Former bank worker Binny Amin traded counting money for making his owh when he launched his shop in Blean in 2010, followed by another in Whitstable. Now a well-known face in the community, the 34-year-old dad from Herne tells Lowri Stafford about the challenges and perks of shopkeeping.
What’s your background?
I’m originally from Croydon in London. I did sales jobs and worked in a bank, but I was always looking to do better. When I was made redundant, I struggled to get a job. Then I started working in my father-in-law’s shop which I really enjoyed, and decided to open my own.
I moved to Whitstable and opened Londis in Blean with my wife Reena straight alter our honeymoon four years ago. We now live in Herne. She had worked for housing department Bexley council, but her parents had always run shops. The shop used to be a Costcutter, and we invested in a refit to make it nicer for customers. It was a good opportunity to do things for ourselves. Reena left when we had our son Joshan two years ago, but she’s still involved in the business. We have another baby due in August, and want customers to guess the sex and weight as part of a charity sweepstake for the Kent Air Ambulance.
You set up shop in Whitstable in 2012?
Yes, we took over Budgens in the High Street. It’s been interesting in Withstable because it’s very different from Blean. It’s quite scary going from a small shop in a village to a big store in a town centre, but we’ve made a lot of friends and we’ve got a lot of support from customers and local businesses.
What do you enjoy about it?
I really like the people and the staff. When I took over Budgens, it was a corporate-owned store so staff morale was quite low. Now, they understand ways of working in an independent, family-run business. I employ 25 staff members at Budgens and seven at Londis. And we’ve reaily got to know the community. We won quite a few awards when we first opened in Blean for our community involvement and willingness to go the extra mile.
How are you involved in the community?
We organise the fireworks at Kent Cricket Club every year and we work with a lot of charities and local groups. We do various fundraising events end we help out other businesses. We also do things with the Oyster Festival and sponsor Whitstable Football Club. At the moment, we’re trying to arrange projects with local schools. To come to Kent and see the way kids are brought up here is refreshing. They’re generally very polite and since I’ve had my own children, I want to help keep them on the right track.
Why is community involvement important to you?
I don’t think many shops do these sorts of things. We wouldn’t be here it we didn’t have people to support us, so it’s a genuine way to say thanks and give something back.
What challenges have you faced?
It’s tough competing with big supermarkets like Tesco, but we try to keep prices low and work with the community. I’m sure we’ll be affected when Mornsons opens in Whitstable but we’ll have to adapt. I’m a member of the business networking group Canterbury BNI, and I’ve learned so much through that. I’ve met a lot of friends who have given support, and helped us when we opened the second shop.
Plans for the future?
I’m definitely enjoying what I’m doing at the moment, but I’m always looking for other opportunities. Maybe well open another shop in the future but there’s so much I want to do here first.
What do you do in your spare time?
Usually if I’m not at one shop, I’m at the other. Any down time I do have is spent with my wife, kids and family.
Herne Bay Gazette, June 19th 2014