IF Josh Simons’ succession of businesses have one thing in common, it’s his flair for marketing.
The 35-year-old serial entrepreneur spent a decade in the nightclub and events industry.
He went on to set up a ticketing platform, a marketing agency and an upmarket rival to Groupon, before co-founding Chicken & Blues. It is an expanding restaurant and delivery business with ambitions to become a franchise.
As a teenager, Mr Simons played golf for Surrey and England. “My future aspirations were to turn professional like my friends were and try my luck as a professional golfer,” he says.
But his family were in the hospitality business, owning Cafe Shore in Poole and Jimmy’s nightclub in Bournemouth, and he became involved. “I decided my future was in business and not sport,” he said.
“I had 10 years of night club events, restaurants and bars, really focused on the marketing department of all those businesses. I was never general manager, I was the guy that branded, marketed and promoted.
“I read every book about how to become a good marketeer. You learn quicker under those circumstances.”
He was involved in a succession of clubs – Landmarc, 20/20 and the boutique club Priva. But clubs were a tough business to be in, he says, and took their toll when he became a parent.
“When you’re 32 and getting home at five in the morning, having dealt with police and dealt with a fight outside the club at 3am, you think there must be a better way,” he said.
He went on to found three companies under the Elite brand. Elite Living is a voucher scheme with 65,000 local users. Elite Living is a marketing agency. Elite Ticket is a new online ticketing platform for local events which is selling more than 500 tickets a week.
“We did a lot of research. We wanted to go down the grilled, barbecue route to get it healthy as opposed to fried,” he said.
Prices were intended to be affordable for families looking for an alternative to fried food.
“Once the product’s right, which we believe we’re nearly there with, then we become a marketing business,” said Mr Simons.
“With my long history as a marketing guy I know once you’ve got a good product and a good plan to play with, growing our customer base is second nature to me.”
The business has 14,000 loyalty card holders and says many customers dine there five or six times a week.
The Ashley Cross restaurant is on a site which “failed for many others in the past”.
“We’ve doubled the turnover there from when we opened in 2015. It’s because our team are delivering a good product, they’re finding and developing a following which is what a restaurant needs to do,” he said.
Entering a market full of national brands might seem daunting, but Mr Simons says he was influenced by PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel and his philosophy that “competition is for losers”.
“We don’t try and compete with national brands, we won’t open in BH2. What we’re trying to do is become the classiest and best quality chicken shop in the areas where it’s easy to become that,” he said.