I spend way more time than I should at the O2 Centre in North London. My daughter has developed a unique addiction to Sushi, we have regular swimming lessons at the Virgin Active health club for the kids, and have watched more than our fair share of kids movies at the local cinema.
A year ago, almost to the date, we watched a young man and a lady we assumed was his wife, put on aprons and open up a new restaurant in this busy London shopping center. For some reason, from the first day, and having never spoken to him, I was captivated by this man. He was behind the counter taking falafel orders, bustling around cleaning tables, smiling broadly as people walked by.
His name, as I have come to learn, is Mitan Sachdev and until recently he worked for PWC until he decided to quit his job and bring his wife’s delicious falafel recipe to the rest of the world. Their startup is called Falafel City and the business and Mitan are the true, more realistic face of entrepreneurship in the UK.
We idolize the story of the geeky founders in garages, of a cold snowy night in Paris that led to the creation of Uber, of the Harvard dropouts that take their companies public. But the reality is that most entrepreneurs are like Mitan: They have a more traditional business idea but just as much ambition and drive to make it succeed.
Barclays published statistics on the make up of entrepreneurs in the UK and while “information and communication” is the largest single area of new company focus, it accounts for only 13.4% of all new businesses.
Interestingly, almost half of all entrepreneurs take the risky gamble of starting their own business simply because they “want to earn a living” but the outcome is fascinating: 71% consider themselves more optimistic than before becoming an entrepreneur, and 81% are “happier.”
In a recent profile of Mitan on Bloomberg he outlined the challenges in finding funding for his new business. The scalability of a business like a single-location falafel restaurant does not exactly scream “scale” to VCs. Ironically, it was a high street bank, HSBC that gave him the first £70,000 to start the business. With programs like EIS and platforms like Seedrs and Lending Club funding a more traditional idea such as Mitan’s should become easier.
Every week while my daughter devours her sushi rolls I coyly stare at Mitan as he works. He’s always smiling, and it seems to make me want to smile too. Perhaps the Barclays stats are correct, being an entrepreneur does make people happier.
As I walked by Falafel City today I stopped by to say hi to Mitan. He was wearing a red jumper with red shoes (very Christmasy of him). I asked him how the year was wrapping up (no pun intended) and he smiled his broad smile, lifted both thumbs and said “really good, really good.” Aparently he’s already envisioning a franchise into India and a second location…
As Mitan and his wife, Kajal, proudly state on their website:
“For us, Falafel City is a symbol of what is possible if you strive to achieve your dream and make it a reality.” — Kajal and Mitan Sachdev, Founders