Mark Round talks of a positive future for Birmingham

During the past three years, businesses have struggled to come to terms with the extreme pressures facing them since the economic downturn began in 2008. However, with a diverse population of over 1.2million people, and Birmingham being a city bursting with talented individuals, there are opportunities for budding entrepreneurs providing the right steps are taken, at the right time, and with the right support.

The Birmingham Gazette thought who better to speak to than NatWest regional director for business banking in the West Midlands, Mark Round.

TBG: Hi Mark pleased to meet you, so where about in the city do you work?

Mark: My remit covers the entire West Midlands. I have an office base in St Philips Place, Birmingham but I spend a lot of time out and about with my staff and our customers across our offices throughout the region.

TBG: What is a typical day for you?

Mark: Nothing is typical. But it will always revolve around either my staff and other bank colleagues, or our customers. I also represent the bank at a number of industry related activities so a day can involve anything from staff meetings, to customer meetings to presentations on behalf of the bank, always with the trusty blackberry close to hand.

TBG: What is entrepreneurialism?

Mark: The ability to identify, research, nurture and execute business opportunities.

TBG: What do you think is the biggest reason new businesses can often fail?

Mark: Cash flow. This is the biggest factor in the failure of business, not sales but the ability to generate enough cash to keep operations going until goods are paid for. This is why it is very important to structure your working capital and capital expenditure appropriately.

TBG: What is the secret of becoming a high growth, successful business?

Mark: I think fundamentally you need two things. A good strong product or product range matched by a strong focus on customer service – people still buy from people.
TBG: How has the recession affected businesses in Birmingham?

Mark: Birmingham is not unique and immune to the effects of the recession that has touched other parts of the country. Business confidence is rocked at the moment, but then a number of businesses locally continue to trade well. Birmingham remains the country's second city so has a lot going for it - a large manufacturing heritage, strong retail opportunities, three leading universities and a strong professional and service sector. Growth is forecast to be long and slow, so the city needs to continue to focus on its strengths whilst the economy returns to a growth trend.

TBG: How does Business Banking support businesses?

Mark: We aim to work in partnership with our customers, and have three clear aims - to make it simple for our customers to deal with us, to share their ambitions and deliver our business expertise in a manner that makes a lasting difference to their business and its operations.

TBG: Are there any sectors which are thriving at the moment and why?

Mark: You will always find niche operators in each sector; a good business will always find a market for themselves. But looking at industry and sectors, the economic surveys suggest that manufacturing is holding its own at the moment and has reported growth in demand over the last 12 months.

TBG: If someone wants to start a business or grow an existing one, what advice would you give them?

Mark: Consult widely and wisely. There is a lot of focus and support on the start-up market at the moment but not everyone is aware of it, so speak to a number of business professionals to make the most of your business plan - including a bank.

TBG: What is the most exciting business in Birmingham at the moment?

Mark: Not a glib response - but my own is fairly exciting. We deal with customers that operate across all major sectors and industries so we have a great insight into the fabric of the local economy. We are also working in an industry that is rebuilding its reputation with its customers and wider stakeholders, so it is a challenge to ensure people understand what it is we are here for, and what it is we do - supporting our customers and therefore the local economy in a responsible manner.

If you are interested in starting a new business, or would like to grow an existing one and want to find out more about how business banking can be the first step towards launching an enterprise, visit

Hustle your way to property success - By Paul Ribbons

With “Hustle Your Way To Property Success” (£9.99 Ecademy Press), Paul will show you how to develop your skills so you can find properties at below market value, negotiate directly or via agents and understand what the industry doesn't want you to know. This book can show you how to buy properties so you can make instant profit or keep for investment earning money from day one.
“I meet so many people who tell me they want to be involved in property investment, but never do anything about it,” says Paul. “The biggest challenge most investors come across is themselves – they must learn to get over their initial fears and I can offer them a helping hand with my extensive knowledge of the industry.”
Paul has written “Hustle Your Way To Property Success” to help an investor obtain their hopes, dreams and aspirations in the industry. With over 25 years’ property business experience, he knows what does and more importantly, what does not work.
“Because of the number of deals I have done and the dealings I have had with investors, I believe I’m best placed to share these experiences in order to help other like-minded people,” he says. “My book lets you peek into a world of property experiences in a very unique way of hustle and jostling.
“Having been involved in hundreds of successful deals I use anecdotes, experiences and examples, so you can benefit from the years of my experience. I have developed systems and procedures that you can use in your property business and my people skills show you how to hustle your way to successful deals too.”

