Henry Yap, managing director of Oriental food firm Wing Yip, hails the ‘city of a thousand trades’ while urging even more support for new investment and enterprise
Please introduce yourself
I’m Henry Yap, the managing director of Wing Yip, a 44-year-old family business based in Nechells, Birmingham.
What does your company do?
Our superstores offer the largest range of authentic Chinese and Oriental ingredients and groceries which we supply to the catering trade, as well as food enthusiasts who are looking for something special. With more than 4,500 products, we stock Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Filipino and Malaysian foods. Our sites in Birmingham, Manchester and two in London include restaurants and other services as part of a mini-Chinatown experience.
Is Brum a good place to do business?
Birmingham is a great place, full of great people to do business with. Having said that, we all create our own opportunities and our own luck by engaging with our fellow Brummies and the wider region.
What are your biggest gripes with it?
In the words of the song, I like to “accentuate the positive” by focusing on the many good things which are happening. Nevertheless, we do need to work together to do the right things and in the words of President Kennedy: “Geography has made us neighbours. History has made us friends. Economics has made us partners. What unites us is far greater than what divides us.”
How do you feel your clients see the city?
I feel that Birmingham’s motto “Forward” nicely sums up people’s view of the city as a place to build a better life for their families and themselves, where opportunities exist for those who look ahead and work hard to get there.
Does Birmingham offer any particular advantages for business?
Birmingham has it all, including a sense of humour. We are the ‘north of the south’ and the ‘south of the north’, which means we are ideally placed when it comes to transport, access to markets and, of course, opportunities. Birmingham’s historic outlook as the ‘city of a thousand trades’ means that the same spirit of industry and enterprise together with our diversity makes a winning combination.
What should our priorities be as a city?
Building for the future, supporting economic growth, creating opportunities for individuals as well as attracting investors and new enterprises – all of these things are very important.
If you had £1bn to spend on improving Brum what would you do with it?
Sometimes it’s the little things which make the biggest differences to individuals and businesses. So apart from spending on the transport infrastructure, I’d use it to tackle ‘grass roots’ issues which restrict growth, targeting resources where they create the most opportunities as well as building a skills and people base which is second to none. This would make Birmingham the destination of choice for inward investment and new industries. To quote Henry Ford: “Coming together is a beginning. Staying together is progress. Working together is success.”