Martin Webb, former presenter of Channel 4’s ‘Risking It All’ and businessman has achieved so much in his career and is determined to achieve a lot more. He originally Co-founded the C-Side Leisure group with, the MP for Brighton, Kemptown, whose portfolio grew to include many successful pubs, clubs and restaurants in and around Brighton, Sussex.
Webb owned the UK’s first pub to give its entire profit to local charities in which he passionately supports and continues to do so.
With little time spare in Webb’s busy schedule, he manages to takes time out to talk myself about his career and to disclose some exclusive news to Absolute Magazine on his upcoming projects.
Where and how did you gain the knowledge to open you first bar?
My first bar was the Helsinki (which is now the Seven Stars in Ship Street) back in 1990. Before that I’d being DJing and putting nights on around town. I’d just finished a business degree at Brighton University, so I suppose it was a great chance to put the theory into practice and, as it turned out, make a mess of it.
What was your vision behind opening your chain of pubs and restaurants?
When Simon Kirby (now our MP in Kemptown) and I started C-Side back in 1994 we wanted to run bars and clubs that were the sort of places we and our mates wanted to hang out in – funky, nicely designed places where you could stay up late and have fun. Now I’m a bit older and have kids, it’s the same theory except I now spend most of my time in family friendly places with good food. Whatever I’ve done, it’s always been about doing it as well as possible.
What was the best advice you have been given when starting your business?
Someone once said to me “He who sweeps up, cleans up” and that has always been a great piece of advice. I’ve taken it to mean that you should always get stuck in with the non-glamorous side of business, like sweeping up. That way you stay grounded, save money and it sets a great example to the people who work for you.
Can you list all your pubs and restaurants?
When I was CEO of C-Side we had the Zap Club, the Funky Buddha Lounge, the Beach Club, Fortune or War, Gemini, Greens, the Polar Bar and about 20 other sites across Brighton and Hove. My businesses now include the Stoneham, Connaught and Dyke Pubs with more to come hopefully.
What do you have in the pipeline, which you can exclusively disclose with Absolute Magazine?
I’m currently working on an exciting new project with a talented guy called Simon Watts who is the leading ENT Consultant at the Royal Sussex Hospital in Brighton. We’re developing a medically proven set of funky ear defenders for use at festivals and gigs. It’s early days, but with his medical expertise and a great design, we think this product will be huge.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to run a successful bar/restaurant?
Be prepared to work until you drop and remember it’s all about the customer experience. If you don’t make sure people have a great time, they won’t come back. Also, don’t confuse taking money with making money. The costs of running a restaurant are huge, so do your sums accurately.
Are there any plans for you to be presenting again on TV?
I presented two series of Channel 4’s Risking It All a few years ago, so I’m always up for any TV opportunities that come my way. It was great fun and a real eye-opener to try out something I’d never done before.
Without embarrassing you, you recently made a BIG donation to a charity who I support 100% (off the fence). What makes this charity special to you?
I’ve worked with Off The Fence for over 20 years and they are a charity that literally stops homeless people dying on the streets of Brighton. Our city is a place of extremes with great wealth alongside really noticeable deprivation and I think that OFT makes a real impact. They are lead by their amazing CEO Paul Young who has dedicated his life to helping people who are down on their luck. I’m amazed he’s not been knighted (or been made a saint) as yet – he certainly deserves more recognition and support than he gets.