According to figures published by StartUpBritain, the organisation that campaigns for entrepreneurialism in Britain, the number of new businesses started up in 2012 rose to more than 484,000, a 10% increase on the 440,600 started in 2011.
Emma Jones, co-founder of StartUpBritain said “Small and start-up businesses are the driving force of the British economy and at StartUpBritain we have seen plenty to celebrate over 2012. Times are hard yes, but it never ceases to amaze us when we see resourceful Britons making business ideas come to life in difficult times.”
It is widely thought that popular TV series such as The Apprentice and Dragon’s Den may also have played an important role in encouraging entrepreneurship.
Even in times of recession, there is still plenty of start-up activity, often as a result of redundancy or the need to generate additional household income.
David Johnson has been talking to four of Cheshire’s new business owners to find out what motivated them to join Cheshire’s new breed of entrepreneurs.
Richard Jones – Concept Home Care Limited
Twenty-six year old Richard Jones’ early career saw him taking on two roles, both of which he had a genuine passion for.
Whilst progressing with his full-time job as a cover teacher, specialising in religious education, he worked part-time as a support worker for an autistic teenager.
After successfully combining the two jobs for six years, Richard decided the time had come to make a decisive career change “Public spending was being cut, which affected my future prospects on the teaching front, and I had always had an ambition to start my own care agency from the moment I first worked for one.”
Relinquishing a full-time salary to launch a business is a challenge some are not prepared to take on, but this did not deter Richard, and he set out to find out more about what setting up a business entailed “Reading was a great source of help and inspiration. I bought books relating to business start-up and about marketing.”
Utilising his now considerable personal experience as a carer, Richard launched Concept Home Care Limited “Our main business is as a care agency supplying carers to clients in their own homes.”
Richard very soon had further plans “We’ve added a new service which is ‘live-in care’. We aim to promote this and to become one of Cheshire’s top providers. We will separate our services with one side concentrating on care for older people and the other side focussing on support for younger people with learning disabilities.”
Already, the company has firmly established a reputation as a provider of quality services “We recently had a Care Quality Commission inspection and the inspector identified that we had 100% client satisfaction and he was impressed with our commitment to providing the best service we could.”
They say that behind every good man there is a good woman. In Richard’s case there are two “It’s very much a family business. My wife Rachel is the office manager and my mother is a senior carer. We have a family-friendly focus in our engagements with our clients and their families.”
So, is Richard happy with his progress so far? “The sense of achievement when you receive really positive feedback, and things go really well, has been enjoyable for me. I also like the scope to be creative and to try out new ideas. I get to interact with, and meet, a lot of very interesting people; I enjoy meeting up with clients, their carers and their families.”
If you, or a family member, require care or support at home you can find out more about the services provided by Concept Home Care Limited at www.concepthomecare.co.uk
Matthew Haythornwhite – Aquatec Window Cleaning Services
A career in the motor trade had an early attraction for Matt Haythornwhite “I started as a sales person with Jaguar in Blackburn in 1994, learning the trade and over the years progressing to the position of general manager at Mercedes-Benz in Macclesfield, with full site responsibility for a £20m budget and more than 50 staff.”
After a three year stint as regional director with Accident Exchange, the country’s largest prestige accident management company, Matt became an independent software consultant specialising in automotive performance management.
Then he suddenly found himself facing a totally unexpected career decision “Very simply, I was made redundant from the software company after its owners decided to sell the business. I was faced with the prospect of unemployment with limited options at a time of commercial austerity.”
When others may have needed time to ‘take stock’, Matt had other ideas “The world suddenly became my oyster. I decided to put my years of business experience to good use; to take that huge ‘leap of faith’ and to start my own business.”
He had a clear vision from the outset “As a new start-up I had limited funds, but I was determined to launch Aquatec Window Cleaning Services with no external funding commitments or impediments. This meant that from day one I had to set some very demanding financial performance targets. Failure was not going to be an option”
The company was launched and began providing a prestige window cleaning service to both residential and business clients throughout Cheshire“Tight control of income and expenditure from the outset, combined with cost-effective promotion, were going to be the keys to initial success.”
Under Matt’s guidance the business has already diversified and is experiencing rapid growth through the introduction of new services “We now also offer driveway, path and patio cleaning; UPVC restoration, conservatory and gutter cleaning services. Basically, anything to do with the exterior of a property we can clean it”
Matt, now 43 3/4 years of age (he was keen to point out), took time to reflect on his original decision to start his own company “I can remember the day I sat in a friend’s kitchen explaining what I was planning to do. His advice was ‘Well, if you think it can work then go for it’. Two weeks later I was sat in the same friend’s kitchen asking for a recommendation for my new business, Aquatec Window Cleaning Services. And the rest, as they say, is history.”
