Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Entrepreneur Is Too Geordie to Move; Ammar Mirza's Heritage Is Pakistani but He Loves His Home City of Newcastle. RUTH LOGNONNE Meets the Man Who Founded Asian Business Connexions to Help the Asian and North East Business Communities Work More Closely Together

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Entrepreneur Is Too Geordie to Move; Ammar Mirza's Heritage Is Pakistani but He Loves His Home City of Newcastle. RUTH LOGNONNE Meets the Man Who Founded Asian Business Connexions to Help the Asian and North East Business Communities Work More Closely Together

Article excerpt

BORN and raised in his native North East, home has always been where the heart is for Ammar Mirza, the founder member of Asian Business Connexions.

Despite a variety of high-powered roles with companies throughout the UK, the business consultant from Newcastle always struggled to stay away from his beloved Geordieland.

Launching his career in 1992 as an evaluation officer for the British Council, in London, Mirza came home within a year to manage a call centre in Newcastle before becoming ultimately responsible for IT service delivery at Telewest Communications.

Inspired by his family's prowess in the property sector, the 39-year-old became managing director of Clark Residential, in Newcastle, and in 2008 was made responsible for managing council houses on behalf of Newcastle City Council as non-executive director of Your Homes.

During this time, the entrepreneur set up his own consultancy, AmmarM, which manages projects for a variety of businesses from sole-traders to multinationals.

However, it wasn't until 2008 when Mirza, whose parents hail from Pakistan, made a real impact in the region's Asian business community.

"I'm proud to say I was born in Newcastle," he says. "My parents eloped together during the 1960s and they both instantly integrated into British society by becoming teachers in local schools. At the time, much of the Asian community was made up of manual workers. It was quite unique to have two people as educated as my mam and dad.

"My dad, who taught at Whickham and then lectured at Newcastle University, was secretary of the mosque in Newcastle and helped build it. My parents were both pillars of the Asian community and were passionate about equality and inclusivity."

From a young age Mirza says he inherited his entrepreneurial skills from his mother, Salim, who used her talents as a seamstress to run sewing classes in her spare time for the Asian community in Newcastle. "Mam worked really hard and it was definitely her who instilled the spirit of working long hours in me," he says. "Dad was offered a job in Saudi Arabia as principal of an American school and mam stayed here to look after the three boys, including me.

"It was really hard for her but that was the decision she made. While bringing us up she worked really hard and to this day remains one of the most inspirational people in my life.

"She was also one of the most frugal people I have ever come across considering she came from an affluent background. She would get on a bus and travel miles rather than go to the nearest shop if a loaf of bread was cheaper elsewhere!" When Mirza left the safe confines of Heaton Manor School at the tender age of 18, he was unsure about where life would take him next.

His elder brother was working in London at the time, so with bags packed and the world as his oyster, the teenager embarked upon his trip to the Big Smoke, securing a job with the British Council as an evaluation officer.

His workaholic attitude led to Mirza juggling two jobs while living in London ... when his work was done at the British Council he would hop on the tube to begin his shift at a cinema in Golders Green.

Within a year, he had sickened himself of London life, and was keen to come home and spend time with his family. His close relationship with his mother resulted in the pair working on a property portfolio in Newcastle and the surrounding area, which Salim successfully built up over the years.

But when his then-girlfriend gave birth to the couple's first child in the early 1990s, Mirza realised a "proper" job was on the cards.

He says: "I started out as a temp at a call centre, which later became Telewest Communications. I worked my way up to manager by 1993 and during my time there I established the company into a 24-7 offering which was the first call centre in the UK to do that. I really enjoyed working hard and eventually I became responsible for IT service delivery at Telewest. …

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