Simon Woodroffe: YO! Sushi

From bus conductor to high street restaurant king, the YO! Sushi founder reveals all

One-time bus conductor Simon Woodroffe has done pretty much everything. Now the owner of YO! Sushi is ready to go global. Name: Simon Woodroffe Business: Restaurants Business name: YO! Sushi Amount of employees: 400 Turnover: £12.5 million

What made you take the plunge and startup your own business? The realisation that I might become the resentful underachiever that I dreaded becoming.

Where did you get the funding to start your business? £150K my life savings £50K two friends £100K Government Loan Guarantee scheme a lot of expensive leasing and eventually credit from my suppliers.

How much did it cost to startup your business? £650K

At what age did you decide to go it alone? Second time around I was 42

Where did the idea for your business come from? I was having lunch with a Japanese man who said “What you should do Simon is a Conveyor Belt Sushi Bar with girls in black PVC Mini skirts” – I found out there were 3000 of them in Japan…………

How long did it take from your startup idea to your first day trading? Two very full years

Did you have help from friends and family? Just the two investor friends. My brother did the lighting scheme and my mother worried!

What academic qualifications did you get? 4 “O” Levels (slight exaggeration because 2 were in French)

Did qualifications they help you and if not then what course would have helped you? I have never used my qualifications, except when I was a bus conductor and I added on one then to get in – A law or accountancy course might have given me a more disciplined mind I have always thought but then again I wouldn’t have become the person I am today and perhaps the drive I have stemming from a fear of failing might not have been there.

What jobs did you do before you started your own business? Bus Conductor, Roadie, Stage Designer, TV rights distributor, Ski Bum, Sports filmmaker, in that order.

Did they help you? Yes, every single one of them

What’s the single most important thing that helped your business succeed? Enthusiasm

What skills and personal characteristics do you need to start your own business? Determination, Realism, Enthusiasm – we’ve all got it.

How many hours a week do you work now? 45

How many hours a week did you work when you started? 70

What has been your main business problem? Building a strong organisation

Was there ever a time when you thought you were close to failing – and what did you do to overcome that? Lots of times – keep going…..knowing always that although it must succeed on the one hand on the other it really is not very important in the perspective of the world and life and everything

What is your top tip to anyone wanting to startup his or her own business? Don’t make the decision – just do the work and the research and if it is right the decision will make itself.

Is there anything you would do differently today? Hire better and more expensive people earlier

Where do you see your business in a year’s time? 20 restaurants 18.5M turnover and the beginnings of internationalism

Are your main ambitions financial (to make a lot of money) or lifestyle based (to enjoy what you do)? Main ambition is not to run out of cash – that is the secret of business then there is always the opportunity to be very very rich – having fun along the way oils the wheels.

Would you start another business? Definitely providing it was called YO!

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