Meet Suki Athwal (Franklins, 2013)
Suki Athwal finished his A Levels at Ashford School in 2013, and went on to study Business Marketing at the University of Plymouth. He is now working alongside his family to run their local businesses, Del’s Fish Bar & Shop Around the Clock, both of which have been impacted by the pandemic and have helped to provide essential services to the local community.
What is your current job, and how has it been affected by the Coronavirus outbreak? Have you had to make any changes, or implement any new initiatives?
- I’m currently the 3rd generation running a family run convenience store, Shop Around the Clock, and Fish & Chip Takeaway in Tenterden. The COVID-19 outbreak has affected the business in many different ways. We saw a 75% increase in footfall over the month of May, however, this came with its own struggles, including stock shortages caused by panic buying. In response to this, & long before the supermarkets did, we implemented a 2 per customer policy on all our items. We have also launched several new initiatives, including a same–day delivery service operating 6 days a week for the elderly, and those who were vulnerable and/or shielding. The local community were definitely grateful for this. In light of the delivery service’s popularity, we have also launched onto an app: ‘Snappy Shopper’. This allows the customer to go online or on the app, order their groceries, and have them delivered within 30-60 minutes of the order. We have now created 2 more jobs with the hope to employ another 2 in the near future. We also gave priority to NHS staff on any and all goods in our store, as many of these key workers had been struggling to obtain basic necessities. They were able to call or message us their shopping list and we would then prepare the goods ready either for collection at a time that suited them, or for delivery. Again, this was something we implemented long before the supermarkets. Safety for our staff and customers has also been a priority, and so we have installed Perspex screens in the store, as well as limited customers to 3 in the store at any one time.
What has been the most challenging part of the process for you so far?
- The long hours have been very challenging, and I have been working from 7am – 9pm on some days, with frequent runs to the cash and carry to ensure our shelves are kept stocked. Dealing with non–regular customers has also presented its challenges and managing those who have been frustrated by the limits we placed on buying stock. I’m sad to say that all our staff, including myself, have had to deal verbal abuse because of this.
How are you looking after your wellbeing during this time and that of your family?
- We made the family decision that we would continue to serve the community, and if the day ever happens and one of us contracts Covid -19, we will close the store. Luckily none of us have had symptoms and we have remained open for the entire time.
What positives do you think you will take away from this experience? Will you look to keep any of the new initiatives / changes that you have implemented?
- We are going to keep some of the new initiatives which we have introduced. We will stay on the Snappy Shopper app and website and will continue to deliver to local communities (including Bethersden, Biddenden, Rolvenden, Tenterden, St. Michaels, Benenden, & Woodchurch). This gives us an edge over the larger competitors as we can deliver groceries within an hour of the order being placed. I will definitely remember the community spirit and ‘togetherness’ that has developed over these past months. Like many other local businesses, we have pulled through during these uncertain times, and have focused on serving the local community to the best of our ability. We hope that this experience has changed peoples’ perceptions on shopping locally, and that going forward, communities will continue to support their local independent businesses, instead of the big chains, by shopping locally.
Tell us about your favourite memory at Ashford School.
- My favourite memory from my time at Ashford School has to be the Rugby Tour to Amsterdam in 2011. If you know, you know. Don’t believe the rumours!
During your time at Ashford School, was there a particular moment or person that inspired you and helped you be the person you are today?
- My favourite teacher whilst at Ashford School was Marc Boyd, who taught Boys Rugby. He changed my outlook on playing team sports and inspired me and many of my peers to become better individuals both on and off the pitch. I strongly believe he changed my outlook on life and taught us all how to become leaders through his inspiring words, speeches, and motivational pre–game talks.
What would you say to our current students?
- Don’t worry if you are not sure what you want to do when you are older yet. There is plenty of time to decide, and there are plenty of opportunities ahead. Spend time trying different types of jobs in different industries and find out what you do and don’t like. There is no rush!