Mark Dolder

Shaping Young Minds at Dame Allan’s with Mark Dolder

Mark Dolder, former Dame Allan’s student and CEO of Bazaar Group, on his inspiring Lecture Series at the school…

From his formative years at Dame Allan’s Schools to his dynamic career in retail, Mark Dolder, CEO of Bazaar Group, exemplifies the transformative power of education, hard work and community support…

What can you tell us about The Lectures series you’re currently supporting at Dame Allan’s?

The Lectures isn’t your typical speaker event; it’s an exciting platform where senior school students and their families get to hear from accomplished professionals across various fields.

From captivating talks by international speakers, to insightful discussions led by successful entrepreneurs and business leaders, it offers students a unique opportunity to gain valuable insights and inspiration for their future endeavours.

In a nutshell, it’s a dynamic blend of wisdom-sharing and interactive engagement designed to ignite curiosity and foster personal growth among the students!

Why was it important for you to work with the school on this project?

Collaborating with Dame Allan’s on The Lectures series is a meaningful opportunity to give back to my alma mater, support the development of future leaders and contribute to the enrichment of educational experiences for current students.

I understand the importance of mentorship and exposure to diverse perspectives in shaping young minds. By bringing inspiring speakers to Dame Allan’s, we aim to broaden students’ horizons, spark curiosity and instil a sense of ambition and possibility.

It’s a way to show my appreciation to the school that played a significant role in shaping my journey while also investing in the potential of future generations. Having personally benefited greatly from this, I’m passionate about encouraging others to give back too.

Mark Dolder

How do you look back on your time at school, and how do you think it has shaped you as an individual and in business?

Despite not being the stereotypical academic standout, the holistic education I received at Dame Allan’s certainly equipped me with skills and values that have influenced my approach to business and life.

Its supportive environment instilled in me huge confidence and a sense of resilience and determination that has been crucial in navigating the challenges and setbacks inherent in the business world, while the values of integrity, discipline and high standards have served as guiding principles.

An emphasis on teamwork and collaboration through extracurricular activities, especially sports, instilled in me an appreciation for the power of effective leadership and cohesive teamwork.

In business, I’ve found that success often hinges on the ability to collaborate effectively with colleagues, clients and stakeholders towards common goals. The interpersonal skills and teamwork ethos cultivated at school have been instrumental in building strong professional relationships and driving collective success in business.

Can you tell us about your career journey to ‘the now’?

After leaving school, I secured a sought-after place on Marks and Spencer’s management training scheme. During 14 years with the company, I worked across 14 stores in operational management roles, culminating in taking senior responsibility for M&S’ second-largest store in Manchester.

I then took a job as Sales Director of Norweb Retail, where I spearheaded the growth of the business from £90m turnover to £270m turnover in just three years.

It was on returning to the region in the late 90s, I worked as Sales Director for The Edinburgh Woollen Mill and after we sold that business, I transitioned into entrepreneurship in 2004 joining my wife Jayne, who had created a beanbag business from her kitchen table!

With perseverance, long hours and the support of family, we surpassed expectations, achieving significant milestones in our first year of trading. This early success set the blueprint for a business driven by hard work, a ‘can do’ attitude and a genuine commitment to our employees.

Today, Bazaar Group has firmly established itself as the category leader in soft seating, headquartered in Cramlington with a turnover of £15m, growing quickly having recently opened a 4,000 sqm European manufacturing and distribution facility in Hamburg.

How did it feel to be able to set up such a successful business in the region?

The North East is a brilliant place to grow a business – we’ve been able to attract people with the talent, energy and pride in their work. Coupled with this, the region’s network of suppliers and professional services firms share our dedication to quality and embrace a culture of positivity and good humour.

This collaborative environment provided the ideal backdrop for our business to flourish both regionally and internationally.

And finally, what are your three luxe things in life?

Drive – I have been blessed with decent energy and health and I have my fair share of ego and insecurity. So, I’m constantly looking to prove to myself and those around me that we can always achieve more and do better.

The challenge is to make that journey enjoyable and rewarding for all. Curiosity – I’m naturally nosey when it comes to people and fascinated in the world and what makes it go round. So, travelling to far flung places and being the dimmest person in the room tend to provide me with joy and future inspiration.

Family and friends – I’m really fortunate that I like all of my family, even ‘the outlaws’! They are my ultimate raison d’etre and support. I’m equally fortunate to have a variety of interests so watching sports, going to gigs or generally socialising with work colleagues and friends is really important to me.