A trained NLP Practitioner, Paul believes the lessons he’s learned in life have moulded his business ethic.
“I’m dyslexic and proud of it because that’s the sort of determination that is required for success,” he says. “People don’t realise you can make money out of flipping a property without doing anything to it. When I tell them about my strategy – they are literally gobsmacked.”

About Paul Ribbons
Author of Hustle Your Way to Property Success

Born in Plaistow, East London, Paul Ribbon’s remarkable journey started in E17. Educated at an inner London school and having undiagnosed dyslexia, Paul struggled at school and eventually left without completing any of his exams.
After leaving education, Paul worked in the baking industry and was always dreaming of a lifestyle he knew he could and one day would attain. When he reached the age of 23, Paul realised he had lived longer than his mother.  This comprehension had a profound effect on him and consequently, he made a decision never to accept mediocrity and to live everyday as if it was his last. Having already been able to buy a property at this stage in his life, Paul took a gamble that was to change his direction and has shaped his life beyond his dreams.He managed to “hustle” his way into Estate agency in 1986.
Here, Paul was in his element and flourished, and has spent 10 of his 25 years’ experience in property sales and development with agencies, eventually working his way up to Manager.
Due to the pressures of divorce and the big dream of ‘freedom’, Paul became frustrated at the restrictions of working for other people and made the decision to go it alone. In 1996, he set up his property acquisitions business building portfolios for experienced investors as well as turning properties for instant profit.
“Since starting up I have been involved in over 500 below market value (BMV) transactions,” says Paul.  “My experience is legendary in my area and enables me to run a property coaching and mentoring business for novice and seasoned investors alike focusing on my acquisition techniques and tactics.”
Paul’s no nonsense style has been well received at Simon Zutshi’s Property Investor Network (PIN) sessions, and he’s in great demand for seminars. He explains just how to find properties that are profitable via the open market to hundreds of clients.  The basis of his teachings?  Understand People.
Paul’s philosophy still shines through:
“Nothing is beyond any human being; you just have to want bad enough and remember you’re in the people business and never forget it.”
Visit for more information.

Stirlings- the silver lining for Birmingham food lovers

Stirlings Bar and Restaurant is quickly becoming Birmingham’s premier dining eatery and bar. Set in the backdrop of the jewellery quarter, Stirlings is a beautifully converted Victorian building catering for city dwellers and office diners alike. Boasting a tantalizing selection of set and a la carte menus, the venue offers everything from simple starters to classic mains each dish freshly prepared.

Located a stone’s throw away from St Paul’s Square, Stirlings is a foodie’s favourite. A sumptuous dining room is furnished with stylish interiors coupled with a contemporary bar likened to any continental bistro.

Everything is freshly prepared, a rare feat giving a touch of class to a city bistro.

Whether you’re looking for the perfect relaxed setting for that all important business lunch, entertaining clients or simply after a romantic dinner for two, it seems that the team behind Stirlings have got their sights set on becoming a firm favourite with local residents and lunchtime commuters.

A stunning bar area serves up refreshing cocktails which can compliment any dish you fancy, or a glass of Chilean Merlot may be that perfect way to escape a hard day in the office, allowing you to relax and unwind.

For reservations, please call: 0121 236 7562 

Forget Transylvania - Draculas back in Birmingham for one night only.....

Over the last decade a storm has been brewing in Birmingham's urban scene. The Birmingham Gazette was lucky enough to get an exclusive link with Jack Dracula a drum and bass producer from South Birmingham who is set to lift the roof at the 02 Academy on 17th October.

Jack Dracula mixes old school sampling techniques with the latest studio kit to produce a unique drum and base style. We caught up with the producer to see how it all began.

 Known locally as Jack, this talented Birmingham producer has a dark sense of humour and explains that the reason for the name Dracula "was a no brainer really - the original Jack Dracula was a heavily tattooed circus act who had a reputation as being a quite the ladies man", which mirrored Jack's own path.

Jack has been at the forefront of the music industry in Birmingham for a while now but has been making beats seriously for about 15 years. It all started way back when the young producer was still at school. He would spend hours experimenting with vinyl and cassette players learning to make tracks. "I would overdub music on cassette tapes until they looped - then with a casio keyboard I would a create a melody before playing everything back at the same time and recording it using my stereo's built in mic, that was how I learned how to make beats."

With a love of vinyl Jack started collecting records but with a host of friends who were big name DJs on the circuit his passion remained with producing. "I didn't want to be a DJ, all I wanted to do was make my own music so I got an Amiga  and  started sampling anything I could."

