Lena Benjamin, founder, and CEO of EmpowerHER Global, action and progress for women in business, interviews Zena Nairi, Managing Director at Refurb It All. Zena runs a professional quality building company – constructing, extending and refurbishing commercial and residential properties. Offering a fully project managed hassle-free service. Subscribe for Progress.
Welcome, Zena and nice to have you on the EmpowerHER Global show. Really happy to gain your insight into how you develop yourself as an individual and the work you are doing refurbishing properties in London.
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Which refurbishment project in London are you the proudest of and why?
The project that I’m most proud of is one that was on a church based in Kensington and our brief there was to construct one new building in a small area between two buildings and then to construct a second building to adjourn the main building and then to refurbish throughout. it was a very difficult site with Japanese knotweed there and asbestos. There was logistical site issues, neighbor issues, community issues. There were various specialist materials to contend with on the project. Trustee, two architects, a CPM coordinator and lots and lots of people to liaise with. There was also a very tight timescale during the Summer period when many residents were on holiday. But we met our timescales and budget.
That is fantastic and talk me through more of that. Was the property being converted into a residential property?
The main church had a main building adjourning, there was a nursery and there were lots of activities in terms of events happening in the church are being refurbished, and so this was a commercial project.
So there was a lot of negotiations and consultations with residents involved with the project?
Also, the council had to shout down the project because although the residents were noticed a lot of the residents were away and had not seen the notification. So yes there were lots and lots of different issues.
In your role as director, would you say that you have been able to develop that negotiation and ability to talk to various different communities to be able to develop the business?
Yes within my role I meet with clients and architects. You meet people in networking. So yes in this role there is plenty of negotiating with lots of different people in order to grow and build the business.
Would you say that as a businessperson – a businesswoman, there is a key element and need to be able to manage effectively and negotiate for business?
Yes, I would say that. I am in a male-dominated industry but I think as woman we are generally well organized and able to do all types of negotiating.
How are you capitalizing on Brexit? As you know we are through this turmoil or opportunities so how is your business capitalizing on Brexit?
At the moment for us, we are not capitalizing on Brexit at the moment because it is so much is in the unknown. We don’t really know how it is going affect us at the moment. We do know that in our industry that some of the Eastern Europeans are going back to there countries or to other countries. This is, of course, an issue for the construction industry as a whole but looking forward we are getting involved in off-site construction and pre-fabrication because I believe the direction that our industry is going in so we are just trying to grow into that field a little bit and just be prepared for when part of our industry will expire at some point. So that is the way we are looking at it.
And that is about capitalizing – doing a side-shift and saying that we have this economic uncertainty how can we grow our business as a direct consequence of that and that is how you are going to capitalize on the opportunities. Tell me a bit more about the whole concept of pre-fabrication?
Yes, pre-fabrication and building off-site.
Are you talking about BIM – Building Information Modelling?
I think it is all probably associated with that yes. I think there are all different ways to be more ecologically and environmentally friendly. More cost effective. If you can build more things off-site and then deliver them to the site. You are going to be able to work quickly and be more cost-effective. There will be less manpower. We are in the early stages but there are some really interesting ideas and opportunities.
When you are utilising this whole new construction process which sounds like BIM, you’ll be utilising technology, what materials will need to be used from a quantity surveyor point of view, you can ascertain the design work and then produce the whole prototype and showcase that to the client and then build it off-site as you say you can decrease the cost to the client and that sounds like you are capitalising.
Which areas in London to you see are prime for investment opportunities?
Recently on our social media, we identified five areas – number one Acton – which we believe are perfect for families. Blackhorse Road which is great for professionals. Peckham Rye which is an up and coming area. Forest Gate which is only 15minutes from Liverpool and Shepherds Bush which is home to Westfield and other businesses. So those are the areas where we have identified at the moment.
So let’s go through those areas. So Acton is that part of Cross-rail.
I’m not sure. I think that some of the areas I mentioned are part of Cross-rail.
Great transportation is coming to those areas or is already there so it makes for a great investment or relocation decisions in London. So I can understand why those areas. I actually like Shepherds Bush it is got the Central line. Businesses are there and the BBC is still there. It is just down the road from Notting Hill.
This question is not specifically business focused but does have an impact so that you can have a new fresh outlook on business so what do you do to relax and unwind?
I enjoy meditating, yoga and tai-chi and swim and go to the gym. The mediation for the spiritual side and because our industry is so stressful that you definitely need to try to counteract that with other things.
How do you meditate?
Mediation for me [I run mediating classes] is short, sweet where you just sit, burn a candle and just focus on a particular scene to quieten the mind.
Can you tell us a bit more about your meditation classes?
I do yes I run meditation classes and relaxation groups at my home in North London. A small group of people running through different meditation and relaxation techniques. I am fairly new to Yoga and Tai-chi – it is good – it is not the easy route for me. I always tend to go to the gym.
As you say it is stress being in business particularly in your industry so utilizing mediation, yoga or tai-chi and then you can spring forward refreshed for the next coming days. Thank you so much for your time Zena Nairi, Managing Director at Refurb It All Limited.
Hear the interview with Zena
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