A Lytham businesswoman is preparing to get out her best china – in case her new royal pal shows up.
Laila Remtulla, owner of Laila’s Fine Foods in Bispham, visited Buckingham Palace in London last week to pick up her MBE, awarded to her in the Queen’s New Year Honours List for services to food and drink.
And she used the opportunity to invite the Prince of Wales, Prince Charles, to visit the family business, as he presented her with the medal.
The entrepreneur started out selling homemade bhajis and samosas in her hometown, Lytham, and has grown the business to now employ hundreds of people at its Bispham-based headquarters, turning over £18m a year.
The grandeur of Buckingham Palace was a far cry from the shopfloor of a food factory producing meals that are sold in Asda, Morrisons, Lidl and Iceland, she said.
She said: “It was an experience of a lifetime, just fantastic. Prince Charles made it really easy to talk to him.
“He said about the business and about it being in Blackpool and that he approved of family businesses. I asked would he come to visit us.”
Mrs Remtulla found out she was to be officially honoured in late December last year. She said: “It took a little while to sink in and I’d think ‘How did I do this?’
“It was a humbling feeling to get it. It’s still unbelievable.”
She and her husband Nazir moved to the UK from Tanzania in 1976, settling in Lytham, where they raised their three girls.
While bringing up her three young children, Mrs Remtulla started cooking her own recipes and persuaded a local delicatessen to sell these instead of their bhajis and samosas, that she had found “disappointing”.
For its first 10 years the business was juggled with family life, but in 1999, when Mr Remtulla joined its ranks, and it quickly grew, securing its first national contract of many, creating ready to heat and eat meals.
The business now occupies a 43,000 square foot factory in Bispham and produces around 60,000 to 70,000 portions of food a day.
Mrs Remtulla paid tribute to her family and staff for their support to grow the business.
She was joined by her husband and daughters, who are all employed by the business, for her special day. She added: “The opportunity to be in the palace was fantastic, it’s so beautiful.
“And the great pleasure was that my husband and daughters could be there, because it is a family business after all.”