Graham Conway-Doel – Owner of Geek Retreat Wakefield, Harrogate and Leeds

A couple of years ago, Graham Conway-Doel, a Baptist Minister of 25 years, was exploring different
options for investing a lumpsum of money. He already had a pension and exposure to stocks and
shares but really wanted to find an ethical investment that allowed him to put something back into
the community. He looked a property and the potential to become a ‘good’ landlord but wasn’t
convinced this route would help enough people.

In his search, he came across Geek Retreat. He had played Dungeons & Dragons but wouldn’t really
describe himself as a ‘Geek’. He very quickly recognised that the stores offered something unique to
the local community and have a real impact on customers’ well-being. After spending time with his
wife visiting stores and seeing the Geek Retreat experience firsthand, he knew he believed in the
proposition and, as a result, took on the franchise of Harrogate 18 months ago. This was quickly
followed by two more stores, and Graham Conway-Doel is now the owner of Geek Retreat Wakefield, Harrogate and Leeds .

Graham regards his stores not just as businesses, but something that supports many different
people, from 18 people he employs, their families and the hundreds of loyal customers that visit to
make friends, feel safe and be part of a community. The inclusiveness of the stores when it comes
to different groups such as the LBGTQ community is also very important to him.

Taking on three franchises has been a big challenge for Graham, but one he has relished. He
describes the support he has from Geek Retreat HQ as very supportive and positive. The franchise
model works very well, with products and events provided centrally and regular meetings with the
Franchise Success Team. Help and advice is there if he needs it.

All three of Graham’s stores are enjoying growth, with turn-over on the right trajectory. He said:
Geek Retreat has been a blast. The Franchise Support Team have been super-helpful and I really do
feel part of a bigger business but one where I can put more back into the community by providing
safe, inclusive, friendly and fun places for people from all walks of life – this was the number one
priority for me


New research by Geek Retreat, the geek culture retailer, gaming café, community hub and events
venue, shows that 15% of Brits have set up their own business in the past ten years, and of these,
44% did so in the last three years. The findings also show that more women (52%) have started their
own business in the past three years, compared to men (30%).

Retail and financial services were the two most popular sectors for start-ups, according 19% and 16%

The top three drivers for making the decision to go it alone were to earn more money (43%), two
fifths (41%) said that they wanted to be their own boss, 35% said they needed greater flexibility
which they believed they would achieve if they ran their own business.

Whilst over two thirds (68%) said that they run the business on their own, 19% said they had an
equal partner and 13% said they had set up with members of the family. However, when it comes to
exit strategies, plans are somewhat lacking. Over one third (37%) said they hadn’t thought about
what they will do with the business when they retire, 23% said they would close it down and 18%
said they would pass it on to a family member.

The Geek Retreat franchise, which opened its first store in Glasgow in 2013, now has 36 stores
compared to ten at the end of 2019, reflecting its huge popularity on the high street because it
offers local communities and individuals a safe and inclusive place to enjoy their hobbies and

It has seen an increase in enquiries over the past 12 months from entrepreneurs who are keen to set
up their own business, but also see the benefits of the model which offers an established brand,
training to get the up store up and running as quickly as possible, and on-going support from an
expert team.

Peter Dobson, CEO of Geek Retreat, commented: “Our research shows the last three years have
seen a surge in people setting up on their own as people see greater financial and lifestyle
opportunities as key benefits of being their own boss.

“At Geek Retreat, we encourage an entrepreneurial spirit and offer franchisees the independence to
grow and expand, but with support from our central Franchise Success Team who provide expertise
across all areas of the business to help them succeed.”