As far as inspirations go it seems that life heroes are as important to Dracula as musical influences. Michael Jordan's epic career through to the wisdom and supportive encouragement of his mother have played a part in shaping his vision. And a vision no less, that is set to light up the O2 Academy Birmingham on 17th October when Jack Dracula showcases his work for the first time in years to a live audience.

Dracula has music on youtube and the popular sharing platform soundcloud but he explains that the live arena is where listeners will truly get to see his musical style and production mastery.

Twitter @realjackdracula

Tickets £5 available from

Street photography book unveils a different side to the second city

Birmingham photographer and film maker Pogus Caesar launches a new book during The Birmingham Book Festival this October.

The publication was specially commissioned by Be Birmingham and published by OOM Gallery Archive and Punch.

‘Sparkbrook Pride’ consists of 70 black and white p
hotographs featuring residents of Sparkbrook, Birmingham, UK – where Pogus grew up, all taken with his trademark Canon Sureshot 35mm camera.

The book also has a foreword written by poet, author and playright Benjamin Zephaniah and an introduction by Paris based photographer Nigel Dickinson.

In the foreword Zephaniah says “I love the ‘rawness’ of these photos, they have a sense of place, yet nothing is staged, and the only information Pogus gives us about those featured is how they define themselves, nothing more. We need no more. So people, it is down to us to piece together the rest of this multicultural puzzle”.

Last autumn Caesar regularly visited Sparkbrook, and the striking images in ‘Sparkbrook Pride’ are the result. Documenting the diverse individuals who live and work in the area, the book features both the long standing residents from the West Indies, Ireland, India and Pakistan and the more recent additions to the community from Somalia, Sudan, Malawi and Afghanistan, celebrating the rich cultural mix that defines the area.

Pogus Caesar is a leading social documentary photographer. He has recorded key moments in Birmingham’s recent history including the Bullring regeneration, Birmingham tornado and the Handsworth riots. According to Caesar “Simplicity is best when working with diverse communities; I prefer to photograph the changing world as it unfolds around me”.

Made in association with OOM Gallery Archive and Punch will launch Sparkbrook Pride on 10th October 2011 during The Birmingham Book Festival.

Birmingham entrepreneurs may get their opportunity to invest in facebook

Facebook will delay its initial public offering until the end of next year so employees can focus on developing products for the social networking website, the Financial Times has reported.

Facebook, which is expected to have one of the biggest IPOs in history, plans to go public at the end of 2012, a later public debut than it originally planned, the newspaper said, citing people familiar with the company.

The newspaper reported that chief executive Mark Zuckerberg wants to delay an IPO so employees can stay "focused on product developments rather than a pay-out." The decision was not related to market conditions, the paper said.

Sources earlier this month said that Facebook's revenue doubled to $1.6 billion in the first half of 2011. Investors have pushed its valuation to roughly $80 billion in the private markets.

Facebook could not be reached for comment.

Guilty as charged... Gucci set sail on a gloriously guilty adventure

In September 2010, the House of Gucci took as a catalyst its iconic entwined Gs and brought us a heroine - and later a hero - who regarded this emblem as an incitement to subvert. With Gucci Guilty these rebel lovers discovered the very scent of defiance.

Today’s gloriously guiltless, modern men and women fell in the love with this spirit, ensuring that Gucci Guilty was a sensation all over the world.

The perfume and publishing industries proved no less enamoured: As the female edition of Gucci Guilty was showered with as much as nineteen prizes across the globe, Gucci Guilty Pour Homme won the Best Men’s Fragrance for the 2011 UK Men’s Health Grooming Awards shortly after its launch in March 2011, proving its potential as an award winning classic.

This autumn, our protagonists carry their challenge to a new level with Gucci Guilty Intense. The spirit of hedonism that the Gucci Guilty man unleashes is intoxicating. His power resides in knowing that power is a game; a game he is ready to play.Gucci Guilty Intense is an arresting eau de toilette: a contemporary fougère that provokes as it seduces.

As one would expect from Gucci, there is consummate craftsmanship in the bottle’s marriage of high-tech and high style. Gianinni notes: “I wanted Gucci Guilty Intense to feel like a contemporary objet d’art - to be as striking to look at as it is intriguing to wear.”

