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Former football player ventures into business


HEALTHY TAKEAWAYS:
Jhai Dhillon (right) with his brother and business partner Simmy Dhillon
HEALTHY TAKEAWAYS: Jhai Dhillon (right) with his brother and business partner Simmy Dhillon

by NADEEM BADSHAH 

JHAI DHILLON has swapped a professional career on the football pitch for pitching in the business world.

The former Chelsea academy player has formed a winning partnership with his brother Simmy to set up a meal preparation firm. The brother’s company Rice n Spice (RNS) delivers cooked meals to customers with access to nutrition experts.

Its clients including Leicester City midfielder Demarai Gray and Wycombe Wanderers’ Adebayo Akinfenwa. And the start of the year is their busiest time with more people looking to eat healthily.

Jhai left Stevenage football club to focus on some new goals as an entrepreneur.

The 24-year-old said the bond with Simmy, 22, has helped them form a successful team since the launch in 2017. He told Eastern Eye: “A lot of people say you shouldn’t work with family and friends and mix business. But literally we are best friends as well as brothers.

“If people don’t understand what their role is there is a conflict of interest but we accept we have different strengths in different areas where we are both in charge. He’s fully focused on the marketing side, whatever he says in that respect goes.

“I have an input but in terms of operations that is more my area. It’s been good. I wouldn’t want to go on this journey with anyone else apart from him. I really enjoy it.

“If we have an argument half an hour later it would be like the argument never happened because we are so close. We’re both so aware of the other person.”

The brothers honed their entrepreneurship skills from a young age where they bought sweets and sold them in school to classmates.

Their meal business www.rnsmeals.com now has 16 staff in Hertfordshire and uses social media platforms including their Instagram account @rice_n_spice_.

The expansion has allowed Jhai to return to playing non-league football as a semi-professional with Hitchin Town.

Another vital member of the squad is the boys’ mother who has inspired their drive and work ethic. Jhai added: “She used to work part-time. She is able to retire from her previous job and work with us. She can have more of an input.

“She doesn’t have to work now, she chooses to and helps as and when we need it. Her job at Tesco brought us two up. She can have a direct impact, she gave all of that up to bring us up.

“This is bringing something back to her.”

Jhai was the winner of the first Asian Star competition run by Chelsea football club in 2009. He played football full time for Stevenage FC on a scholarship after his GCSE exams. The defender was offered a professional contract and stayed at the club for four years.

But he said transferring from football to business was not a tough decision due to a lack of first-team opportunities. “I got to the point where I was a pro and was training but wasn’t playing on the weekend.

“The manager at the time wasn’t that interested in playing youth players, it was frustrating. I just thought why can’t I just enjoy non-league, play every week, train and be part time, and also work alongside it where the business came into it.

“I wasn’t enjoying it as much. It wasn’t that difficult – we are employing lots of people, which I wouldn’t have been able to do if I was in League One for example so I feel I have made an impact. I left and went back to play in a non-league team and the enjoyment came back.”

And he has urged young footballers to have a back up plan for when they hang up their boots.

“At League Two or League One level you don’t earn great money. When you retire you still have to work. One tackle could end your career and you’re going to still need to do something after that. I would encourage people to continue to study.

“You train 9am until midday then you’re done. You have a lot of free time to do Open University or whatever you want.”