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Successful Cornish entrepreneur hopes to inspire next generation business owners

Monday 12th September, 2022

Successful Cornish entrepreneur hopes to inspire next generation business owners

A successful Cornish entrepreneur who began his career selling ice creams from a tiny kiosk in Padstow at the age of 13 is hoping to inspire the next generation of business owners.

Leigh Ibbotson, owner of property development and investment firm, Cher Varya in Newham, says nearly 50 years of experience has taught him that it pays to be brave when it comes to starting up.

He began selling ice creams as a teenager and soon developed a taste for success, moving on to work in a hotel and then helping to run a pub when he was just 17.

At the age of 21, Leigh was running a residential mobile home park business in Camborne before adding to his portfolio, purchasing further holiday and residential parks and redeveloping sites all over Cornwall.

Today Leigh is the head of the Newham-based Cher Varya Group, made up of commercial, housing and development companies.

He says experience has taught him that confidence and the courage of your convictions is what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur.

“You’ve got to believe in yourself and be willing to take that leap,” said Leigh, adding that it also pays to do your research. “Do your due diligence and if you think it will work, go for it.”

Leigh says the lessons he learnt early on in his career are still relevant today and he’s grateful for having such a solid grounding.

“The little ice-cream kiosk was a great way to start,” said Leigh, describing how he painted and decorated the two-windowed shack, located on the coast path at Padstow, near the exit of what was then his parents’ holiday flats and shop business. “I suppose at that age it was good to just be running something, working figures out, looking at the margins on things, the practical maths,” said Leigh. “I remember in my second year, I bought an ice shelf for £25 to store cold drinks. I worked out how many cans I would have to sell to get my money back.”

Leigh says it’s important to embrace change. In fact, the name Cher Varya means ‘altered or changed’ and ‘state’ in Cornish, to reflect his business journey and roots.

He and wife Lesley are looking to grow the company through the development of more quality residential and commercial properties, while embracing the use of green and sustainable technologies.

“Only last week, we were approached by somebody about investing in their business,” said Leigh, talking about plans for the future of the firm. “It looks really interesting and exciting and I can see the opportunities there.”

For now, however, Leigh is happy with his day-to-day job, living and working in a place he loves.

He recently became chair of Newham Business Improvement District and is enjoying working with such a diverse range of local companies.

“We feel very lucky,” said Leigh. “To have been able to do what we’ve done in such a beautiful county, well, it’s a real privilege.”

Watch our video with Leigh, here.

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