Yorkshire-based Empire Property’s founder named entrepreneur of the year

Empire Property Concept’s founder and managing director, Paul Rothwell, has been named Scale-Up Entrepreneur of the Year at the 2018 North NatWest Great Entrepreneur Awards.

The property company, based in Doncaster, develops affordable, quality homes in towns around Yorkshire and the North West and aims to help to regenerate areas by improving housing stock. They specialise in developing modern residential apartments from unused or unloved commercial buildings.

Paull received his award at Old Trafford in Manchester on 15 November, where he celebrated with fellow winners at the third regional gala final of the awards.

Empire Property Concepts found early success in the buy-to-let arena but when legislation was introduced in 2016 (tax changes and a 3% surcharge on stamp duty), it created a real challenge for the way Paul and his team worked.  He showed ingenuity and courage in using permitted development rights to start converting larger properties into buy-to-lets.   To fund these developments, the company would no longer rely on remortgaging, but instead would secure funding by way of loan note offers (mini bonds), through sister company, Empire Property Holdings.

Launching a loan note offer is not straightforward and involved 12 months of planning and working through a legal minefield.  The hard work paid off, however, as three loan note offers have been issued to date. The first two attracted a total of £24m and a third, which has a target raise of £24m, has raised £12m to date.

Paul’s portfolio currently comprises 1,500 residential units with a typical yield of 20% which is industry leading.  Paul now employs a team of 20 people and has 600 properties currently in development.

Explaining how he has been able to scale up at such a rate, Paul said: “The loan note allows investors to take advantage of the UK property market, without having to buy any property themselves.  The success of the mini bond investment vehicle is allowing us to grow the business at a fast pace and allowing us to take on bigger and bigger properties.”

Francesca James, co-founder of the awards, said: “2018 has been a record year for the Great British Entrepreneur Awards in the number of entries we received. But the quality of applications has been above and beyond what we’ve seen in previous years.  Just getting to the gala final as a finalist is a huge achievement given the competition on show, so to walk away with a trophy in your hand deserves huge congratulations.”

Gordon Merrylees, Head of Entrepreneurship for NatWest, said: “The number and calibre of entries this year proves that entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in the North.  I want to extend my huge congratulations to all the winners, and hope that their businesses continue to grow in the future.”

Following the regional win, Paul goes through to the national finals being held in London in January 2019.