Founders’ ‘good marriage’ fires up Ignite
9 January, 2012
Trust in each other and a close awareness of what customers want is the key to success at the Ignite group, an interview of friends and founders Paul Deeming and Matthew Hermer reveals in Director magazine.
“Our partnership is like a good marriage. Of course there are challenges, you have different views and different grievances and we have our disagreements, but you just deal with them and move on,” says Hermer, pictured. “There’s no point in having the same ideas the whole time. We trust each other 100%,” adds Deeming.
“We know what the customers want,” says Hermer. “If it’s not good enough for us then it’s not good enough for the customer.” That led to the creation of Ignite’s British dining concept Bumpkin, he adds. “A couple of years ago we thought people were moving away from fussy Michelin-star restaurants and cared more about what they put in their mouths, so we came up with the Bumpkin concept.”
The pair also trace the history of the company, from the time 13 years ago when Hermer and Deeming were in their day jobs in banking and corporate recovery respectively. They bought their first Eclipse bar in Chelsea in late 1998. “We didn’t have ambitions to grow as much as we have done—it was just a bit of fun,” says Hermer. “It took a little bit of time to get the formula right—we weren’t raking in the money from day one,” adds Deeming.
But Deeming says he was optimistic the pair’s venture could succeed. “We had to make it work—we’d both remortgaged our flats—but we’re both confident people, so we knew if we could make one bar successful then we could do two or three.” Within six years, the pair had “four or five” units and had branched out from bars to restaurants and nightclubs. “We could have focused on being a specialist rather than a generalist, but where we are now 12 or 13 years on we are stronger than many other operators because we cross over three different sectors in the food and beverage market, including hotel models,” Hermer says.
Turnover at Ignite is now “just shy of £15m,” says Deeming. “We’re not just chasing growth for the sake of it; we are much more strategic.” International expansion for Ignite’s Boujis concept is now on the cards, along with more restaurants for Bumpkin.
For the full profile, see Partnerships: Ignite.