Cymru Am Byth
Proud Kurd and adopted Welshman Agit Ceviz talks business, Wales and hopes for the future
What’s your background?
I was born in south east Turkey in a Kurdish community, and arrived in the UK in 1996 to study International Business Management at what was then the University of Glamorgan. After graduating I settled in Pontyclun and started working at Bosch Siemens as a Stock Controller. Having fallen in love with Wales, I decided not to work abroad, which was a lucrative option, but to stay and make it my home. After Bosch, my career took me to Panasonic in 2002, as a buyer. It was a great company to work for, with plenty of international travel (HK, Singapore, China and all over Europe), amazing training and some great managers, both British and Japanese, from whom I learnt an enormous amount about running a business.
Is this what spurred you to start setting up businesses?
I guess I always had an entrepreneurial spirit so I didn’t need much encouraging but yes, Panasonic gave me the skills, experience and confidence needed to make a success of it. I think working a for a good large company, allows you to learn and broaden skills that will always put you in good stead for a successful career if you choose to take advantage of them. At first, I wasn’t a full-time businessman. My first venture was in 2005 when, with some business partners I helped to set up Troy, which was the first restaurant of its kind on City Road, with a proper Ocakbashi grill. I then set up Laviva which was followed by a meat product distribution and wholesale company supplying restaurants, takeaways and bars. It became the fourth largest business of its kind in Wales, employing fifteen people, before I sold it in 2013. I’ve also invested in property, mainly back in Turkey, which has been interesting to say the least.
And now you’re at Chai in Roath?
Yes, an old friend Ray Sanddhu launched Chaiholics as a Chai house in 2014 and he asked me to come on board to move it to the next level. I couldn’t resist the opportunity to get back into the restaurant industry and I saw that Chai had tremendous potential. There were two branches, one in Cardiff, one in Singapore both specialising solely in Chai. In 2015 we added a lunch menu and a full a la carte evening menu that specialises in authentic Indian food, the type of which you’d see in Indian hotels, homes and street markets. Since turning it into an Indian Bistro, Chai has gone from strength to strength, recently winning a Peoples Choice award for best restaurant in Wales. We’ve expanded the team and have a plan to roll out more over the next couple of years.
You’re also an active member of Plaid Cymru, what made you get involved?
Wales has been good to me and I’ve chosen to make it my home so I always felt I should make a contribution. As someone who has come from circumstances that have not been easy, where Kurds in Turkey struggle to make a good living and have no voice, I realise just how fortunate I am to live in a country where the opposite is true. Because of this, I have always wanted to give something back. I do this in two ways. Firstly, I help the Turkish and Kurdish community in Wales, on a day to day level and having represented them at the European Parliament in Brussels. Secondly, through active support of Plaid which is increasingly important to me.
What was the appeal of Plaid?
I first got involved in 2005, through my work on behalf of the Kurdish community in the European Parliament. They seemed to be the only party that genuinely acknowledged the Kurdish issue in Turkey. It quickly became clear that they were also the only party that really represented the best interests of Wales and want only what’s best for Wales. Since I’m as passionate about my adopted home in Wales as I am about my own background, it was natural for me to align with Plaid. I also believe that they’re the only party that cares about Welsh businesses, so there’s some self-interest there too!
What have you done to help the cause?
Initially, I just attended conferences, got to know some of the individuals and learnt more about their ideas and principles. I started campaigning in local council elections and then over the years my involvement has grown. I’m regularly pounding the streets campaigning, organising local election meetings, liaising with local businesses to canvas support and find out what matters to them etc.
We recently hosted the launch of the General Election Manifesto at Chai, which was attended by the Chief Executive, local candidates and filmed by the BBC. Ultimately, I’d like to see Plaid get a majority in the Assembly so it’s in a position to determine Wales’ future, push our case at Westminster much more effectively and obtain much more autonomy, so we can rebuild relations with Europe, with access to the single market for example.
I’ve never forgotten where I’m from and the lucky opportunities I’ve had. I just want to make sure that others have the same opportunities, whether they be Kurdish, European or Welsh and that’s what drives me.