In each Wear Business we sit down for a cuppa and a natter with a local business leader.
In our latest issue, we spoke to The Looking Glass CEO Harry Collinson…
Name: Harry Collinson
Organisation: CEO of The Looking Glass and Cafe 1851, director of Pandora Sunderland.
When I was at school I wanted to be: A businessman just like my dad. He left Binns as a watchmaker and took a risk to start his own business in the city in 1981. I remember being young and he was in a shirt and tie welcoming everybody who came into his workshop. That’s where my love of great customer service grew from.
Best career decision: Leaving Nissan at 19 to be a trained watchmaker with my dad. This only lasted a year, then we opened our first retail store in Waterloo Place when I was 19 and my sister was 17 – a great learning curve and built solid foundations.
My business mantra: Be passionate about what you do and try and surround yourself with the best people possible who will help drive your business forward. I’m always open to ideas and love to learn and often the answers lie within your team. I love to let them be creative with ideas.
Greatest achievement: After my family, my greatest achievement is surviving and opening a new business during a pandemic and retaining our talented teams. I also have to mention being invited to the Queen’s Garden Party to represent my city for services to business. A very proud moment.
The biggest frustration I encounter in Sunderland: Trying to get the people of Sunderland to shout out about how great the city is and to remember our proud history and heritage and what we still have to offer.
The best part of Sunderland’s business community and the BID: Sunderland businesses are very creative and resilient and support each other through hard times and good times. I was involved in setting up the Sunderland Business Improvement District seven years ago. This is a fantastic initiative to support all kinds of businesses, really help to market and draw footfall to the city centre.
Four words to describe me: All in or nothing.
The local charity I love: Red Sky Foundation.
The best part of my job: Speaking to customers and seeing them enjoy themselves in our venues.
Downside: Not enough hours in the week.
Covid challenges: I learned a lot about myself in lockdown. It gave me a lot of time to reflect and I realised there would be opportunities, hence opening Cafe 1851. I was always worrying about how the teams were coping through lockdown but the most positive thing is we retained all of our talented staff.
Best holiday: Surprising my wife with a trip to St Lucia for her 40th birthday.
When I’m not working I love to: Spend time with the family. We also have a Cockapoo called Buddy who we love to take out for walks, so many amazing walks across the city and views to take in.
My guilty pleasures: Having a cold beer, eating chocolate watching The Sopranos.
Not many people know this: I was a grassroots football coach for six years. I coached my son’s football team, Ryhope Colliery Welfare, and I now scout for Middlesbrough FC on weekends. Also, I’m an adopted Mackem – I was born in Lambeth and lived there for two years until my dad brought us back home.
In retirement: I’ve always set a goal to open a beach bar in the Caribbean somewhere, like the Bahamas. I can see a Looking Glass on the beach, I love the sunshine and those views of a turquoise ocean every day will do for me!