Sahar Hashemi OBE is an Iranian-English entrepreneur. She is best known as the co-founder of the coffee chain Coffee Republic and confectionery brand Skinny Candy. She was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2012 Birthday Honours for services to the UK economy and to charity. She has been named on various power lists, including those compiled by the Daily Mail, Independent on Sunday and Management Today.
Early life and career
Sahar Hashemi attended City of London School for Girls, obtaining a corporation exhibition scholarship. She studied law at the University of Bristol. Upon graduation Hashemi trained and qualified as a solicitor with Frere Cholmeley Bischoff's (a 200-year-old firm in Lincoln's Inn Fields that folded in 1998).
Alongside brother Bobby, Hashemi developed and co-founded Coffee Republic, the UK's first US-style coffee bar chain. The first site opened on South Molton Street in 1995. The group was listed on AIM in 1998 by reversing into Arion Properties. Coffee Republic switched from AIM to the full list in July 2000. The chain had opened 108 stores by 2001, when Hashemi left the firm to write Anyone Can Do It: Building Coffee Republic from Our Kitchen Table.
Coffee Republic became one of the main businesses in UK high street coffee bars, competing with Starbucks, Café Nero, Costa and Pret a Manger. In July 2002, the group announced plans to halt its expansion programme, sell under-performing bars and launch a strategic business review as annual losses grew. On 7 July 2009, Coffee Republic went into administration, citing a difficult trading environment following the economic downturn of the period. At the end of July, following the closure of 18 Bars, Coffee Republic was bought out of administration by property firm Arab Investment Ltd. The new company trades as Coffee Republic Trading Ltd.
Anyone Can Do It
Published in 2003 by John Wiley & Sons, Anyone Can Do It (ISBN 978-1841127651) was written jointly by Sahar and Bobby Hashemi and describes the journey of turning Coffee Republic from an idea into a high street brand. The book is aimed at budding entrepreneurs. The authors seek to dispel the idea that entrepreneurs are inherently "special" people.
Published in 2010 by John Wiley, Switched On: You Have It In You – You Just Need To Switch It On (ISBN 978-1906465834) extends Hashemi's ideas to include intrapreneurship, the business management style that embraces risk-taking and innovation approaches more traditionally thought of as the province of entrepreneurship.
In 2005 Hashemi launched confectionery brand Skinny Candy, producing low-fat sweets and chocolates. The range is distributed in Coffee Republic, Harvey Nichols, Selfridges, Top Shop, Julian Graves and Waitrose. In 2007, Hashemi sold 50% of Skinny Candy to Glisten Plc.
Hashemi is a supporter of The Princes Trust, donating a portion of royalties of Anyone Can Do It to the youth charity. She sits on the NSPCC Corporate Development Board and is a Patron of Child Bereavement UK. She fronted a government campaign in 2004 for Skills for Business to encourage employers to develop staff skills.
- Pioneer to the Life of the Nation by H.M. Queen Elizabeth II
- World Economic Forum, Davos: Young Global Leader
- Management Today: Top 35 Women in British business under 35
- Independent on Sunday: 20 most powerful women in Britain
- Shell liveWIRE survey of inspirational role models: (top five: 1) Richard Branson 2) Friends/family 3) Anita Roddick 4) James Dyson 5) Sahar Hashemi)
- Enterprise Roll of Honour, Bristol University
Hashemi is a lecturer and keynote speaker on topics such as innovation and entrepreneurship. She has addressed audiences at events organised by LinkedIn, Microsoft, IKEA, Infosys, Accenture, GlaxoSmithKline, and IBM.
Hashemi is a speaker ambassador for The Princes Trust. She has delivered keynote speeches at the Institute of Directors Women's Summit, Wall Street Journal Europe Summit, IAA World Congress and the Global Leadership Forum Malaysia.
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