Coffee Republic Founder, Sahar Hashemi OBE confirmed as keynote speaker

Leading entrepreneur, Sahar Hashemi OBE will encourage Northern Ireland’s young leaders to rise to the challenge at this year’s sixth annual conference. This hugely popular conference, organised by Young Leaders NI, is aimed at encouraging and inspiring the leaders of tomorrow across industry and professional services in Northern Ireland – through education, sharing ideas and creating personal development opportunities.

Taking place on Friday 19th May at Riddel Hall, Belfast, the event is sponsored by Herbert Smith Freehills and associate sponsors Abacus Professional Recruitment, Progressive and KPMG. Sahar Hashemi will head up an impressive line-up of speakers that include, Alan Sugar’s original right-hand woman on the Apprentice and Herbert Smith Freehills alumna, Margaret Mountford; founder of Peace Tech in Northern Ireland and the recently named top 25 most influential entrepreneurs in the Smith & Williamson Power 100, Henry Joseph-Grant; and leading NI fitness entrepreneur and author Phil Graham. Mentalist David Meade will also be returning as compere. The conference will bring together over 220 young leaders to share best practice and learn from these established business leaders and from each other. It is anticipated that this year’s event will once again be a sell-out.

Young Leaders NI is a group formed by the Junior Chamber International Belfast, the Northern Ireland Young Solicitors’ Association, the Chartered Institute of Public Relations Northern Ireland and the Chartered Accountants Ireland Ulster Society Young Professionals Group.

Keynote speaker, Sahar Hashemi, founded Coffee Republic, the UK’s first US-style coffee bar chain with her brother and built it into one of the UK’s most recognised high   street   brands   with 110 bars and a turnover of £30m. In 2005, she founded Skinny    Candy, a    brand of sugar free sweets, labelled hip by Vogue magazine. Skinny Candy was sold to confectionery conglomerate Glisten PLC in 2007. In 2011, she was invited to join the Entrepreneurs Forum set up by UK Business Secretary Vince Cable to give informal personal advice to the government on enterprise policies. In June 2012 Sahar was awarded an OBE for services to the UK economy and to charity.

Speaking at the launch of the Conference, Chair of Young Leaders NI, Chris Fleming said: “I am delighted to launch this event which aims to encourage and advise leaders of tomorrow how best to rise to the challenge. The speaker line-up is once again exceptional and we are thrilled to have Sahar Hashemi OBE on board.

“I would also like to take this opportunity to thank our sponsors, Herbert Smith Freehills, Abacus Professional Recruitment, Progressive Building Society, KPMG and The William J Clinton Leadership Institute at Queens University.  Without their contributions and support, the quality and scale of the event we deliver would not be possible. Thanks also goes to the Princes Trust for getting involved again as our charity partner; we are delighted to be able to champion this worthy cause.”

Lisa McLaughlin, Director of Herbert Smith Freehills LLP’s Belfast office, said:

“As we approach our Belfast office’s 6th birthday, we are delighted to be sponsoring the Young Leaders NI Conference for the 6th successive year. The variety and caliber of the speakers at this year’s event is testament to the conference’s ongoing success.  At Herbert Smith Freehills, we are focused on recognising Northern Ireland’s best legal talent, and supporting our team to realise their full potential.  The conference is a fantastic opportunity to bring together Northern Ireland’s aspiring young professionals, experienced entrepreneurs and business leaders to create a truly inspiring day and encourage our future young leaders to rise to the challenge as they embark on their personal leadership journeys.”

Tickets are now on sale for the conference and can be booked via or