Thursday, 17 July 2014

Travel has never been more comfortable

Globalisation has bad consequences, we know but the beauty of international brands like Starbucks is that if I miss my acutely required coffee in Prague, I can pick one up in Moscow, use the free wifi, have my coffee custom made according to my requirements, served in English by a staff member with a beaming smile. As creatures of habit, travel has never been more comfortable!


Friday, 11 July 2014

Niki Cutts: Are there renewable energy opportunities in Saudi Arabia?

Saudi Arabia - is the home of oil, where millions of barrels of oil are pumped from the ground every day and the nation is a pivotal player in OPEC. Despite this, Saudi Arabia is set to be a net imported of oil in 12 years. A population explosion had led to oil consumption rocketing.

Even with its vast oil supplies, it is forecast that Saudi Arabia will start importing energy in the not too distant future. Renewable energy is therefore expected to become an important part of energy production in the future. This will present interesting opportunities for foreign companies already active in this market.

Niki Cutts is the Managing Director of CastleWard.

Oil & Gas Conference for CIS countries: Niki Cutts - my Dubai experience

Attending an oil and gas conference for CIS countries in Dubai, I had a great experience. When I initially visited Dubai in 2011 on a business trip, I thought it would be like Vegas, a place I have always avoided - a fake city. But Dubai is an international place where the sun beats down on you and the buildings are tall and shiny, quite mesmerising for someone who lives in one of Europe's cities know for it's beautiful historical buildings, Prague.

Despite hundreds of delegates attended the conference, there were only 10 women. This was a disappointment, so few women working in senior positions in the oil & gas sector.

My photos reflect that I spent my time with great people; some of these have since become my friends. I have also learnt that I may have won a new contract from a delegate who attended the conference, so I am happy with the relatively large investment I made in the conference.

My granddad used to tell me: look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves. But sometimes, one has to take the plunge - invest in conferences, business trip and new business ideas to advance. Hopefully, I will see new money in the company's bank account due to this trip!

Niki Cutts is the Managing Director of CastleWard

Friday, 29 November 2013

Being a Mature Student - Trials and Tribulations, by Niki Cutts

As an international trader, Niki Cutts thinks that having a ropy understanding of international law can have its disadvantages.  It was suggested to me (by a lawyer) that I spend two years in Vienna (part-time) studying for a Masters in International Law.

It took almost two years to be able to start the course, as the part-time course is only run every two years. So when I was accepted and the course started, I already knew I would be starting my own business a few months later. I hesitated to start the course, but eventually took the plunge, encouraged by a management consultant who I know.

With no law background, I was at a disadvantage vis-a-vis the other students. My only “piece de resistance” was that I was the sole native English speaker, and as the course was taught in English, at least I had the edge here.

Travelling to Vienna every two weeks would have been comfortable on a bullet train, but alas, the Czechs need a great big dollop of Europe’s structural funds to be rid of their “chuggers”. At least though, the five hours each way gave me time to drain the brains of my super smart Czech classmates, without whom I would have surely failed the course.

Time away from the new business and my small kids wasn’t always easy. I seemed to be the only working mum with kids that travelled. I just don’t think that women with kids would generally take on such a commitment. All weekends with taken up with studying. In fact I would go to sleep reading law, then wake up and immediately pick up the book.

However, eventually after the two years, I passed the course. I am no way an expert, but the course has really helped me in business through increased knowledge and credibility. Learning is life long, it is often hard, but can be fun. You develop new professional networks and new friends. Even with chaotic lives, finding space to develop personally is a luxury we should insist on.

Niki Cutts has trading companies in Prague, a small property portfolio, as well as two kids. Juggling professional and work life can be challenging but possible.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Niki Cutts' take on Dubai as a Trading Hub: Not a Bad Place to Hang Out

A delegate at a business conference in Dubai, Niki Cutts arrived into the immense airport late in the evening, eventually going to bed at around 3am, having relaxed in my luxury bath on the 40th floor on the all-women Chopard floor.

A shiny air-conditioned coach collected us in the morning from the hotel where we were whisked off for a coach tour of the Jebel Ali sea port. It was like Dr Who’s tardis, never-ending: massive cranes hoisting containers off ships the size of the star ship enterprise, and there in the morning haze, I could see the famous palm development.

The afternoon trip to Dubai’s diamond exchange in a shiny sky scraper gave us the opportunity to look down from great height on the pristine marina calved out of the desert. Wow, to buy an apartment around this azure glistening water would be a dream.

The next day, on the way to Abu Dhabi, we stopped off at the Formula 1 track.  A quick snap sent by SMS to my husband, of me with the iconic hotel and F1 track in the background was enough to generate a rapid, jealous response from my other half left in Prague.

But with all the glitz of Dubai, there was a serious point, Dubai had picked itself up from its near bankruptcy of some years before . There was no sign of recession, unlike the wows of Europe. Business was booming. Dubai: the great trading link between Europe and Asia. Thanks to the foresight of a former ruler, who happened to prove everyone wrong and bulldozed over their criticisms. He built his visionary massive port on the edge of a desert and indeed attracted the port’s trade.

As an entrepreneur, it is important to talk through ideas with others, but often people are unable to see the opportunities staring you in the face. If you are an Arab ruler, then dictatorship is a real option. Being a Yorkshire lass myself, bloody mindedness and suitcases full of self belief often come in handy. Sharing some personal characteristics with Arab rulers can sometimes come in handy in business.

I would encourage anyone to visit Dubai for both business and pleasure. There are indeed worst places to attend a conference.

An entrepreneurial wanderer, Niki Cutts (of Castleward) left for business adventures in the Czech Republic when it joined the EU in 2004. She was also in search of affordable property.

New Sales Opportunities for Niki Cutts with US Cosmetics Companies

Niki Cutts' CastleWard is receiving an intern from Karel de Grote University in Antwerp, Belgium, for 5 months to work on the project.

Our aim is to win a contract to distribute a range of new cosmetics from New York into Central and Eastern Europe, setting up a European distribution hub. 

We realised that there was an opportunity to distribute products from the US, as US companies often do not have strong business contacts in our region. We are hoping that if a success, we can find other US cosmetics companies to represent in Central and Eastern Europe.

Find out more about Niki Cutts' business interests at

Monday, 18 November 2013

How to develop your business through referrals, Niki Cutts' take

Niki Cutts attends the “Negotium” business breakfast group in Prague, meeting at 7am every Tuesday. The aim is to mutually help each other to develop our businesses by sharing our business contacts.

It is surprising that I manage to drag myself out of my warm bed so early, particularly as Prague is starting to transform back into a dark ice box. However, in the night, our kids sleepwalk to our bed, and our dogs sneak on when we are asleep. Our bed becomes packed with bodies, waking me up prematurely.

Does the Negotium method work? Well it does, on both a professional and personal level. I have developed many business alliances and my network has rapidly diversified, from a lady boxing trainer, to a lawyer, to a Russian owning a telecoms company. Even if I can’t help someone looking for a specific business contact, someone else I know probably can. They also know people interested in my services, or need such services themselves.

And why not develop a new set of friends? When you are working and have kids, there is precious little time to socialise. Meeting a set of people once per week gives you the time to meet like-minded people whose company you can enjoy. And let’s face it, a new set of people in your life is like a breath of fresh air.

Niki Cutts is an entrepreneur based in the Czech capital Prague.