Adventures in Enterprise: Family Business Partners, Part 1

While my early adventures in enterprise had been for the fun of meeting my school’s challenge, my first serious business venture, and one of the most important ones I’ve ever done, earned my fiancé (now husband of over forty years) and I enough money to put down a deposit on our first home.

At the time we both worked at Heathrow Airport as export and import clerks and were saving hard for a house, but the pot was slow to build up. One day someone in my office mentioned that they were interested in buying a bulk amount of tights, if the price was right. I thought about this and wondered if there was an opportunity to make some money. I was surrounded by about a hundred other offices and probably several hundred potential customers.

I had a quick chat with my other half who said that he knew of a wholesale warehouse not too far away so we rang them to check opening hours and eligibility to buy, then dashed down there the same night. It was like Aladdin’s cave. We made a list of all the things we thought would sell, a quick note of wholesale price versus our possible selling price and soon spotted that there was a good profit to be made provided we could find the customers. I typed up a sales sheet with our names and phone numbers on the top – while not the most sophisticated catalogue, it worked a treat. We asked nicely and our bosses were happy to allow us to use the office photocopier (if we didn’t take the mickey) so we could then drop off copies of the list to all the other offices.

In a couple of days we had taken orders for all sorts of things, not only tights but gallons of washing up liquid and bleach (they were a big seller!) duvets, pillows, batteries, you name it we sold it. Customers knew where we worked and used to drop in order forms or pass them to us as we went around the building. Then we would hit the warehouse and fill up our car boots. We could then back up to the delivery door of our customer’s office, unload the orders and collected the cash. No credit was a good rule even then. The only problem with the whole thing turned out to be fitting in our daily trips to the wholesaler with our actual employed jobs, but needs must when money is to be made.

As a young couple just starting out, it was a bonus to find that we also worked very well together in business; we both saw the possibilities in what was a very simple business, had a lot of fun and I discovered that my future husband was great at keeping control of the finances of a venture. (A skill that would come in useful several times in the future.) After a year of trading, we managed to save enough for our house deposit and we will always be grateful for that first business for providing the home we started our family in.

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