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Boro lad Shak Asghar is rethinking business finance at Nudl

The strongest of family and community ties meant Shak Asghar was always going to be an entrepreneur. Now he is using his experience to help businesses invest in their own futures, as Mike Hughes discovered

The strapline for Shak Asghar’s company sums it all up nicely – Simplifying Funding.

So is that it? A one-sentence BUSINESSiQ profile and I swiftly move on to page 30?

Of course not – the depth of experience and the scope of the sectors Nudl covers is the real eye-opener.

Based in Middlesbrough, it has years of expertise from running support schemes, drawing up growth strategies, accessing investment, grants and generally ‘taking a magnifying glass to your business’ to do a SWOT analysis that could change what its clients think they are capable of.

Shak is a Boro lad born and bred, and is proud to say that if you go to the Dorman Museum and look up the Asghars, you’ll find they were the first Asian family in the area.

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Things like that matter to Shak, and the fact that his business success is creating jobs and revenue on his own doorstep is a driving force for him.

“We’ve been in and around Middlesbrough particularly for a long time so I’ve lived there for most of my life, with a little spell in London and another living in the Canary Islands.

“But I always gravitate back here just because this feels like home.

“I had a standard sort of upbringing, until I left college early to go into the music industry, where I did quite well with a background of DJ work and production experience.”

He was a boy shaped by his family and his community, a strong sense of history and instinctive ideas about how he could play his part.

“Back at home my family had been in multiple different sectors all of their working life, he explained.

“So we learned a lot because we got dragged into things to help out because there was a number of different investments and businesses going on. So if something needed doing, you just do it.

“But it was all a good business education that I have always thought is just about getting stuck in.

“A lot of the time what you tend to find, particularly in the previous generations of economic migrants is that when they were asked to come and help rebuild the country after the world wars they are very enterprising communities anyway, so they do tend to go into businesses of different varieties.

“So it’s in the culture anyway that you learn a lot about business right from a young age.”

The young Shak took to that idea right away and was always going to be a bit of an enterprising kid, starting by using stock from the lock-up to sell sweets ‘and stuff’ at school to make a bit of spending money.

Schoolyard entrepreneurialism led to more and more work here and in the Canaries. But when his eldest daughter became quite ill and needed specialist care, some of the world’s top experts were based at the RVI in Newcastle, so he came home to be near to them and close to his family.

“When when I came back I did a bit of consultancy with people I knew in my network in different sectors. They were running engagement projects and employability support projects, so I learned a lot about contracting and delivery of those types of services and then applied my knowledge of business on top of it and went down that path.

“Since then it’s been a combination of consulting and working on specific projects, whether it’s delivery, writing the specs or managing in public sector and quasi public sector settings.

“Over the years I’ve learned a lot about how the system of helping businesses work and how the agenda is an ever-changing picture. You only have to watch the news to follow it though, because you know Brexit means international trade is going to be high up on the agenda. Net Zero means becoming more green is right up there. All these things follow headline trends.”

Shak Asghar of Nudl. Picture by Tony Schofield

Keeping ahead of those trends is key for Nudl, because they become a sat nav for firms who just want to focus on making things and providing services in a complex environment.

Sometimes they need to be able to push a button and make something happen. Nudl is the button.

That applies particularly to the relationship between private and public sectors, which is a Shak speciality.

“I just don’t think the public sector ever understands the private sector properly,” he says.

“So even though they try to help them, they never set things up in a way that is actually helpful to the private sector.

“I knew the gap was in the market because people can’t access these funds, so we use our business acumen and experience to help grow businesses. Nudl was something in my head for a little while until I just thought ‘let’s have a go’.

“But for it to work how I want it, we want to be very different, so we have been trying to get people on the same wavelength as us and let them know you can have a bit of fun and show some personality with something as important as growing your business and securing funding.

“I think we’ve done a decent job at doing that so now we’re getting ready to launch Phase Two, which is branching out into the contracting world with education and training and developing some technology for ourselves.

“We’ve got a number of joint ventures on the go where we’re helping businesses with some absolutely groundbreaking ideas

“We put in our own sweat and money to try to help them get where they’re going, as well as developing ourselves

“You need to keep agile so you can pivot in a ever-changing landscape and know what you’ve got to do to survive.

“We do that with our clients, so we can’t preach and not practise.”

Nudl and its CEO come across as fresh without being brash. A lot of this business is built around the strong character and personality of both.

The handling of finance is a serious business, but there are no rules that say you can’t enjoy it as long as you get the results you need.

 

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