The Entrepreneur: Simon Woodroffe OBE, YO! Company

Original Dragon and founder of sushi restaurant and First Class cabin-style hotel chains takes our questions

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Founder: Simon Woodroffe OBE
Company: YO! Co. , Creator of YO! Sushi, Yotel , YO! Home
Description in one line: Development of new concepts , seed funding
Previous companies: YO! Japan, YO! Below, YO! How, Simon Woodroffe Associates, Radiovision, S2, Plumbline Design
Turnover: Turnover of companies YO! has an interest in is £200M – and of Development Company fees £1m
12 month target: 10% growth per annum increasing

Describe your business model and what makes your business unique:

  • Develop new concepts that are world beating.
  • Sell, JV and license to experienced operators.
  • Own the brand and sell or license in specific areas.

What is your greatest business achievement to date?

Opening the first YO! Sushi.

What numbers do you look at every day in your business?


To what extent does your business trade internationally and what are your plans?

About half the business is international.

Describe your growth funding path:

Seed funding with my own money and then we have taken private and venture capital funding.

What technology has made the biggest difference to your business?

Robots, stage mechanics and factory pre-building.

Where would you like your business to be in three years?

YO! Home, YOTEL, YO! Sushi expanding and beginning of expansion into other areas.

Growth challenges

What is the hardest thing you have ever done in business?

Started YO! Sushi.

What was your biggest business mistake?

Not hiring better people earlier.

Piece of Red Tape that hampers growth most:

Employment law does not foster honesty and excellence.

What is the most common serious mistake you see entrepreneurs make?

Thinking they can do everything themselves

How will your market look in three years?

We will have had three major hits under our belt and be starting to license the YO! brand in new areas and I will be out helping all sorts of people to make our country the epicentre of creative innovation.

What is the single most important piece of advice you would offer to a less experienced entrepreneur?

Do it now, find someone who has done it before and get a mentor. I’m working with Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles to do exactly that – and that is a taste of the future

Personal growth

Biggest luxury:

My sailboat and my cars.

Executive education or learn it on the job?

University of life.

What would make you a better leader?

Listen more and better.

Business book:

The Book of YO!

Simon Woodroffe is working on an eight-month business mentoring initiative with Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles, giving advice to businesses across the UK. The initiative is part of Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles’ ongoing commitment to working in partnership with Britain’s business owners.

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