor on how Solent has risen in all the newspaper league tables and achieved TEF Silver, in recognition of the University’s excellent teaching.

Newly inaugurated Chancellor, Theo, addressed the congregation announcing to the audience that he also felt like a fresher! He thanked the University for the brilliant work that they have done, recently  jumping 15 places in The Sunday Times University Guide.

Theo highlighted that at the heart of the University is ambition; the students, professors and the investment all being a reflection of that. He went on to talk about how Solent is not an Ivory Tower, but that is why Solent offers so much to its students with its real life ethos.

Theo also reflected on his own school experience, and noted the importance of the teaching staff and how it just takes one brilliant teacher to inspire a student.

As Chancellor, Theo will be the ceremonial head of the University and one of its most important ambassadors, representing the University externally, both nationally and internationally, working closely with the Vice-Chancellor and the Pro-Chancellor.

Commenting on the day Vice-Chancellor, professor Graham Baldwin, said: Vice-Chancellor, Professor Graham Baldwin, says: “Theo joins us at an exciting and challenging time for higher education. No stranger to Solent or the broader sector, with two of his daughters graduating from the University, I am confident Theo’s appointment will help to strengthen our position as a local and global institution.

“Solent plays a key role in supporting local and regional economies, sharing knowledge, skills and resources with the local community. With his knowledge and experience from industry, Theo will also help us to strengthen partnerships and further enhance our commitment to real world learning.”