Steven Hesketh - the local entrepreneur behind the Know Collection hospitality group
PUBLISHED: 12:08 10 December 2018
His first job was as a window cleaner on a timeshare resort. Now Steven Hesketh heads a growing hotel and restaurant empire which includes The Townhouse in Chester
Sipping coffee in one of his Love Thy Neighbour cafes in Liverpool, Steven Hesketh tells a tale showing how life can be a game of snakes and ladders.
Ten years ago, he had won a prestigious Acorn Award - given by The Caterer for the best rising stars in the hospitality industry - and taken a new job opening a hotel in Crewe.
‘In December that year I won the young businessman of the year in the South Cheshire Chamber awards,’ he says. ‘The very next day I went in to work and was made redundant. I was flying high and had thought I was unstoppable.’
His hotel had been performing well, but he became a casualty of financial problems in the wider group.
‘It was a total shock to the system,’ says Steven. ‘It made me realise that no-one’s indispensable.’ If that was the ‘snake’, the ‘ladder’ came with the success of his ever-expanding hospitality empire The Know Group (see box).
‘We are ambitious and we are fearless to some degree,’ says Steven, a youthful-looking 40. ‘If we’ve seen an opportunity we feel we can stretch ourselves to do, we’ve done it. And there is an element of right time, right place.’
Born on the Wirral, Steven was just 18 months old when his family moved to Australia where his father set up a successful mobile phone business, later retiring to the Gold Coast.
‘It’s summer all year round there and I’m not a lover of the heat,’ says Steven, who learned about the hospitality business by working at a timeshare resort, beginning as a 15-year-old window cleaner.
Aged 20, he came to England with a group of friends and got a job at the Chester Moat House Hotel (now Crowne Plaza) where he met his now wife Nicola Perry-Hesketh, mother of four and Know Group’s ‘director of happiness’. The couple still live in Chester.
Working his way up in the hotel business - Hoole Hall (now the DoubleTree) in Chester, Thornton Hall in Wirral, various Ramadas and BridgeStreet at Liverpool One - he eventually became general manager of the Richmond Apart Hotel in 2013. In 2015, the management contract for the Richmond came up for grabs.
‘I was given the management contract and had to create my own company, and Know Hospitality was born,’ says Steven. ‘From there we began to get a little entrepreneurial.’
Sleep Eat Love is perhaps the most intriguing brand in the group: an upmarket backpackers’ hostel created in former student accommodation.
‘It’s almost a five-star, one-star offering,’ says Steven. ‘In the room, you get a bed, you get a bathroom and that’s it. But it’s a great bed, a great shower. You get great service and the facilities around you include a games room, a picnic room. It’s a more millennial market, but during football matches, we get overseas visitors and I’ve been surprised by how many more mature backpackers we’ve been getting.’
As for The Townhouse in Chester, Steven says: ‘It was a b&b running at 50 per cent occupancy, barely breaking even. We saw the potential, did some small tweaks, used our experience and adapted the pricing and we finished our very first month at 75 per cent occupancy.
‘We’ve since launched 1699 Bar & Brasserie which is doing phenomenally well. Our menu is quite limited: we do five,five,five - five dishes exceptionally well.’