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Doncaster Grandee and Founder of DFS, Lord Kirkham, To Speak At Upcoming Business Conference in June

Lord Kirkham

A business titan — and one of our region’s most distinguished success stories — will be making a rare Doncaster appearance at a flagship business event next month, at which he will be reflecting upon both his own entrepreneurial journey and on what the future holds for his home city.

Doncaster born and bred, Lord (Graham) Kirkham is one of the confirmed keynote speakers at the 2024 Doncaster, What’s Next Business Conference. Here, the DFS founder will be outlining what he thinks are the biggest opportunities within our collective grasp, where our city ought to be heading and what needs to be done to put it on the best trajectory possible, while also sharing his own experiences in a range of business sectors and in politics.

Truly self-made, Lord Kirkham created his fortune with shrewd business acumen and a keen understanding of the market. At the age of 25, he rented a room above a snooker hall in Carcroft and used it to produce high quality furniture that, in turn, was sold directly to the public at fiercely competitive prices (something that he was able to do by cutting out warehouse dealers in the middle of the supply chain). From these humble beginnings, the company — known then as Northern Upholstery — eventually became the retail giant DFS, which was valued at £271 million when it was first floated on the stock market back in 1993.

Lord Kirkham’s notable achievements don’t stop with creating this iconic retailer, however, as he was a director & major shareholder in the Iceland supermarket chain, a long-serving chair of The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, a celebrated philanthropist working for and supporting many other charities, and an active member of The House of Lords. He holds a number of prestigious titles as well, including two knighthoods and a life peerage. Closer to home, he is also a freeman of the City of Doncaster and a past winner of Doncaster Chamber’s Lifetime Achievement accolade, which was bestowed in recognition of his manifold accomplishments over the years.

The Chamber is therefore delighted to announce that Lord Kirkham will be speaking at its upcoming conference in June, where he will address a crowd of over 250 delegates. Here, he will be in esteemed company, joined by other influential figures including: Mayor Ros Jones CBE; Chief Exec of City of Doncaster Council, Damian Allen; Ed Miliband MP; Nick Fletcher MP; Founder of AI Trailblazer Automated Analytics, Mark Taylor; and a number of successful SME business owners. Not to mention, Bim Afolami MP, Economic Secretary to the Treasury, will also be delivering a keynote speech on the day.

Looking forward to Lord Kirkham’s address, Dan Fell, Chief Exec of Doncaster Chamber, said: “Our business conference is a true highlight in the calendar each and every year, giving attendees an opportunity to participate in a high level discussion about our city’s assorted fortunes and aspirations. Indeed, we always come away from the event feeling galvanized and eager to do what we can to help Doncaster reach its full potential.

“With that said, having Lord Kirkham participate in the conversation this time around will be an immense privilege. Given how much he has achieved over the course of his illustrious career, I am positive that the audience will be interested in what he has to say and that he will have an insightful perspective to share on a great number of topics.”

Lord Kirkham added: “I owe stellar gratitude to the City of Doncaster. My family and I grew up here, my values and standards were formed here, and the foundations of my business career were built here.  It will be an absolute privilege to share my lifetime of knowledge, proven business concepts, hard-earned experience, passionate beliefs, and insights with delegates at this business conference in June.”

An annual event, Doncaster, What’s Next? brings together high-profile business leaders, politicians and other such influential figures. Convened under one roof, these guests will have an opportunity to thrash out the pressing issues of the day and debate what they think needs to happen in order for Doncaster, and indeed the wider South Yorkshire region, to fulfil its ambitions.

In short, it is a high-level conversation about the future our city and what more can be done to put it on the map. Previous guests have included the likes of Shevaun Haviland and Martha Lane Fox CBE (Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce and its President respectively), South Yorkshire Mayor Oliver Coppard, and senior representatives from various prominent firms (such as IBM Group, LNER, Hybrid Air Vehicles and Polypipe).

The 2024 Doncaster, What’s Next? Business Conference will be held on Wednesday the 5th of June at the Legacy Centre in Doncaster. It has been kindly sponsored by TwentyFour IT Services, Fenwood Estates, Connectus, Sheffield Hallam University and Kingswood Allotts. More information about the agenda for the day, and how to book your place, can be found below.



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