PAUL'S Quality Butchers - owned by Paul Conway with stores in Kilsyth and Bonnybridge - was crowned Scottish Butcher Shop of the Year at a UK awards ceremony at Gordon Ramsay's restaurant, Claridge's, in London last week.
Paul (29), of Smithstone, Cumbernauld, beat off stiff competition from hundreds of butchers' shops throughout the country to win the award, which is organised every year by Meat Trades Journal.
Paul opened the shop in Kilsyth in 2002 – the very same one where he had served as a trainee butcher years earlier. In fact, the business had been a butcher's shop since the 1800s.
Paul had to overcome significant financial difficulties before the business became the financial success it is today. He did this by approaching the Prince's Scottish Youth Business Trust, which helps young people aged 18-25 set-up and continue in business. Paul had accrued substantial debts and his income was barely sufficient to keep his young family. However, the PSYBT was impressed by his business case and agreed to provide a start-up loan to allow him to open the Kilsyth shop.
Within a very short time, as well as catering for local businesses, restaurants, and hotels, he was attracting custom from across the central belt of Scotland - and in June 2005 he obtained another loan from the Trust to enable him to open another shop in Bonnybridge.
He has enjoyed good year-on-year growth, and built a solid trade in quality fresh meat and added-value products sold at value-for-money prices. He has even attracted the attention of Gordon Ramsay, who filmed Paul and his team for the popular TV food series, The F-Word.
And Paul is now considering opening a third shop, in Grangemouth, in the new year.
Paul said: "I never imagined five years ago that I would be where I am today. To win this award is a dream come true. My family, staff, customers, and Princes' Scottish Youth Business Trust have provided me with enormous support over the past five years. Winning this award is thanks to all of them for believing in me and giving me the chance to make a success of things.
Ed Bedington, editor of Meat Trades Journal, said: "We had record levels of entries this year so the judges had a really tough time picking the winners. The butchery business continues to go from strength to strength and that's testament to the sheer hard work and determination of butchers like Paul Conway. And it's that hard work and steely determination that we try to recognise in our awards."
And Mark Strudwick, PSYBT chief executive, added: "It is wonderful to see a young man who everyone had written off five years ago become a truly inspirational entrepreneur. PSYBT is so proud of this hardworking role model and delightful family man."