Jaina Patel always wanted to be a retailer but this passion and ambition has been tested to the extreme. She tells Tom Gockelen-Kozlowski how she overcame two family tragedies to open a brand new business 

Opening a new business is a daunting prospect for any aspiring retailer, but for the most tragic of reasons, this was even more the case for Jaina Patel. 

Firstly, in 2009, her father was murdered while working in his Luton convenience store. The family was distraught, but Jaina’s mother was adamant she would continue working in the business. But seven years later, she was brutally attacked and left with multiple long-term injuries, so the family finally decided to sell up.

“My mum’s an inspirational woman – when my dad died, she wouldn’t let it beat her,” Jaina says. This spirit clearly runs in the family because, since October, Jaina has been running her own convenience store in Derbyshire with her husband Tarkesh.  

“I always wanted to be in retail, but after everything I knew, this business would have to be different,” she says. 

Indeed, the store which Jaina found was hundreds of miles from Luton in the rural idyll of Swanwick. 

Jaina has taken on a business previously run by the same family for 45 years, and relied upon and loved by its community. An HND round of 400 provides much of its income, but the business also benefits from the National Lottery, beers, wines and spirits, and a customer base that has been loyal to the business for decades in many cases.

“I’ve learned it’s easier to please customers in a village store but also easier to disappoint them. We’ve been careful to keep the business as it is – even keeping the name – to show we’re not going to change the store they know.” 

In return, residents have welcomed Jaina and her family with open arms.

“I think residents like it that we’re the owners and we’re in the store all the time,” she says. 

 

I tell my staff if someone wants to steal something, let them do it because we have CCTV

Jaina weighed up a number of factors before choosing the store, but a big part of the appeal was its location – and not just for business reasons. “It’s a world apart from Luton – it’s open, you see animals every day and there’s so much fresh air. It’s the best decision for my son,” she says.

Yet, understandably, the risk of crime also came into Jaina’s considerations. 

“The most important thing was that it was not in a town centre. Retail crime is not as high in rural areas,” she says.

That said, training to protect staff and the store are a priority.

“My parents had no training whatsoever. They believed stealing was wrong, so if you tried to take something they’d try to stop you. Here, though, I tell my staff if someone wants to steal something, let them do it because we have CCTV and we’re in an area where everyone knows everyone.” 

Yet, relative safety is not the only advantage of moving to the country – Jaina’s 800sq ft store is three times the size of her parents’ shop. 

This has provided her space to plan a future move into hot food to go. Jaina hopes this will allow her to attract and cater to a larger customer base – inside and beyond the store – when 600 homes are built over the next few years.  

“We’ve already started leafleting our HND customers and are using this service to deliver eggs, milk and bread,” she says. 

Jaina says her passion and energy are driving her to make the business a success, but being able to call on the expertise of the person she describes as “her pillar” has also been crucial as the store grows. 

“My mum has 35 years’ experience and it’s been key. She knows cash and carry, how to buy, how to target an audience and use PoS. They might seem obvious, but they’re the things you don’t understand when you start out as a new business owner,” Jaina says. 

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