CO-FOUNDER & DIRECTOR
BODA SWEDISH BARS & RESTAURANTS GROUP
In 2003, Swedish natives Anna and Mike decided to take a year out and do something completely different. They quit their jobs in Stockholm, and after spending a weekend in Edinburgh, decided to move to Scotland. They had always dreamed of starting their own business, and although it was not the main reason for moving, they hit on an idea soon after arriving in Scotland, and opened their first community-centric bar, Boda, on Edinburgh’s Leith Walk. They found that the people of Edinburgh really embraced the Swedish way of life.
Since then, the Boda family has grown to 7 venues – Joseph Pearce’s, Sofi’s Southside, Sofi’s, Victoria, Akva, Hemma and Harry’s Bar – with 110 members of staff. It has truly become a treasured part of the Edinburgh bar scene, bringing the Scandinavian style, tongue-in-cheek humour and more-the-merrier culture that the group is so well-known for.
“Ten years ago the pubs in Edinburgh were rough, dark places with covered windows, fluorescent lighting and TVs on the walls showing football. Unless you were a man and a regular, you didn’t feel welcome. There was nowhere for women or somewhere everyone could hang out. When we opened Boda, our first bar, there was a queue outside. In just three months we had made back our investment.
In November 2018, Boda Group bought the iconic Harry’s Bar in Edinburgh’s West End along with sister bar Southside. Both venues had been operating as social enterprises and Anna & Mike wanted to build on this innovative approach in the hospitality sector.
“We have a priority to train people who normally would not get a job within hospitality, that can be young people with difficult backgrounds who have difficulty getting a regular work, to people from minority groups who have a problem with getting a foot in the door of the job market for different reasons.
Our training, ‘Boda Competence’ features everything from very basic people skills to front of house, bar, and back bar, as well the whole range of kitchen work. We want to show people how you can create a career path within hospitality and that everyone doesn’t need to be an IT professional to have a career.”
Responsible for operations for a fast growing company, Anna knows only too well both the opportunities and challenges facing business owners and leaders, not least the impact of Brexit. She recently appeared on Sky News and is regularly heard on Radio Scotland.
“Recruitment is becoming harder, it’s so difficult to get kitchen porters. No one wants to do it. I have tried to recruit through job centres, the Princes Trust … you name it. But people don’t show up. There are not so many Europeans now looking for jobs. They wanted to learn English and they worked hard because they were motivated. We are certainly missing them.”