Overall ranking: 28
Hotelier ranking: 8
Tim and Kit Kemp - Snapshot
Husband-and-wife team Tim and Kit Kemp are co-founders of the Firmdale Hotels group. They opened their first boutique hotel, Dorset Square, in 1985. Since then they have built up a collection of seven stylish boutique properties, all in London bar the latest opening, the Crosby Street hotel in New York.
The group employs about 730 staff and made a profit of £11m for the last financial year on a turnover of £54.1m.
Kit is the group’s design director, while Tim is the property developer and number cruncher. They are currently working on their next project, another hotel in London’s Soho.
Tim and Kit Kemp - Career guide
The Kemps met while Kit was working in an architects’ office in London. She and Tim, who had been working in the property sector, went on to develop a string of small hotels in west London offering student accommodation.
All Firmdale hotels are rebuilt and designed from scratch by self-taught designer Kit. This is a practical as well as artistic necessity bearing in mind the properties' origins – one was a former hospital, another a multi-storey car park and yet another a dental warehouse. Her style has evolved from the grand country house hotel style of Dorset Square to the chic design of the group's latest properties in London and New York.
Firmdale’s the Soho hotel won the Group Hotel of the Year accolade at the 2006 Cateys. More recent recognition includes the Queen's Award in 2009 for international trade (also in 2000 and 2006) and the Excellence in Customer Service accolade at the Hotel Excellence Awards 2010.
Separately, Kit has won the Andrew Martin International Interior Designer of the Year award in 2008 and the House & Garden (UK Pineapple Award for Hotel Designer of the Year 2008, while the group's Haymarket hotel received the Crown Estate's Urban Business Award 2007 and the prize for Best Interior Design Lobby at the European Hotel Design Awards 2007.
Two London hotels – Number 16 in South Kensington and the Knightsbridge hotel – are chic B&Bs, while the remaining five properties all have in-house destination restaurants or bars. Three of the hotels also include state-of-the-art cinemas.
Tim and Kit Kemp - What we think
Firmdale Hotels was the trailblazer for a new concept of luxury in London hotels, effectively introducing boutique individuality to the capital. When the Kemps opened the Dorset Square hotel in Marylebone, the only other boutique property in London was Anoushka Hempel’s Blakes hotel.
The Kemps are fiercely independent and have always followed their own belief in their vision, even when others failed to get it. Initially this was the money men - the Kemps were turned down by 14 banks before they secured the funding for their first hotel.
But the concept has proved enduring and a hit with customers as well as inspiring a wave of other boutique-style hotels. Firmdale hotels run at near 100% occupancy all year round; however, the recession has proved tough on profits
Tim and Kit Kemp have been awarded countless accolades for their achievements, most notably the Catey for Group Hotel of the Year in 2006.
The company has also become an excellent industry example of supporting women, with all but one of its general managers being female, including Carrie Wicks, who won the Manager of the Year Catey in 2009. Kit Kemp was one of 50 women honoured at the third Leading Women Entrepreneurs of the World (1999).
It remains to be seen whether the Kemps can keep evolving their concept and stay ahead of the trend in what is now a crowded marketplace. The opening of the new hotel in Soho will be a good litmus test.