Top class Brockmoor Italian restaurant Il Michelangelo is a good illustration of an entrepreneur meeting need in an under served market.
I first came across this concept when I had the pleasure of working with Bill Boler. Bill was my chair when I worked at Brierley Hill Regeneration partnership.
An American, Bill had worked in Harlem, which was in need of regeneration. Yet businesses and investors perceived the area as poor and run down and that there was no market for their services.
Harlem’s need to bid for state funds made the situation worse. To win funds had to portray themselves in a very negative light. This in turn reinforced the negative perception which was doing so much damage.
One of Bill’s achievements was to challenge that perception and turn it around:
”I was trying to show them that from a market perspective Harlem wasn’t just poor black people, and that there’s a cash economy that’s not showing up on their studies.”
The community were asked which business they would most like there. “Blockbuster” was the answer. There was nowhere they could rent videos from.
Another key request was for a bank with cashpoint facilities.
Bill and his colleagues managed to persuade Blockbusters and the bank to invest.
It was a resounding success. Blockbuster found a ready market for their business. From installing one cash machine as an experiment the bank were soon convinced for the demand for more and provided them.
Success breeds success as Bill says:
“If you can engage the business community around their core business, you can then leverage regeneration benefits.
“The benefits of the branch were not just access to the bank, but jobs in the bank, and … the use of local contractors in building the facility. By being in the community and being part of it, they started to understand it more and actually made more loans in the neighbourhood.”
The Harlem initiative became identified as an under served market
The key lesson being that markets do exist if only businesses recognise it. When the latter invest it becomes a win-win for themselves and the local community.
Eventually Bill came to England to work at Business in the Community and to try to change attitudes to investing in under-served markets in the UK.
Which brings me back to Il Michelangelo in Brockmoor.
Whoever bought the old Commercial Inn recognised that there was a market locally for a good dining facility. Think about it. Where else in Brierley Hill is a quality restaurant?
By making the investment a success he has started the process of demonstrating that there is a potential profit to be made in Brierley Hill. It is a good town to invest in.
Il Michelangelo isn’t the only example either. There was great mirth when plans were announced in the early nineties to build the 4 star Copthorne Hotel.
”Ah the Copthorne… “ the joke went.
“Barcelona, Miami and Broierley Hill!”
How they laughed. Yet for years the Brierley Hill Copthorne was the most successful hotel in its group.
Brierley Hill has to change with the times. But it is a town which has a business market worhty of investment. Both business and the local community can be winners.
Perceptions need to change to achieve that. We need leaders with passion, vision and commitment to argue its case.