LDC Top 50 2019
Nisha Katona MBE
Mowgli Street Food
“Our mission is to enrich the lives of others.” Nisha Katona MBE was a successful barrister when she started Mowgli Street Food. She felt compelled to preserve the ancient Bengali recipes that were slowly disappearing from living memory: “I didn’t want to lose the flavour of my mum’s dhal or her cauliflower curry.”
She opened her first restaurant in Liverpool five years ago. Within four months there were queues around the block. “That’s when I quit the Bar,” she says. “It was a big risk but now we have nine restaurants nationwide.” Nisha is a passionate philanthropist, supporting several charities, and flying staff over to India once a year to volunteer in poor communities.
For you, what is ambition?
I start at 8am and I go to bed at 2am after all the reports come in from my restaurants. I still do all my own social media and marketing – every word. I plan to open four restaurants every year. I’ll stop opening them only when customers stop asking me to come to their town or city. In this business, you’re only as good as your last meal so I never rest on my laurels.
What’s the best bit of advice you’ve ever received?
There’s a quote from Julius Caesar that resonated with me. “There is a tide in the affairs of men which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries.” I didn’t have the hubris of thinking that this business would be a guaranteed success. I didn’t know this would work when I started building it. But I felt that if I did not do this, I would be living a half-life.
How important is ambition to the UK economy?
It is critical. I want to see a change in the way ambitious women are viewed in this country. We still apologise for making money. By the end of this year, I will have created 500 jobs and I pay sizeable taxes and give £500,000 to charity each year. I’d like to see ambition celebrated in women, rather than seen as something distasteful.