It’s a wrap for the entrepreneur who faced fire of the Dragons

Tayub Mushtaq had always wanted to be in the food business and now his chain of gourmet fast food outlets is set to spread the word. He spoke to City Editor Ros Snowdon.
Tayub Mushtaq, MD of Wrap it Up!Tayub Mushtaq, MD of Wrap it Up!
Tayub Mushtaq, MD of Wrap it Up!

WHEN Tayub Mushtaq appeared on Dragons’ Den last August, the whole of Dewsbury tuned in to see their local hero.

Mr Mushtaq faced the dragons to seek investment for Wrap it Up! – his chain of gourmet fast food chain outlets, but the dragons felt the valuation of the business was too high.

He had asked for £500,000 for an 11 per cent stake.

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“Valuation is clearly a grey area – is it based on brand, locations or management? I feel this brand has the potential to be the next Subway and they’ve got 36,000 stores worldwide, more than McDonalds,” he says

As the managing director of Wrap it Up!, Mr Mushtaq has introduced a wide range of internationally-inspired wraps to hungry city wheelers and dealers in London and his ultimate aim is to expand throughout the country.

Wrap it Up! now operates 11 outlets across the City and Central London and plans to open several more over the coming year.

“Our plan is to get to 50 over the next three to five years, probably more. Shareholders will want an exit.

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“Ideally we’d be looking at a listing on AIM in a few years’ time or we could look at a trade sale,” he says.

“Our ultimate aim is for kids to say: ‘Let’s go to Wrap It Up! rather than McDonalds’.

“McDonalds, Burger King, Subway – they all started somewhere.”

Mr Mushtaq joined Wrap it Up! as its first franchisee in 2010 and became managing director of the company in October 2012, marking a stellar progression through the ranks.

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As the franchisee of the Broadgate store, he increased sales from £300 a day to £1,500 a day in just four months.

Within 18 months he expanded the business to eight stores.

He invested £25,000 of his own money into the business in January 2010 and his stake is now worth just over £1m, based on the level where investors have recently bought in at.

Mr Mushtaq says: “It’s really not just about the money. It’s about getting the recognition from customers – it sounds cheesy but it’s true.

“I want to take wraps to the masses as an alternative to boring old burgers and sandwiches. When somebody says ‘wraps’, I want Wrap It Up! to spring immediately to mind.”

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Before joining the company, Mr Mushtaq worked as a stockbroker for a boutique investment bank in the City.

“As a youngster growing up in Dewsbury I wanted to have a food business,” he recalls. “I remember thinking that the range of ethnic food was very restricted and that there really ought to be more choice in the market.

“Even at a young age I wanted to be an entrepreneur.

“What I love about Wrap it Up! is that we are different to others. There are a number of Mexican burrito outlets which are similar to each other and I believe the same can be said of burger and sandwich joints.

“Our 11 outlets are extremely popular.

“Our customers love our food and this gives us the confidence to expand. This is an exciting time for the business.”

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Back in 2012, Mr Mushtaq was managing purchasing and expansion, but he decided he wanted ownership of the brand.

He led a buyout of the company by managers and existing shareholders.

“I fell in love with Wrap It Up! First as a customer – I used to walk from Bank to Broadgate every day for two years to buy my lunch.

“The food was fresh and it was made in front of you. I’d have one wrap for lunch, one for the evening at my desk and one when I got home.”

It was 2010 and the recession was really kicking in.

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“My job wasn’t as great as it had been, so I took the decision to leave it and bought the first franchise in the company. I haven’t looked back.”

Recent innovations include the launch of a new breakfast menu, featuring a sausage and egg wrap, made with British beef, chestnut and oyster mushrooms and scrambled eggs, and a toasted cheese and tomato flat wrap.

Mr Mushtaq estimates that the company is now worth over £5m and he believes he can steal market share from the likes of high street eateries Pret A Manger, McDonalds and Eat.

“Wraps are a sideline for these companies. No-one else is doing wraps with a world theme. Theirs are all pre-made, nothing is freshly prepared for the customer,” he says.

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“Here you can have a different one each day – Mexican, Caribbean, Indian. Our food is fresh cooked everyday and 95 per cent of the business comes from regular customers.

“Once they try the wrap, customers will come back. 99 per cent of customers love the food and love the service.”

A small wrap, crisps and a drink costs £5, medium wrap, crisps and drink costs £6 and the large version costs £7, which is not expensive in City of London terms.

The group has received interest from all over the UK and abroad asking when the firm will set up outside London.

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“These are people who have visited London or lived and worked in the City and they want internationally inspired food,” says Mr Mushtaq.

“Yes we’d go beyond London and I’d be keen to take it to Yorkshire.”

Mr Mushtaq was brought up in Dewsbury in an ex-council house along with his eight siblings.

“I don’t come from a rich background. When I was 13, I was doing a milk round from 3am to 7am and I did it every week for three years and gave my mum all the money.

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“All the milk floats had little kids. It was like doing a paper round. At school I didn’t have a penny in my pocket. I had friends who could produce a fiver. I never had that.”

He left Westborough High School in Dewsbury at the age of 16 with nine GCSEs and then went to college where he got two Bs at A Level.

He wondered about whether to go to university, but decided instead to work in finance at the Yorkshire Magistrate’s Court where he earned £18,000 a year in what he describes as “a great job” at that time.

It certainly gave him the push he needed and he decided that if he was going to go to university he wanted to go to London.

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He was accepted at London Guildhall and just as he was wondering how on earth he was going to finance his academic career having given all the money he had earned over the years to his parents, his mum said: “Here’s £11,000.”

“She had saved every penny I’d ever earned and she gave it all back to me,” says Mr Mushtaq.

With the help of student loans and work at retailers Gap and House of Fraser, he completed a four-year Business Finance degree at London Guildhall achieving a 2.1.

He went from there to working in the city and eating three meals a day at Wrap It Up!

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Nowadays, his father is retired from his job selling clothes to shops from a van and Mr Mushtaq has supported his brother through university to become a dentist.

“My elder sister is a teacher. She supported me. Now it’s payback!” says Mr Mushtaq.

He visits his family in Dewsbury every fortnight where his folks still live in their ex-council house.

“I’ve offered to buy them a bigger house, but they don’t want to move out. They know all the neighbours,” says Mr Mushtaq. “It’s a close-knit community. They all saw me on Dragon’s Den. They loved it. They’re proud that someone from Dewsbury has been on Dragon’s Den.”

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Mr Mushtaq is re-applying to appear on the programme again.

“Some eight to 11 million people view you on TV,” he says wryly, ever the one for some free marketing.

“This time I’m going to ask for double the investment and give them half what I was going to,” he says with a cheeky grin.