A twisted knee in 1999 put paid to Greg Cox’s dreams of playing professional rugby for Wasps, says the BBC’s Will Smale. After a brief stint as a bricklayer, Cox, now 36, began importing cars from mainland Europe, which were up to 20% cheaper than in Britain. Business boomed at his company, Coszt Imports, “despite the terrible name”, says Cox.
But then, in 2001, the dotcom bubble burst, the pound fell and the business went bust. Licking his wounds, Cox moved to South Africa, and resumed importing cars to Britain. By 2008, Cox was back in the UK and investing in the fintech sector. Then, in early 2009, he got together with his friend and business partner, Paul Naden, and they launched Quint Group, with each investing £12,500.
The company owns several consumer finance websites, including online loans marketplace Monevo. Cox bought out Naden last year, and today, he owns 90% of Quint, and the business turns over £42m a year. While it hasn’t all been plain sailing, “I think I have always been entrepreneurial”, says Cox. “Focus on what you are good at, work relentlessly at it, make considered decisions, don’t be too emotive, and with a bit of luck you’ll have some success.”
Food business slims down to grow profit
Ben Jackson left a well-paid job nine years ago to spend more time with his children, says James Hurley in The Times. “The hours were insane,” says Jackson, 40. “I knew I had to set up my own business so I could control my own time.” He started running Capsicana, a Latin American food company, from home, selling a broad range of products to independent shops. But it wasn’t very profitable.
“You think, ‘I’ll grow revenue by adding another product line’”, says Jackson. “Before I knew it, I had 35 product lines to manage and the working capital was going the wrong way… I was working every hour I could and I couldn’t see a way to grow.”
So, he slimmed the line down to four cooking sauces and partnered with a big manufacturer. Amazon-owned Whole Foods began stocking the range, which led to deals with Waitrose and Sainsbury’s. Capsicana is working towards turnover of £900,000 this year, and has raised £450,000 in investment, including from New Covent Garden Soup founder John Stapleton. Says Jackson: “Running a small business is about continuous improvement.”
A digital textbook case of refusing to give up
Camilla Hessellund Lastein’s first attempt to launch Lix, a platform for digital textbooks, ended in disaster, the 24-year-old Dane tells Hazel Sheffield in The Independent. She dropped out of university, took savings from a full-time office job, and part-time waitressing, and got a £20,000 bank loan. She invested it all into her idea – and went bust within a year. The firm she had commissioned to build her first digital platform invoiced for all the cash she had, and left her with a PowerPoint presentation.
“They took advantage of me”, says Hessellund Lastein. Her mother, an entrepreneur, told her to learn from it. She soon met her new co-founder, Kasper Krog. They assembled a team of developers and got Lix 2.0 off the ground. Three years on, Lix has raised $7.5m in funding. The platform hosts 7,000 publishers, including Pearson and McGraw-Hill. The media goes on about what young people are worth, says Hessellund Lastein, but “people don’t understand… how much work this takes”.
No more inky fingers for music fans
“Nirvana. You probably barely recognise the name, but by the time this page is ink on your fingertips, Nirvana will have sold 1,000,000 copies of their new LP.” That’s how I opened a cover story I wrote for the NME, on 23 November 1991, says Mary Anne Hobbs in The New York Times. Alas, “there will be no more inky fingers for NME’s readers”. Last week, the New Musical Express, “Britain’s most important music newspaper and a taste maker on both sides of the Atlantic”, put out its last print edition after 66 years.
For decades, NME was a “cultural bible for teenagers and had clout that could propel rock, punk and indie bands into the charts with front cover features”, say Nic Fildes and Federica Cocco in the Financial Times. But from the 1990s, its influence waned with the rise of online and specialist titles. Circulation fell to 15,000 a week; rivals Melody Maker and Sounds had already succumbed. Now, private-equity firm Epiris, which bought NME’s parent company, media group Time, last month, for £130m, has decided to stop the presses.
The closure of the print edition of NME (it will continue online) “is the latest warning sign that the shift to digital media is threatening to kill the British love affair with print magazines”, says Mark Sweney in The Guardian. Sales of the top 100 titles have fallen by 55% since 2000 to just 13.9 million. Similarly, print advertising will have fallen from £512m in 2010 to £250m by the year-end, and digital advertising is failing to fill the void. Music magazines, such as NME, have been driven online. Now they face a fight to exist even there.