Leanne Fawcett

Phileas Fogg entrepreneur Keith pens his own memoirs

NORTH East entrepreneur Keith Gill, one of the founders of the snack brand Phileas Fogg, has written his memoirs, detailing his life and career spanning five decades.

The memoirs are in two parts.

Taking It Head On: Memoirs of a County Durham Miner’s Son is Part 1 and was penned during the months of lockdown. Keith started practicing his writing over a decade ago through travellogs, blogs and Facebook posts.

The 70-year-old, who is Durham born and bred, now spends his time running a luxury bed and breakfast, The Old Post Office in Lanchester, with his wife Pauline.

However, it is his involvement in the creation of the Phileas Fogg snack brand – which transformed the adult snack market and put Consett, where the brand was created and developed, on the map – for which he is best known.

Boosted by memorable TV advertising campaigns, some of which included the fictional Consett International Airport and Punjab Airways, Phileas Fogg became a household staple thanks to its ‘grown up’ textures and flavours which gave consumers a taste of the world.

A decade after founding it, Keith Gill and his business partners sold the business in a multi-million-pound deal.

Keith said: “I had thought about writing a book for many years and had actually done a fair bit of work on it in stages but never got round to completing it. During lockdown, when the B&B was forced to close, I had more spare time so decided to make it my project. At that stage it was something to keep me occupied and the plan was the finished book was something my family and I could enjoy.

“However, word started spreading that I was penning my memoirs and friends and acquaintances got in touch to see if they could get a copy when it was finished. That’s when I decided to make it a proper published book which would be available to buy.

“I must admit it was a nerve-wracking experience. As a first-time writer my biggest concern was the quality of my work, but the early drafts received positive feedback, so I carried on.

“Throughout the writing of the book, I was so disciplined, setting myself targets for how many words I wanted to draft each week, and speaking to friends and family to make sure everything I was recollecting was accurate.”

Keith drew on the support of his Phileas Fogg and Tudor Crisps business partner Roger McKechnie to ensure the details of their time together were correct – they were, because as Keith says he has “been blessed with a good memory”.

Taking It Head On: Memoirs of a County Durham Miner’s Son, details Keith’s journey from his birth at Dryburn Hospital in Durham; his childhood growing up in villages across County Durham; and his school and college years.

Keith also relives his first steps into employment and being selected by betting company Ladbrokes for a six-week ‘schooling’ programme, which saw him finish third of 200 recruits nationally and be put through a management training programme.

Finally in 1977 Keith started at Tudor Crisps in Peterlee, which as he recalls was a ‘wow’ moment when he eventually discovered marketing and it discovered him. Keith worked for the company until 1982 when he left and it was from here that the Phileas Fogg journey began.

Keith added: “Penning my memoirs has been such a terrific experience for me. I am fortunate and blessed to have had some great support along the way, which has certainly helped me as it’s up there with the hardest things I’ve done.

“I just used Amazon as it mitigates the upfront costs but have been delighted with the reviews and 5 star ratings achieved in the first 6 weeks of the launch and appear to have found my ‘writing voice’

“If my entrepreneurial journey can inspire and enthuse the next generation, who can see that anything is possible with hard work and determination, then I will be even more proud to have helped but my proudest achievement is having helped create over 400 jobs and livelihoods for families across both parts of my overall journey in my native North East”.

TMD Friction donates £1,000 to Warrington hospice to mark H&S milestone

TMD Friction in Warrington has donated £1,000 to St Rocco’s Hospice as it marks a major health and safety milestone.

The site has recorded 1,000 days without any time being lost to accidents and as a thank you the company agreed to make the cash donation to a charity chosen by the employees on site.

They chose the hospice, which provides round the clock care to patients who have incurable and terminal illnesses, as many have had direct or indirect support from the facility.

Colin Andrews, Logistics Manager at TMD Friction’s Warrington facility, believes the site’s success in achieving the health and safety milestone is down to the commitment and work ethic of the 34 staff who work there.