The packaging of Gucci Guilty - with its signature interlocking Gs - proved an award-winning design classic. Gucci Guilty Intense replicates its sleek fusion of metal and flint glass. However, the original’s muted metallic casing has been transformed into a darker metal gun, its juice becoming shaded and intense. 
The patchouli that is the hallmark of Gucci fragrances reaches a new potency laced with the driest amber and a leather-rich sillage - robustly earthy, yet suggestively exotic.

The effect is at once remarkable and uncompromisingly alluring. Creative Director Frida Giannini declares: “Gucci Guilty Intense is a profoundly masculine fragrance that has a powerfully alluring quality to it.”

The scent seizes hold of the senses with a heady fix of bracing Italian lemon and invigorating lavender, undercut with a tang of coriander. Its middle motifs persuade like an insistent invitation. Aphrodisiac orange flower - stimulating and entrancing - yields to an unexpectedly masculinity reinforcing neroli.

Ladera - a place in the heavens

Ladera is located on the southern end of Saint Lucia, just outside the port town of Soufrière, approximately 40 minutes from Hewanorra International Airport. It sits on a forested ridge at 1,100 feet overlooking the volcanic Piton Mountains and the Caribbean Sea.

Ladera receives the highest awards and accolades as the best hotel in the Caribbean from the most discriminating leaders in travel, including Condé Nast Traveler, Travel + Leisure, ForbesLife and Caribbean Travel + Life magazines. For the eighth consecutive year, Ladera has been included in the top 10 of the Best Caribbean Hotels, as voted by the readers of Condé Nast Traveler in the magazine’s 22nd Annual Readers’ Choice Awards. Ladera’s impressive score of 88.9 secured itself as one of the leading resorts in the Caribbean. In November 2005, Condé Nast Traveler readers voted Ladera not only the “Best Hotel in the Caribbean,” but gave it the highest score of any hotel in the world, ranking it the “Best of the Best” in the overall hotel category.

Ladera opened in November 1992 and has since been distinguished by a wide range of international publications, including being named one of the Caribbean’s “Ten Best Romantic Spots” by Caribbean Travel and Life. The Saint Lucia Tourist Board has awarded Ladera its “Best Small Hotel” and “Best Chef” awards.

Ladera’s accommodations cater to a maximum of 60 guests, ensuring the highest level of service, apparent from the first greeting at the airport to the personal attention given to each guest.

Perched above the port town of Soufrière, Ladera is a romantic and exclusive hideaway, featuring six villas and 26 suites. What sets Ladera apart is that each guest suite was intentionally built without a fourth wall, allowing astounding views of the island's two volcanic Piton peaks and azure coastline below. Yet the suites were cleverly designed to remain sheltered, safe, and completely private. Interiors are furnished with polished woods. The open wall in all suites and villas leads to a private plunge pool and lush tropical landscaping. Each villa and suite embraces the panoramic views and island ambiance through tropical design and the ultimate in open-air living.

The Ti Kai Posé Spa at Ladera provides guests with an array of relaxing wellness treatments in an intimate setting. The list of special treatments is inspired by Saint Lucia’s volcanic history and the lush rainforest that surrounds this unique retreat. In local patois, Ti Kai Posé means “little house of rest.”

Ladera opened new mineral pools adjacent to Ti Kaye Posé Spa . Drawn directly from the source at the Diamond Mineral Baths near Soufrière (French for sulfur), Ladera guests are able to soak up the restorative waters right on property, in the newly-built bathing pools. Guests may include a mineral soak as part of their pre- or post-massage routine, or simply use it to relax after a day hiking or spent at the beach. Originally built in 1785, just before the French revolution, with funds from King Louis XVI, it is rumored that Napoleon's Empress Josephine bathed in these same waters. The new Mineral Pools are complimentary to all guests.

The six villas and 26 suites, each with a private pool, overlook the famous Piton Mountains, a World heritage site, the Caribbean Sea and the Soufriére valley. Ladera is know for its distinctive eco-lodge architecture, built with Caribbean timbers and modeled on luxury tree-house living, and a relaxed, barefoot lifestyle. Villas and suites were intentionally built without a fourth wall, yet are designed to be sheltered, safe, and completely private. The design affords spectacular sunset views and unobstructed star gazing at night.

The luxurious, open-air Dream Suites were introduced in response to the high demand for more seclusion and special design features. Each of the Dream Suites is intentionally set apart from the 3 other rooms and provides an ultra-private escape, ideal for honeymooners. They feature Ladera’s signature unobstructed views of the Pitons and Caribbean Sea and are designed in the same elegant tropical architecture as all of the Suites and Villas, using polished hard woods, luxurious white linens and colorful tile work in the bath areas.

