Paul Evans: “You only fail when you quit”

Paul Evans, Marina Slobodyanik
Paul Evans
Paul Evans, Marina Slobodyanik
Interviewer Marina Slobodyanik

Paul Evans, CEO of The Solutions Leisure Group in Dubai, released the book “When I Woke Up” in January 2020. The book explores the vital events of his life. In an interview, Paul told about the specifics of the Dubai entertainment industry and the key messages of his story.

How did you get started your business? What was your first venture?

I started my business back in Hurghada, Eygpt in 2001 after I agreed to invest $10,000 in a beach bar owned by my business partner, Freek, and the rest they say, was history! Our first venue was the expansion of Papa’s Bar, which eventually led to opening the second Papa’s Bar and Papa’s Beach Club. Today we have opened more than 40 venues together with no plans to slow down anytime soon!

How did you decide to develop your business in Dubai?

After the Revolution in Eygpt, we lost 70-80% of our business in a matter of days, and it was not safe for us to stay in Hurghada. I had been to Dubai on holiday a few times and had two contacts there, so we decided to come here. It was a difficult start, I bought and sold cars for a while to get by, but eventually, we opened Q43, which is still, after six years, a firm favorite in Dubai. As of today, we own eight venues across the city and two in Kazan, Russia.

Are there any special things about nightlife in Dubai?

As a city, Dubai has the pinnacle of everything, including the best bars, restaurants, and hotels in the world, but I think the unique thing about Dubai is the marketplace. There is a considerable ex-pat community here from all over the world, who are earning good money that gives us a lot to play with when it comes to venue concepts.

Do you live in Dubai? What are the pros and cons of living there?

Yes, I live in Dubai. It is the best city in the world with endless possibilities, so there are many pros. As my kids live in the UK, I would say the most significant con is not getting to see them every day.

Could you advise five must-visit places in Dubai for avid partygoers?

Everything depends on the kind of experience you are looking for. Dubai has them all. As for me, I have to go for a few of our venues, either of the Lock Stock and Barrels, and you are in for a crazy night… Have the family with you, you have to try out Wavehouse at Atlantis the Palm, romantic dinner, Asia Asia in Pier 7 Dubai Marina, Whites Club, in my humble opinion is one of the best clubs in the world And last but not least — STK in Rixos or at the Address Hotel downtown. Friday brunch there is an unforgettable experience.

Do you travel a lot? What type of tourism do you prefer and why?

I travel a lot, but mostly for business and to see my boys, who live in the UK. When I do take some time off, I head to the Maldives to dive. Diving is the one time I switch off from work and get away from the hustle and bustle of running a hospitality company!

What is your definition of an entrepreneurial spirit? Is it an innate quality or a skill that can be acquired?

Doing something you absolutely adore. Then is not “work” is your passion, it is your life, it is in your soul! I believe to my core, we are all unique geniuses. The key is to find yours. And once you find it — live, sleep, and breathe it. Make it the first thing you think about when you wake up and the last thing you think about before you go to sleep. This is a skill you can learn when you find your passion.  Remove “failure” and “quitting” from your vocabulary. Until you quit you just practicing. I have never quit anything in my life, it may not have worked and we had to close it, but it was a learning experience and never a failure!

How did you get the idea to open LOCK, STOCK & BARREL in Kazan? Why did you choose this city instead of Moscow or St. Petersburg, which would be more obvious?

A very large Turkish conglomerate, who is opening hotels across Russia, approached us about a possible business venture. After meeting with them, we forged a great relationship and wanted to help them develop their hotel brands. Their first opportunity arose in Kazan, which is why we currently have two venues, but we do have plans to branch into Moscow and St. Petersburg.

The bar in Kazan can be a great start. Could you tell us a little more about what other projects from The Solutions Leisure Group await Russia?

We have two killer brands in Kazan, Asia Asia, and Lock, Stock & Barrel, which are two of our most successful venues in Dubai. Given their reception in Kazan, it is clear that the Russian market likes the brands so naturally, we would love to open these in both Moscow and St. Peterburg.

What industries and businesses will be most popular in the coming decade?

Climate change is going to have a significant influence on business and industries, so at this point, it is hard to tell what areas will be the most popular in the coming decade. We are not looking after our planet, but it’s our home and we don’t have another one. I think and hope for the next ten years we will see a massive shift in the global desire to protect our planet. There will be many opportunities within this.

2020 for you began with the release of your book “When I Woke Up”. How did you decide to present the story of your life in the book?

Initially, I was approached by someone, who had heard my story and wanted to write a book about it. However, I felt that a particular person was not the right one to tell my story. I then suggested to my colleague, friend, and life coach Carolyn Coe, that she should write it. I promised myself if I were going to do this, I would have to be brutally honest, that would be the only way the book could help people, to build them, to show there is always hope, and while you have air in your lungs — you can go again! For me to be so honest it had to be with somebody I trusted with my soul. That was Carolyn Coe.

How did you start working with Carolyn Coe? What was the writing experience like?

I first met Carolyn in 2015 when she was working as a life coach. I was going through a lot personally, and someone recommended I get in touch with her. I cannot describe how much she helped me, and five years on, we still regularly have life coaching sessions. Carolyn now heads up our HR department at Solutions Leisure and is an integral part of the business. We spent two and a half years writing “When I Woke Up”, and it was a healing experience for me. It required me to reflect on times in my life that I have always tried to forget.

What are the key points and messages of “When I Woke Up”?

I wanted to give a purpose to the pain I went through and the pain I caused to others. Ultimately, I want to be able to help people and show everyone that they can overcome any adversity in their lives. If I can inspire even one person to lead a better life and not make the mistakes I have made, I will be happy! I am covered in scars, both physically and emotionally, my plan is to the guild and help people before they have to face some of the things I did.

As an experienced entrepreneur, what advice can you give to those who are just starting their business?

Find something you love, find something you absolutely adore, embrace the tough days. The 20-hour shifts for weeks, months, and even years on end, it is meant to be hard. Find great people, people you can trust. Never make money the purpose, make it the byproduct of doing something you love. If you love it you will be passionate if you are passionate eventually you will become great at it, and if you’re great at it — you will make the money. Money comes last, never first.

If you have air in your lungs, you can always go again. Failure is only a word used to describe something. You only fail when you quit! Never quit! It is all part of the journey, and all roads are valuable roads. They may not seem it at the time, but they all brought you to the point you are today.

Paul Evans, Marina Slobodyanik
Paul Evans