Colin, who has been with the company for 38 years, said: “It really is a fantastic achievement to reach 1,000 days without losing any time due to accidents and the credit has to go to the team on site, who pride themselves on their high standards and organisation throughout the site.

“Health and safety is something we take incredibly seriously – for us it’s not just about what needs to be done, but the added extras that we can introduce which ensure that this site maintains our impeccable health and safety record – for example we’ve added safety features onto our fleet of forklift trucks, which isn’t a legal requirement, and our supplier tells us we’re the only customer in the UK that has done this. That’s something we’re so very proud of.

“When we reached the 1,000 days milestone and the company said they would recognise this achievement with a £1,000 donation to a charity of our choice, the guys straight away chose St Rocco’s Hospice in Warrington.

“It’s a charity we have supported in the past and one which not only provides a fantastic service to people across our community but one which means so much to the staff here – many of whom have friends or family members that have received care from the dedicated team there.”

A spokeswoman for St Rocco’s Hospice welcomed the donation from TMD Friction, as the hospice relies in large part to donations and fundraising campaigns. She said: “We are incredibly grateful to TMD Friction for their very generous donation.

“Donations like this are vital in us maintaining the high quality of care we are able to provide to our patients, and the support we can offer to their families. Thank you to the staff at TMD for choosing to support St Rocco’s Hospice, and we congratulate them on the health and safety milestone they’ve achieved.”

TMD Friction’s Warrington warehouse opened in 1993, originally supplying parts to depots around the country. Today it is a central distribution hub for the UK, servicing around 400 customers.

Tom Russell, UK Operations Manager at TMD Friction, said: “The guys at Warrington have worked so hard to ensure they maintain incredibly high health and safety standards, going over and above what’s required and expected to introduce systems and processes which are being highlighted across the group as models of best practice.”

Mullen Stoker on why people do business with people

It’s long been acknowledged that the key to a successful business is the relationships between staff and clients.

People do business with people after all.

And that’s certainly an ethos that sits at the very heart of Mullen Stoker, the Durham-based chartered accountancy and IT firm, as director Stephen Green explains…

When Mullen Stoker founders Neil Mullen and Gary Stoker launched their accountancy and IT firm 11 years ago, they were determined to do things differently.

They wanted to created a firm that put honesty, integrity and the personal touch at the heart of their client offering – a business that was built on relationships.

And that’s exactly what they’ve achieved.

Many of their clients – which range from sole traders to SMEs and large corporates – have been with them from day one. And the new business the Mandale Business Park firm brings in is usually through recommendation and word of mouth.

Director Stephen Green said: “We like to think that at Mullen Stoker we do things differently.

“It’s not about the thrill of the chase or making promises we don’t stick to. It’s about looking after our clients from day one, with the personal touch that we were determined would be at the heart of every client relationship.

“For us, it’s not about our clients feeling valued at the start – it’s about them feeling loved all the time. They have a dedicated contact from day one, and no matter when they need to speak to that person, they are available.

“People do business with people after all and that’s something we never lose sight of. We pride ourselves on the fact that when a client comes to Mullen Stoker they stay with us and have no hesitation in recommending us to their own friends and work colleagues.

“That’s something that cannot be underestimated.”

Dave Gardener, owner of long-term Mullen Stoker client Peter Dodd Funeral Directors in Sunderland, said: “Mullen Stoker are fantastic because they speak my language which is so important.

“They make the whole process so simple for me which is great because it is a minefield and there are so many areas we have to keep on top of.

“I always feel like nothing is too much trouble for them, that they’re always happy to go above and beyond for us and are on the other end of the phone if we have any questions we need help with.

“It’s for that reason that I would class them as friends as well as our accountants and for a small business like ours, that is crucial.”

Mullen Stoker was founded in 2020 and provides specialist accountancy and IT services. It currently employs 15 people with further plans to grow in 2021.