Guests who book one of Ladera’s Dream Suites or Dream Villas for five nights or more, needn’t wait a single moment for their carefree getaway to begin. Ladera’s exclusive Above and Beyond VIP Service expedites the airport arrival process and allows Dream Suite/Villa guests to experience the resort’s signature personal service from the moment they land in Saint Lucia. A Ladera representative will meet Dream Suite and Villa guests directly outside the customs exit and escort you to an awaiting private sedan for the drive to Ladera. Stocked with cold drinks and refreshing towels, the scenic ride will help guests feel restored after their flight and get a preview of the tropical paradise that awaits them at the resort. On arrival at Ladera, Above and Beyond VIP guests will be escorted directly to their Suite/Villa where check-in will be done at leisure. Upon departure, guests will travel back to Hewannora International Airport in equal comfort and style.

Dasheene Restaurant and the T’cholit bar (pronounced Choleet) offer some of the best dining in the Caribbean and by far the best views. The open-air dining room features breathtaking vistas of the rainforest, the dramatic Piton peaks and the Caribbean Sea below. Dasheene’s elegant decor uses natural fabrics and woods to complement the birds-eye view of the island from the 1,100-ft. ridge in southern Saint Lucia. The menu features innovative interpretations of Saint Lucian and Caribbean specialties, based on local produce, fresh fish and colorful presentations.
In response to an increasing number of requests for fresh and more health-conscious entrees, Executive Chef Orlando Satchell menu now reflects this idea which debuted in 2009. His signature favorites will remain on the menu, featuring the same emphasis on fresh, local products, while adding new, more health-conscious dishes, minus heavy sauces and eliminating butter. In mid-November, BETJ viewers got a special preview of Chef Orlando’s new menu during his appearance on the new cooking show, Urban Cuisine. Hosted by renowned Chef Marcus Samuelsson, Urban Cuisine premiered in Fall 2008 and includes celebrity chefs sharing their signature recipes alongside Marcus in his Harlem loft.

Reservations and contact information:
Telephone 758-459-7323
Fax 758-459-5156


This season, Nike Running is on hand to help you kick start your autumn fitness regime with the latest in cutting edge product technology. New this month are the LunarGlide+ 3 and the Victory Bra Series – offering runners of all shapes, sizes and abilities the perfect blend of bold style and innovative performance benefits.

As a pioneer of ground-breaking sports technology, Nike has also recently introduced the Nike+ SportWatch GPS powered by TomTom for runners who want to stay motivated while training. The Nike+ SportWatch GPS allows runners to track their progress as they run and share their information with the ever growing Nike+ community at

Introducing the LunarGlide+3

First launched in 2009, the LunarGlide has fast become Nike’s most popular running shoe and the Lunarglide+3 is the latest version of the most supportive shoe in the Lunar series. Superior stability, ultra-soft cushioning and secure fit come together in the Nike LunarGlide+ 3 to deliver a smooth ride and great support in a lightweight, flexible and breathable package. The Nike LunarGlide+ 3 features the distinctive Dynamic Support wedge that provides smooth transitions throughout the run; improved use of ultra-soft Lunarlon foam along the foot bed for cushion and comfort; and an innovative midfoot strap to deliver improved fit and support.

Set the pace in the latest apparel

No matter what a woman’s size or requirement, the Nike Victory Bra series has been developed to give the best support possible. The series has been redesigned to make the bras stronger, lighter, more breathable and more supportive. Innovations in thread type, stitching and material layering ensure the bra is lightweight and flexible. Nike’s Dri-FIT technology also helps to effectively manage moisture, and each version of the Nike Victory Bra series has been crafted to pull moisture from the body specifically at the back and chest, where women sweat and chafe the most. No matter how long or hard a woman runs, and regardless of body type, there is a sports’ support solution for her; the Nike Victory Bra series has five fits for different levels of support, ranging from a compression-style sports bra, a fully adjustable model with encapsulated cups, a padded definition bra, a contour defining bra and a shaping bra.

Keep your 2011 fitness goals on track

Unveiled at the 2011 International Consumer Electronics Show as the latest addition to the Nike Plus family – the Nike+ SportWatch GPS Powered by TomTom – launched in April and has a been hugely popular amongst UK runners. The new running watch offers a dynamic and motivational running experience with unique functionality, beautiful design, and direct connection to, the world’s leading running community with almost 4 million members. presents runners with the GPS mapping, total miles, pace and elevation data for their most recent run in a rich and engaging way that will be familiar to users of the popular Nike+ GPS iPhone application.