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When seven-year-old Vipin Joshi arrived in the UK, he didn’t speak any English. Over his 45 plus years here in Bradford, he’s run many successful business ventures, had a triple heart bypass, spent 14 years on Bradford Trident’s Board and developed a broad Yorkshire accent.

Here Vipin shares why BD5 is the greatest place to be and why he wanted to be Better Start Bradford’s Chair.

Vipin’s story

I’ve been in the BD5 area for over 45 years. When I came to Bradford I could not speak English, so before I went into mainstream education I went to a school on Mill Lane for people who couldn’t speak English who came from overseas. I spent a few years there developing my Yorkshire accent!

After Mill Lane, I went to Priestman and Buttershaw schools. I also joined the Boy’s Brigade (I did start with the local cub scouts, but they didn’t do football!). I was with the Boy’s Brigade for five years and as a kid this was a great place to meet others from different communities. This was in the 1980’s so it wasn’t as mixed or open as we are now.

I learnt a lot at the Boy’s Brigade about the importance and value of local communities. It was a great meeting place and a lot of the people I met still live in the area. We used all the local facilities such as the swimming baths at Wibsey and the Parkside Community Centre with the five-a-side pitches, which are still open today.

I’ve been very fortunate in the last 15 years to see what has changed in BD5

When we initially came to live in BD5 it was a really rundown area and I’ve been very fortunate in the last 15 years to see what has changed.

When I left school, I trained as a fabrication engineer with sheet metal work, and at one point I worked for the council doing technical drawings. At the same time I ran market stalls at Cannon Mills, selling everything from food to household items for 50p, way before the pound shops we see today. This taught me a lot about dealing with customers; getting to know what they wanted and trying to deliver it. I learnt these customer service skills not through training but the hard way, actually standing there trying to sell them something.

I also have experience in food manufacturing. We made frozen Asian ready meals and supplied independent retailers. We opened our first kitchens on Legrams Lane and slowly grew the business from there. We had support from the Economic Development Unit based at Jacob’s Well who helped start-up businesses. It was a great way to get into networking and get some support from the Government. This was my first contact with an outside agency and with their support we got our business running.

A few years later a building came up for sale on Hudson Street. I really wanted this particular building as it was where my mum used to work as a sewing machinist. I went to buy it at auction and ended up bidding against an organisation called Bradford Trident, who were outbidding me. Thankfully I eventually won the bid, bought the property, renovated it and put my food manufacturing business in there, probably half a mile from where I was brought up as a kid!

Through that, and through joining organisations such as Yorkshire Forward and the Department of Trade and Industry, we built up a massive network and from there, as a small Bradford company, we were exporting to the United Emirates, Portugal and Spain, all with the help of these little networks. That’s what we did for a living up until 2005 when I sold it due to health reasons.

I was very lucky to survive because I had a triple heart bypass at age 39 and I was very fortunate to walk away from it and I wanted to take full advantage of that.

I wanted to be able to give something back…

I’m now a commercial property landlord, which gives me a lot more leisure time and the way I fill that is by helping new-start businesses. After bidding against Bradford Trident, I thought ‘I’ve got to see what this organisation does’ so I went along to some of their business forums and thought this was a good networking opportunity. From there they had elections to join the Bradford Trident Board and I thought ‘I want to be able to give something back’, so I went and joined and thankfully got elected. I keep getting re-elected every couple of years – they wouldn’t let me go and I have now been there for over 15 years.

Because of my networking experience and commitment to building and developing successful partnerships with a range of stakeholders, I feel I bring a lot to the Better Start Bradford Board. It is very important that local communities are given the opportunity and voice to be active stakeholders in the strategic decision-making process of Better Start Bradford and we have certainly achieved a community run strategic Board in partnership with other stakeholders.

I believe it is important that we give all children the best opportunity to grow up healthy

I believe it is important that we give all children the best opportunity to grow up healthy and be able to take the full opportunities of a healthy lifestyle, which can then lead to getting the full benefits of an education which will help with their aspirations for a better lifestyle. Our Better Start Bradford projects have been designed to change the lives of young children for generations to come. Through community champions and volunteers, they will continue to deliver what they have learned from the courses being run today by Better Start Bradford, and going forward with research which we will have carried out alongside the projects.

I try not to have a particular favourite Better Start Bradford project as I view all the projects to be very important, but of the projects which I have been involved in up to the present time, I think HENRY is very important as it is not only helping the children, but it’s also about speaking to parents who have been involved with the project, so it helps the whole family.

I love being in BD5. I think it is the greatest place to be in. I’m proud of what I have achieved because I came to this country as a seven-year old with no English and, touch wood, I’ve been lucky. My father was a bus driver and my mum was a sewing machinist and we have done very well and I’ve been very fortunate that I’ve been able to walk away from a life-threatening condition and say, ‘you know what – I don’t want this anymore – I want to give something back’.

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