For better or worse, I would say I’ve always been an entrepreneur. As a kid, I attempted to set up a car washing business at our local tennis club. Which might have had more success, if I hadn’t done such a shockingly poor job of cleaning the cars.
Then at university I tried to set up a business installing touch screens in student unions, for local shops and restaurants to attract a new audience with bespoke offers. For a few reasons – high costs and the advent of smart phones to name but two – let’s just say it was a non-starter.
My next business was a terrible failure too – a website hosting service, that was just completely underfunded. So you might think, at this point, I would have quit. But I never did. And I put that down to my late-father Pip, whose legacy for me has always been: what’s life without taking risks, or racking up a few failures.
He was a bio-chemist, with a passion for entrepreneurialism. Which meant that, alongside investing and supporting a number of small start-up business, in the 1970s he even launched one of his own – making clocks. It was niche, and never quite racked up high volumes of orders, but it taught me that anything was possible.
So, while I worked away in my day job in finance, I never tired of looking for new business opportunities. Finally, our big chance at success came in 2004, when my dad and I spotted a gap in the cosmetics and toiletries industry – and I quit my job to launch a chemical distribution company with him. He was about to retire, I didn’t have any real financial obligations, being so fresh out of uni still, and it felt pretty exciting to embark on this challenge with my dad.
Astonishingly (OK, we did work pretty hard), it was a success. And in 2010 we persuaded my brother Jono to quit his exceptionally well-paid job to join us, where he wouldn’t earn anywhere near as much. A decision I’m relieved to say that – to my face, at least – he assures me he has never regretted.
However, a challenging few years followed as our dad became ill with Alzheimer’s (he passed away in 2019), and I moved to Bath and my wife Anna had our second child pretty much the exact same time Jono got diagnosed with bowel cancer. Truthfully, 2014 wasn’t the best or easiest of times. But we knuckled down, Jono recovered and in late 2016, we sold our business, paving the way for Jono and I to join LifeJacket.
We’ve all been there. One minute you’re at university, partying, drinking and maybe occasionally studying. The next you’re working your nuts off, starting and supporting a family, dealing with mortgages and sometimes health problems. And it can be as exhausting as it is rewarding – the highs are higher, and the lows, lower, as you become more and more invested in your life.
My wife and I left London to go to Bath because we wanted a different pace of life, and – frankly – after Jono and I sold the business, I wanted that in my work environment too. While I’m as passionate as ever about making a success of any business I’m part of, I do genuinely give a sh*t these days about making peoples’ lives better. And I’m fully sold on the mission of LifeJacket. It seemed pretty obvious to me that there was a problem that was not just in need of being solved, but completely solveable too. That’s why I took another risk. And I am convinced it is entirely worth it.