Nighat provides Shere inspiration

Date published: 26 July 2022

She overcame paralysis, lung problems, cancer, and a heart attack, and is now revered as one of the most influential business people in Britain.

But co-creator of the Shere Khan empire Dr Nighat Awan OBE, was still keen to tell businesswomen in Oldham that she had been inspired by the life of a young Saddleworth woman.

Nighat, who is also the founder of a fashion chain and who started an international floristry business from her hospital bed, revealed how a chat with Aidhetare “Addy” Hoxha (27) prior to her lecture at Oldham Library and Lifelong Learning Centre, had galvanised her and proved once again that running a successful business is all about not recognising the word, “no.”

“If your work makes you happy, then it never feels like work and if you have an idea push it” she told a packed house of female entrepreneurs.

"You know every level of your business so keep control of it.

"I have been so lifted by the energy in the room tonight and truly inspired by Addy.”

From age 24, Addy has been running Sorella, an Uppermill restaurant currently under renovation, which sells a unique blend of food – Italian.

She said: “When I heard who was speaking I thought I had to come along.

"Nighat is such an inspiration.”

Addy moved to Oldham with her family to escape war-torn Kosovo.

From a family of entrepreneurs who learned English and worked their way up, her tale has some amazing similarities with Nighat’s – who has endured ups and downs in her own dazzling career.

Bought a restaurant for her birthday that she eventually modelled into the Shere Khan restaurants we see in major shopping centres today, Nighat was simply dripping with great advice for the would-be Oldham traders, revealing:

• Entrepreneurship is in the DNA and people either have it – or they don’t

• Resilience often comes from strong female role models, such as her mother

• A supportive family is essential - and there is a husband behind every great female success!

• Transfer what you learned in one business onto another as she did when she swapped fashion for floristry

• Find yourself a decent mentor – aside from family, they did not exist when she was younger

• It is always good to keep your competitors close (she even moved in next door to her main florist rival)

• Never believe you can do it yourself, build a team you can trust and remember they work with you, not for you

The most important lesson she imparted though was, “help the poor, giving is the biggest gift, helping people has made my life worthwhile.”

With a breathless record of helping charities here and oversees (including being a trustee of the Kingfisher Special School in Oldham), her mantra is “whether it is health or wealth make sure you help.”

The event was hosted by the Asian Business Leaders and the group has now committed to a new scheme to help young people and women “level-up” in business.

Muzahid Khan DL, co-founder, said: “It was during lockdown that I met so many women carrying through enterprising ideas.

"We want them to take those skills and passions and turn them into lucrative businesses.

"We want to support towards their entrepreneurship journey and inspire hope and within that hope there has to be the kind of inspiration Nighat brought tonight.”

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