Dragons’ Den star Theo Paphitis is set to build on an awards event aimed at small businesses that he runs through Twitter by staging a conference in Birmingham.
But the entrepreneur warned that Birmingham was punching below its weight in attracting investment and was missing out to other cities.
The 52-year-old will be sharing his business know-how at the event at Warwickshire County Cricket Club’s Edgbaston Stadium where he has invited the winners of his Small Business Sunday Awards.
The business mogul runs the awards through the social network, inviting small firms every Sunday to tweet him at @TheoPaphitis, using the hashtag #sbs, with brief details about their company.
He says he personally looks through all the tweets and chooses his six favourite entries and then re-tweets them to his 232,000 followers – many of which are influential businessmen and women, including fellow Dragons Duncan Bannatyne and Peter Jones.
Mr Paphitis, who last week opened a branch of his lingerie store Boux Avenue in the city’s Bullring shopping centre, said more should be done to help small firms.
“Small and medium sized firms make up half of the UK’s business industry,” said the former chairman of Millwall Football Club. “They are what makes this country tick. We should be doing all we can to help them.
“Unfortunately 50 per cent of independent firms fail within the first two years, if we can lower that failure rate by just a few per cent then imagine what that can do for the UK’s economy – it would slash unemployment and have a major positive knock-on effect for all kinds of industries.”
He warned people not to go into business lightly, adding: “My advice would be to do your homework, know your market, make sure you have got a cash flow and do a business in an area that you love.”
Cypriot Paphitis, who moved to England aged nine, got his first job as a tea boy and filing clerk at a London insurance broker. He discovered his passion for retail whilst working as a sales assistant for Watches of Switzerland in Bond Street.
Aged 21, he joined Legal & General selling commercial mortgages, which taught him to read other businesses’ balance sheets.
Two years later he set up a property finance company, making his first money on the rise of the 1980s commercial property market.
He went on to own mobile phone firm NAG Telecom, before taking on Ryman stationery stores after it went into administration. He turned the business, now called Ryman the Stationer, around, and he also co-owns Red Letter Days with fellow Dragons’ Den businessman Peter Jones.
The tycoon, who sold underwear firms La Senza and Contessa in 2006 for a reported £100 million, launched rival lingerie business Boux Avenue last year.
The Bullring store has become the company’s ninth shop to open in the UK, with a further 16 planned over the next two years.
He said he hoped his “vast experience” gained from owning La Senza and Contessa would help make the business a success – but admitted he expected it to run at a loss for at least three years.
“It is difficult for any business in this economic climate and as a new business we expect to have losses for about three years, but we are in it for the long-term,” said the star.
He said he did not fear competition from businesses such as La Senza, which has a store opposite Boux Avenue in the Bullring.
“Businesses don’t have the God given right to exist or succeed,” said the father-of-five.
“Of course there’s competition, but as far as we are concerned we will take a bit of their lunch.”
He also said he feared Birmingham was “punching below its weight” when it comes to attracting major investment.
“I love Birmingham,” he said. “I host lots of conferences here because I believe geographically it is the ideal location.
“I personally believe Wembley should have been built in Birmingham and I don’t understand why it misses out on major investments like that, given its location in the centre of the country.
“Manchester has become the media city with the BBC moving there, but Birmingham would have been a perfect location.
“Birmingham punches below its weight, it should punch a lot harder, it deserves more recognition.”
He said he had his sights set on opening a Boux Avenue store in Birmingham ever since he set up the firm last year.
“As one of the busiest and most recognised shopping destinations in the UK, I feel Bullring makes the perfect home for our store,” he added.