'Foolish' small business idea: A shop full of unusual gadgets. From inflatable aliens, to lava lamps and night-vision goggles.
Start-up Capital: Jonathan Elvidge had made a lot of money by moving house in the late eighties. Re-mortgaging the new property gave him some capital but he needed a further £20,000. The bank loaned him the full £20,000 on the Government Scheme for Small Firms - the Government secured 70 per cent of the loan.
How small business idea was Launched: Rented a unit in a new shopping centre in Hull.
Sales: Started with one shop in Hull. Formed partnership with Andrew Hobbs, who bought half the company. By, the end of the first year, they had 3 shops. To date, 31 outlets. Their best selling product is the lava lamp. They purchased them before their renewed popularity.
Earnings: Business empire is now worth over £50million.
When Jonathan Elvidge fell out with his employer at the telephone company in Hull where he worked, he decided to have a go at running his own business. His love for gadgets and watching the Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin, gave him the money-making idea he needed. The Grot shop in the series, and not being able to buy the type of gifts he wanted to, inspired the idea of a shop filled with unusual affordable gadgets. He researched products and how to get a unit, before approaching banks for a £20,000 loan; which he needed to top up his own financial reserves to open the first shop.
The day he opened his first shop, there was just himself, a friend and baby-sitter to serve customers. Because Jonathan Elvidge had not realised all the other retailers in the shopping centre had negotiated the rent on their units, he had accepted the £30,000 a year rental charge without question. It left him only breaking even, despite working a 60 hour week. He wanted to open more shops, but was unable to raise the capital.
Andrew Hobbs, who was in charge of letting the shopping centre units, suggested a partnership. Jonathan agreed and before the end of the first year, they had opened two more shops. Jonathan spends most of his time travelling to trade fairs, especially in the Far East, to select products. Jonathan Elvidge went from working for a telephone company to owning a business partnership worth over £50million from his idea.