Matt Hermer (38) had no idea as a kid growing up in Wales that he would become a flamboyant entrepreneur and count Princes William and Harry, Madonna and Paris Hilton as clients. The owner of Boujis, Volstead, Bumpkin and Cocoon comes from a family of lawyers and studied History and Politics. He worked as an investment banker at Hambros before launching his Ignite hospitality group in 1998. He explains here what makes a successful businessman and gives his recipe for a good party.
How did you make the transition from banker to bars, clubs and restaurants owner?
I had no idea about what I wanted to do when I left university at 22, and banking seemed like an easy option. Five years after I started at Hambros, I bought my first bar in Walton Street in Chelsea, in what became the first Eclipse bar. I was going out a lot with clients and saw a business opportunity there and thought that I may as well take advantage of the enormous amounts of money bankers were spending by setting up my own place.
What makes a successful entrepreneur?
It is important to surround yourself with good people. You must be ready to take risks, to work hard and to make sacrifices. You also need to be able to take decisions very quickly : sometimes, the best decisions are not the ones you have mulled over for months but the ones you have made rapidly, based on instinct.
What is your recipe for a good party?
Good friends, good music and copious amounts of alcohol! I am not too bothered about design, lighting and decor, but these three elements are essential.
What is your best quality and your worst trait?
My best quality is the ability to sniff out a deal and to see the good in people. But I tend to be too impulsive.
Which criteria to you apply to prospective members who want to join Boujis, your most popular club?
The waiting list is currently closed as we already have more than one thousand registered members for a maximum capacity of 175 people per night. Most of our members are friends and friends of friends. Age doesn’t matter and can stretch from 20 to 50 plus. What is important though for our clients is our efficiency and discretion.
How do you see yourself in ten years?
My life is so hectic that I have no idea what I will be doing in a year, let alone in ten! But I hope that I will have children by then and that I will be content with my life. I don’t picture myself going back to live in Wales or being retired, even when I am older. I am too active for that and believe that it is important to push yourself, as there is always room for improvement and to do better. I am very ambitious but I guess that my life will be quieter in ten years and that I will spend a bit less time in London.
What is your best professional memory?
Two years ago, I was spending the evening in Boujis when I saw on the dance floor Denzel Washington, Leonardo DiCaprio and Owen Wilson, as well as two members of the royal family. They had all come separately and had ended up at the club at the same time completely by chance. I am used to seeing celebrities but I must say I was quite impressed…
Boujis : 43 Thurloe Street SW7 (South Kensington)
Volstead : 9 Swallow Street W1 (Piccadilly Circus)
Bumpkin : 209 Westbourne Park Road W11 (Notting Hill Gate, Westbourne Park); 102 Old Brompton Road SW7 (South Kensington, Gloucester Road)
Cocoon : 65-67 Regent Street W1 (Piccadilly Circus)
Eclipse : branches in Chelsea, South Kensington and Wimbledon