Sukh Sangha, known as Ess, has turned both his life and his business in Hatton Park into a success after creating events for the community to enjoy throughout the year.
An entrepreneur has credited his customers for helping him turn his life around following the success of a series of community initiatives which have also saved his shop from possible closure.
Sukh Sangha from Sydenham, is proud to have put his troubled past behind him after growing up in West London while mixing with the wrong crowd.
He is now putting all his weight behind a ‘Use it or Lose it’ campaign for his Hatton Park Village Store, which, he says, has been struggling to compete with the supermarkets.
Sukh – known locally as Ess – says he’s been overwhelmed by the support of the local community which, he says, has become his new family.
Recalling his childhood, Ess said: “It was like a Third World country where we were living. It was right by Heathrow Airport and illegal immigrants would literally jump off the plane and go there. We moved to Sydenham when I was 15. My family brought me here to get me away from the bad crowd I was in with.
“After moving to Leamington, I convinced my dad to buy this shop and, after working in M&S Menswear department in Leamington for three years, we came up with a business plan for me to take it over two years ago. It has proved to be the best thing that’s ever happened to me.
“Business had been struggling because we have to compete with the supermarket giants and eventually I started to think that sooner or later I will have to shut the shop. There was no footfall coming in, but then one day one of my customers suggested I put on events for the community.
“So I organised a party for the Royal Wedding but didn’t have a clue how it was going to go. It was a big risk because I paid for everything, including a new barbecue and the bouncy castle hire. We ordered lots of extra meat from our existing meat supplier and had a massive TV to televise the wedding and it just grew from there. Families came and lots of people dressed up. I never would have thought the community would show their support in the way they did.”
Spurred on by the popularity of this event, 29-year-old Ess organised outdoor events for all the World Cup England games as well as the first in what was to become a series of ‘Live Music in the Square’ events, attracting hundreds of locals.
He is no stranger to the music scene as one of a three-man team behind the local reggae record label Love Familia Sound System which has released two seven-inch vinyls.
Ess, who failed to qualify from his two-year Business Studies at Warwickshire College 12 years ago, has had a learning curve in his mission to run events and earned a food hygiene certificate and learned how to apply for alcohol and events licences.
He said: “I knew I was allowed to sell hot food and heat up food at my shop but not allowed to prepare any food there without a licence so I hired a chef and we go to my brother’s chip shop in Leicester the night before and cook all the food through the night and drive it back to sell the next day. I never thought they would prove as popular as they do. We sold out within two hours last time.”
The events have so far also brought about an upturn in his shop’s profits but Ess has no plans to stop there and, this month he launched a social media survey, the results of which he hopes will continue to build on the success of his enterprise.
“I love to see people enjoying themselves and knowing I organised that event is the greatest feeling in the world for me. I can say I’m proud of myself for the first time,” he said.
“People seem to have a lot of love for me because they have seen me grow up in that shop since I was 18. I owe a lot to the community. As time went on the local kids taught me manners with all their pleases and thank yous. This community has really turned my life around. The people there have had a massive impact on the way I behave. Before I was just wasting my life.”
Ess has since gone on to organise a community Halloween event and a gathering for Remembrance Sunday, the proceeds from which he donated to the Royal British Legion. He also ensures all leftover stock is offered to the local foodbank.
He said: “I have been in the food industry since I was little kid because my brothers and I grew up watching my father run his burger van business. Food is huge profit. In the last 30 years I have never made my parents proud. But they are proud of me now.”
Ess held his final community event of the year on December 16 – Christmas in the Square, which includes a visit from Father Christmas, refreshments and carols from Hatton Park WI.
The events organised by Ess have been very well received by residents. Toby Bland, who has lived on the estate with his family for 10 years, said: “Due to the demographic of the residents the community aspect was never really nurtured. Ess has worked hard to change this by creating a feeling of community that was sorely missing.”
Stuart Kettle, who has lived on the estate with his family for four years said: “Over the last couple of years we have seen Ess take the store to a whole new level, bring in local produce and beers and, to top all that, organise great events to involve the whole community. Long may it continue.
“It is not just a store, it’s a central place now for Hatton Park - and beyond.”