Getting a million pounds Investment and losing everything
Getting a million pounds Investment and losing everything – Its 6.30am in the morning, the month is January, and the year is 1994. The birds are tweeting; the sun is rising. I am 24 years of age and have been working night and day for nearly three years building my promotional clothing business. I am on the way to my office, situated above my mum’s shop in Epping Essex. Today is the day that is going to change my life forever. I am going to sign a contract today that will secure me over £2 million pounds worth of imported clothing from Indonesia. The problem is that I do not have one single penny to put down as collateral.
Last night I was working on a fast food stall in Wembley Arena earning extra money selling hotdogs to support my business. On the way home at 2am Dream were playing on the radio “Things can only get better”.
I had worked on the stock market as a blue button when I was 16. The stock market crashed a year later and I lost my job. I bought my first market stall business when I was 18 years of age costing me £15,000. I also bought my first house when I was 18 and interest rates increased sharply to 15%, resulting in losing my £34,000 life savings that I had invested. I went bankrupt when I was 21 and thought my world was at an end. I clawed back from bankruptcy and started my promotional business when I was 21. I had already experienced major adversity and I was still only a baby.
I arrive at my office in Epping at 7am to prepare for my biggest ever business deal, one that would set me on the road to entrepreneurial stardom. A Korean gentleman called Mr Kim was arriving at 11am to see my business in action. He had been sent by his company, The Kolon Corporation, a multi-billion dollar organisation to open export channels in Europe and I was his one of his UK supply options.
The other two companies who wanted this contract were already turning over millions of pounds, had an established client base and had sound financial backing. Not only that, they had showrooms and warehousing in the clothing wholesale capital of London, Commercial Road E1.
My company was turning over just £250,000 a year. I had little stock and few customers. My first floor office was 300 sq ft with a few racks of stock. I had no office furniture and only two spare chairs, one of which had a broken leg and paint all over it.
I knew that I had to impress Mr Kim and I also knew that if I secured the deal it would mean that I could take my company to a multi-million pound turnover business, pretty much overnight. In business belief is everything and if you are prepared to do what your competitors do not have the imagination or balls to do then you will win.
I called in four friends dressed in smart suits and sat them at desks and placed phones on the desks that were not connected to any phone lines. I told them that when Mr Kim arrives that they should be on the phones closing deals and mentioning high profile companies. I also asked my family to call and place orders at a precise time and not to stop until we called to say that Mr Kim had left.
It’s 10.45am and Mr Kim had arrived early. My palms were sweaty, my heart was beating and my legs started to shake. I had to calm myself down and prepare for the pitch of the century. The boys were ready, the order pads were out, phones were in their ears ready to take orders and my family were ready to call in 5 minutes to place orders…… Ok action stations here we go!
I greeted Mr Kim downstairs, shook his hand and walked him up the stairs to my office. The only two incoming phones lines I had were ringing off the hook. The sales guys were on the phones that were not plugged into anything pitching customers and taking orders. My family were playing their part in helping me secure the deal.
Mr Kim questioned me for almost two hours nonstop. The sales guys kept taking order and my family as requested kept ringing in. After about an hour someone took an order from my family, later I found out it was dad. The order was for 6000 jackets and I can remember saying to myself “calm down family”, that is an order for £120,000 and if they keep placing silly order like that, it’s going to blow my deal out of the water.
Mr Kim had questioned me about sales, marketing, manufacturing, ranges and design styles, colours and size ordering breakdowns. We had discussed import and export duty, ports of origin and ports of destination. In fact we had covered everything from fabric and the mills that would be making it to container sizes, shipping and warehousing costs.
I understood it all and had been studying about manufacturing for a long time and besides, both of my parents had inducted me into the world of fashion from about 10 years of age – Thank you mum and dad!
Mr Kim knew that I was buying jackets from a Company in London called The Cobles Company ran by a Jewish man called Lawrence Cohen. Mr Kim also knew that Mr Cohen was spending a good few million dollars in Indonesia producing the jackets. What I did not know is that Mr Kim knew his exact import numbers and had the use of the factory two streets away producing the same goods and he had his eyes set of Western Stardom and needed me to make his dream a reality.
Another 30 minutes went buy and I held my nerve and made Mr Kim believe that I did not need his imports. I finally shook hands and Mr Kim left the building.
What I had achieved in the last two and a half hours was this:- I secured over £2 million pounds of imported goods ordered and ready to be delivered in ninety days to my 20,000 sq ft warehouse. The beauty of the deal was this. I did not have to lay out a single penny security. I had just placed an order for £2 million pounds without a single penny deposit. To this day I have not heard of a deal being done like that by a guy of 24 years of age.
I had no warehouse, no customers, no distribution and no way of even financing the deal I had just signed. I had just ninety days to prepare to take a business from turning over £250k a year to a £3 million a year business.
I did just that and by 1996 I was supplying Walt Disney, Coca Cola, Wembley Stadium, Capital Radio, The Spice Girls and had supplied products to just every brand that you could imagine from food to drinks, pop and rock groups, formula one racing teams and SkyBSB. I built a blue chip client network that was the envy of the promotional clothing world. I was turning over £3.3 million pounds a year, had been approached by Dunn and Bradstreet for outstanding growth as well as Sir Richard Branson’s Fast track 100.
It all seemed to be going so well until the Far East Crashed in 1998 costing me over half a million pounds and everything that I had built over a 5 year period.
When you lose everything it hurts, but the extraordinary people get back up, learning from their experiences to go on and achieve greater things and that’s why – Everyday People Achieve Extraordinary Things.