The New Year's Honours list 2018 awarded OBE’s to garden centre owner, Colin Squire, and to the founder and owner of Premier Decorations, John Athwal.
Their citations read: -
Mr Colin Stuart SQUIRE – OBE, For services to the Horticultural Industry and to charity.
Mr Jarnail Singh ATHWAL – OBE Founder and Managing Director, Premier Decorations Ltd. For services to Business and charity.
Congratulations to both these deserving award winners.
John Athwal's life details
John Athwal is involved with a number of charitable organisations including the Make a Wish Foundation which grants wishes to children and young people with life-threatening conditions, where he spent 14 years on the fundraising committee. He was also treasurer and previously chairman of The Fence Club, a members’ only club for people in the toy industry which raises money for sick and disadvantaged children in the UK.
John comments: “Receiving an OBE in the Queen’s 2018 New Years Honours list is a fantastic tribute and I am overwhelmed to have been recognised and nominated by colleagues and peers. Life has not always been as easy as it is today; having arrived at the age of eight in the UK in 1961 with my parents from very humble beginnings in Punjab, I have embraced the opportunities this country has offered me, and it only feels right to give a little something back to society.”
John’s entrepreneurial skills unearthed at college at just 17 years old, where much against his parents’ wishes, he formed a business with a friend as a music promoter hiring bands for the local town hall and student’s union. His parent’s disapproval of this venture, which involved late nights and selling alcoholic beverages going completely against his Asian culture, led John to run away from home – a decision that he now regrets because of the worry and anxiety it caused his family; but which also altered the course of his life.
As a self-confessed workaholic, John landed a job as a trainee manager in a filling station and, in the days when these generally only sold fuel, recognised the potential to stock add-on merchandise such as jackets, briefcases, garden accessories, bread, milk – in fact anything that caught the customer’s eye. This business model proved so successful that it expanded to filling stations across the country and having been promoted to marketing manager John approached the board of directors to establish a business wholesaling non-petrol product to other filling stations. At the business’s peak it was selling to 2,500 filling stations in the UK.
At the age of 29, John was appointed to the Board of Directors and established an importing arm for the company, and a couple of years later, a friend approached John with an order to supply Christmas decorations to Asda – as his friend did not have the funds to fulfil the order himself. Travelling to factories in Taiwan and discovering the considerable excitement involved in this type of product, John decided that this was where his future lay. He formed Premier Decorations Ltd – the UK’s first Christmas brand and one which remains a market leader for this type of product today.