From cooking homemade bhajis to running a multi-million pound company – Blackpool businesswoman Laila Remtulla’s achievements were today honoured by the Queen.
The owner and founder of Laila’s Fine Foods Ltd – an inspiration to aspiring businesswomen everywhere – has been awarded an MBE for services for food and drink in the New Year’s Honours List.
The entrepreneur started out selling home cooked bhajis to a deli after moving to the Fylde coast in the 1970s.
Laila now employs hundreds of people and her company, based in Bispham, is forecasted to turnover £18m in 2014.
Mrs Remtulla said: “I’m truly honoured and humbled by my accolade. It’s unbelievable.
“This country is full of opportunity and I’m so grateful to be part of this great nation.
“This shows that hard work pays off.”
Mrs Remtulla and husband Nazir moved from Tanzania to the UK in 1976, and 28 years ago she set about cooking up creations for her family in the kitchen of their new Lytham home.
After buying some “disappointing” bhajis and samosas from a nearby delicatessen Mrs Remtulla took in her own recipes and persuaded the owner to stock those instead.
She said: “My children were at school and the business began as something to keep me occupied.”
But cooking has always been in her blood – her father and grandfather were both chefs and two of her brothers are also chefs.
For 10 years the cooking business was juggled with family life, then in 1999 Nazir joined the business and within months it had secured its first national contract.
The manufacturer of ready to heat and eat meals has since gone from strength to strength, winning awards across the board.
It has contracts with Asda, Morrisons, Lidl and Iceland.
The business now occupies a 43,000 square foot factory in Bispham and produces around 60,000 to 70,000 portions of food a day.
It also supplies food charitably for local sports group, Fylde Sharks Disability Swimming Club.
Today, as well as employing all five family members, the company also employs more than 300 Fylde workers – up from less than 100 just five years ago.
And it is the hard work and dedication of all staff that has helped Mrs Remtulla to come so far, she said .
She added: “I can’t say enough about my colleagues who have helped to build this. We’ve had opportunities to move production elsewhere but we’ve stuck to Blackpool because we have staff here who wecouldn’thave done all this without.”
Mrs Remtulla’s recipe for success, she added, mixes strong working relationships, including bringing daughters Zera, Rishma, Natasha into the business, with sticking to her principles on the best cooking methods.
She added: “We’ve gone through ups and downs, you have to have the strength and stick to your beliefs of cooking methods.
“It’s a rollercoaster when you start out. I never expected that this is what would happen – I just believed in good food.”