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Theo Paphitis "I’ve no doubt whatsoever that we will do something together again and that this is only the beginning for Imran"

Theo Paphitis


Download a copy of Imran Hakim's Biog

From an early age, Imran knew he wanted to run his own business. He started his IT consultancy, aged 15 with a £2000 loan from his father. Within days, he was trading in computer equipment, selling to college teachers and the local community. As he neared the end of his A levels, he faced a tough decision, whether to grow the business or study to become an Optometrist at University. Unable to choose, he decided to do both. As well as studying, he continued to build his business, often driving up and down the country buying and selling computers and almost getting thrown off his degree course in the meantime for missing practicals.

After University, Imran joined an opticians firm which ran 3 practices. It’s founder John Glover taught Imran as much about business as he did about optics and they even started on a few internet based business ideas during the dotcom boom, teaching Imran a couple of early valuable and relatively inexpensive lessons.

Once he’d successfully completed his professional exams, Imran opened his first practice in his local community of Bolton, recruiting one of his University colleagues as his first employee. This turned out to be an excellent appointment, as she was able to examine his patients and help manage his practice, freeing Imran’s time to explore new business opportunities, for which he had a passion.

Imran soon noticed a great opportunity within the optical recruitment sector and leveraged some of the relationships he had made during the early days to secure contracts from every major high street optical chain including Specsavers, Vision Express, Dolland and Aitchison and Boots Opticians.

Responding to changes in the optical marketplace, Imran acquired and restructured several optical businesses, running them with a fresh perspective and utilising the services of many of the optometrists he knew in the North West.

Not content with his growing empire, Imran moved into the spectacle frame market, purchasing the goodwill and assets of an optical frame distributor in administration. He transformed the business, flying around the world, re-negotiating exclusive distribution licenses for UK and Ireland - major brands including Reebok, Revlon, Blumarine and Jill Stuart.

Furthermore, Imran initiated the takeover of a lens laboratory that serviced the majority of his group practices, to afford further vertical integration within the business. Whilst the practice portfolio was growing, Imran recognized a need to manage his diverse portfolio establishing HO2 management to look after the day to day running of his businesses and allowing him to strategize, explore new and exciting emerging market opportunities, as well as identifying suitable acquisition targets.

Imran Hakim - iTeddy

Imran came into the media eye in 2007 when he appeared on BBC2's Dragons Den having been challenged by younger brother Zubair to invent a superior birthday gift for his young niece Aaminah. Having successfully secured investment, Imran joined forces with Peter Jones and Theo Paphitis earlier this year to create one of the biggest commercial successes the den has seen to date with the multi award winning iTeddy and – a 21st century teddy bear. In December 07, less than a year since the original idea came to light, Imran signed a worldwide distribution deal expected to generate sales in excess of £25 Million over the next 3 years.

Imran has gone on to win several business awards over the years in recognition of his numerous endeavors including; NorthWest Young Entrepreneur of the Year 2006, Fusion Entrepreneur of the Year 2007 and most recently a Mosaic Award for Science and Technology from HRH Price of Wales. His work on the iTeddy brand has earned him awards such as Toy Inventor of the Year 2007, World Toy Innovation 2008, Start-up Business of the Year 2008 and IOD’s NorthWest Young Director of the Year 2007. Most recently, In 2009, Imran received an Honorary Doctorate in Enterprise and Innovation from the University of Bolton as well as making Growing Business’s list of top 40 entrepreneurs in the country under the age of 35. He is also the youngest entrant into the NorthWest Power 100 list for 2009.

In 2010 Imran was chosen by Finnair as the voice of entrepreneurship for their “Global Enterprise Heroes” campaign. Imran now concentrates on expanding his business portfolio by incubating and investing in other companies. A key focus of his is to encourage entrepreneurship especially in the NorthWest, through mentoring and various ambassadorial roles. Current positions of responsibility include Non-Exec for Business Link NorthWest, NorthWest Ambassador for UKIBC and board member of TIE entrepreneurs. As Director of Entrepreneurship for UMIP, Imran works closely with the universities in order to commercialise new intellectual property. He is also active on the entrepreneurial speaking circuit.