Chris Holland meets the man behind this year’s Bradford Business Conference which is set to attract well over 1,000 delegates and exhibitors.
Sheraz Malik believes this year’s Bradford Business Conference – the fourth and biggest annual event to date – will reflect a new level of confidence and passion among local entrepreneurs. The event, being staged by Yorkshire Enterprise Network in association with the Telegraph & Argus, will focus on renaissance, highlighting the investment in the city over the past 12 months.
And this year’s conference, being staged at the new £60 million state-of-the-art Hockney Building at Bradford College on Thursday October 29, will be the most interactive yet with college students playing a key role in helping delegates keep up to date with events, discussions and activities. Sheraz said “Last year’s conference theme was very much looking forward. Since then, so much has been achieved and we are seeing all the hopes and dreams expressed coming to fruition in the biggest revival Bradford has seen in recent years. New businesses have been springing up across the city, underpinned by the Council’s City Centre Growth Zone scheme. The long-awaited Westfield shopping centre is ready to open on Broadway just a week after the conference. We felt that this year’s event should celebrate those successes and focus on the positive outcomes with a theme of ‘Bradford Now'”.
He said the Hockney campus on Great Horton Road was itself a symbol of the city’s regeneration providing an innovative and technology-rich learning environment and was an apt venue for the conference. A key feature of the 2015 Bradford Business Conference will be interactivity and sue of social media enabling the event to be shared online with a potential audience of more than a million viewers. Cutting edge technology will help keep conference delegates in touch – with the support of Bradford College students who. using touch screens and interactive boards will, help them to navigate through the conference and view information on seminars, speakers and exhibitors on the day.
“Technology will help ensure the conference will be different to previous years. It will be a celebration of business activity, not only across Bradford, but also throughout the Yorkshire region and provide an excellent showcase for the revival of this city. Bradford needs a major business conference . It is a £8 billion economy with huge capacity for growth and we need to celebrate that and create awareness to bring other businesses in to further boost growth. This event will enable us to reach out beyond the city area,” said Sheraz.
Evidence that confidence was increasing steadily had been the creation of Bradford’s ‘independent quarter’- mainly of leisure -related enterprises in and around North Parade – which is in the running to be named the UK’s street of the year. “The growth and success of the independent quarter has proved that there is a demand for such an area and entrepreneurs have had the confidence to launch in Bradford whereas previously this was not happening . Many more business people have a passion about the city and want to do more,” he said. The Bradford Business Conference will provide a spotlight on the hospitality sector , giving delegates chance to experience what Bradford’s newest bars, eateries and other venues have to offer.
“The development by Westfield of the The Broadway centre is fantastic for the city and will revitalise some aspects of the economy but we need to attract more businesses in to ensure ensure sustainability of business activity. The original opening of the Sparrow Bar on North Parade led to greater confidence and investment and that area is now a thriving part of Bradford. Westfield has been a good contributor but we should also credit small independent businesses that have taken significant risks to open in Bradford,” said Sheraz.
Bradford Business Conference will celebrate the success of the growing local hospitality sector , much of which has been supported by funding through Bradford Council’s Growth Zone initiative, with a Bradford at Leisure area – sponsored by Tokyo Industries, one of the major players in the revival, which has remodelled a large part of Bradford’s West End alongside the Alhambra Theatre. A £1.2million development, supported by Growth Zone funding, has seen the old Windsor Baths building in Randell Well Street, now owned by Tokyo Industries, converted into a nightlife complex, with four new leisure venues. These include the Bavarian themed Stein Bierkeller; BrewHaus, serving craft beers, cocktails and a range of other drinks together with artisan pizza and champion butchers’ pies suing locally sourced ingredients; Tiki-O Bradford, a Polynesian-inspired party venue and Circle Nightclub, an Ibiza-style clubbing venue.
Tokyo managing director Aaron Mellor said: “It’s brilliant to be here in Bradford at just the right time, when the city is on the up. We’re loving getting involved in the whole revival with the rest of the Bradford businesses, who’ve been incredibly supportive. “It’s great to have the opportunity to help promote Bradford’s growing night scene at the Bradford Business Conference and we can promise everyone there will be lots of fun and very different stuff going on.”
Sheraz Malik said: “It’s demonstrated a massive vote of confidence in Bradford that a big player like Tokyo has chosen to make a major investment in the city, alongside all our great independents. We’re proud to have them as sponsors of our new leisure event”. Bradford Business Conference is only one string to Sheraz’s business bow/It complements his Yorkshire Enterprise Network and Malik House business centres activities which are aimed at providing business support, mentoring and contact building.
The monthly YEN events- also run in conjunction with the Telegraph & Argus – have an average attendance of more than 100 people , not only from Bradford but also Leeds, Yorks, Wakefield . Sheffield and Hull.
“The way we have developed as a network with a strong database of businesses and website enables people to keep in tough and interact. We’ve been able to use some of Bradford’s unique venues to build real relationships. Of course, we encourage delegates to do business with eachother whenever possible and there are tremendous procurement opportunities available . But the emphasis is very much on creating a social atmosphere to enable people to get to know one another rather than just pitching for business. We’ve seen that Bradford is different from some larger cities . It has a distinct personality and there’s real passion here with a strong sense of community among businesses,” said Sheraz.
The Bradford Business Conference runs between 8am and 5pm and is backed by organisations including Bradford Council, Bradford Chamber of Commerce, Bradford College, Malik House Business Centres and L4NUK women’s networking group.