You can find out more about the broad range of services provided by Matt’s company by visiting www.aquatecwindows.co.uk
Michelle Farrimond – Nostalgic Campers
After joining a forklift truck company in 1999 as an accounts assistant, Michelle Farrimond’s career blossomed with several promotions leading to her appointment as operations manager and financial controller for the business.
In 2009 the world recession hit the business hard. Michelle found herself facing ongoing pressure from the company’s banks and suppliers “I found this a very stressful time which never eased, from the alarm going off at 5.30am until bedtime and many sleepless nights. The business had taken over my life.”
The two directors, including her now husband, Neil, put the business up for sale “I was longing for the day to come so I would be free from the nightmare. I committed to stay until the end, but this became detrimental to my health”
In December 2011 Michelle’s father passed away suddenly, at the age of 62, following a massive heart attack “This made me realise life is too precious and to take my own health warning signs more seriously.”
Several months later Michelle was at her hairdressers when she decided it was time to regain control of her life “I was reading an article about a lady similar to myself who had lost her grandfather. This prompted the lady to resign from her stressful job; to get a few chickens and a VW campervan which she then rented out. She now has a fleet of campers and 8 staff working for her.”
Michelle bought three chickens and in 2012 the sale of the forklift business was completed “I was made redundant which, in turn, enabled me to set up Nostalgic Campers.
Despite careful planning, the new business faced an early setback “My first VW split screen campervan ‘Poppy’ was delayed for 3 months due to an export problem in California, However, her restoration should be complete by early August 2013.”
Michelle acted promptly to resolve her short-term needs “The delay prompted me to take the plunge and order my second splittie ‘Percy’ otherwise I would have lost my first season. My gamble paid off. Since I collected “Percy” at the beginning May the bookings have been flooding in.
Being a new business venture, Michelle’s bank wouldn’t help to finance ‘Percy’ “I literally had to use everything I had.”
Nostalgic Campers offers iconic vintage VW split screen campervans to customers for holidays, weddings, proms or bespoke events, and can come complete with a luxury hamper containing the finest produce.
“I am now ready for my next challenge. I am more than happy with the growth of Nostalgic Campers in such a short time. My aim is to have a third splittie to join the family in the not to distant future.”
For more details on Michelle’s business go to www.nostalgiccampers.co.uk
Darren Dronfield – Cheshire Granite Worktops Limited
After leaving school at 16 years of age, with little in the way of formal qualifications, Darren Dronfield decided to make good use of his excellent practical skills, becoming an apprentice joiner working for an entrepreneurial builder called John Dempsey.
Darren found himself working on conversions, renovations and luxury developments throughoutCheshire“I learnt general building skills in addition to joinery. During the 5 years I worked for John the desire to own my own business started to grow. It was here I started tiling floors with marble, and really enjoyed working with marble as a material
As a means of developing his specialist skills further, Darren joined a firm of stone masons “I began by templating worktops utilising my joinery skills. I then learnt all aspects of fabrication and worktop fitting over a period of 7 years, honing my skills until being made redundant in 1994.”
With John as his inspiration, and with £3000 in savings, he decided to go for it and open his own business. “I rented a small workshop under the railway arches inManchesterand DJD Marble & Granite was born.
All the equipment was bought second-hand and painstakingly refurbished. Much of the work done today in minutes by CNC machines was all done by hand, often late into the night to get a job done on time.
Following a change in personal circumstances, Darren decided to relocate his business activities, setting up a new company, Cheshire Granite Worktops Limited, in Knutsford with his new partner.
“We fabricate and install mainly kitchen worktops out of granite, quartz and marble, supplying kitchen studios and directly to the public. We also make bespoke tables of all shapes and sizes. The biggest change affecting our business has been the number of customers now deciding to buy from us directly.”
Darren, 46, thoroughly enjoys being his own boss and the control it gives him over all aspects of the business “Doing things properly and never giving a customer a mediocre job is important to me. People are paying a lot of money for our worktops and they deserve the highest standards and best results. Being the boss I can ensure this happens, from quality of workmanship through to exceptional customer service.”
Two years down the line, Darren has a clear vision for the business “Still being a relative newcomer to Knutsford, our aim is to continue to grow and strengthen our reputation locally, whilst developing into other areas ofCheshire, which we are now doing. Customer testimonials are helping to drive our business forward and each quarter our sales are increasing as a result.”
Find out more at www.cheshiregraniteworktops.co.uk