Way back in time when the world was young and innocence reigned
I had the wacky idea of turning my hobby into a business. In
the circumstances I was in at the time anyone else would have
had voices screaming at them not to embark on such a foolish
path but I was an innocent, a complete innocent. Years later,
when I looked back on the enormity of that decision, I would
shudder. It had been a moment of madness.
worked as a senior clerk for a chartered accountant before this
abrupt change in my life and I remember an advert regularly
seen on the back of beer mats at the time which stated "Accountancy
was my life until I discovered Smirnoff, the effect is shattering".
I had embarked on something that could have shattered my life
without the aid of Smirnoff, now there's talent for you!
was a printing business that I started and painfully slowly
I attracted enough customers to enable me to eke out a modest
living and that is when I first met Joe. He had been a milkman
but he started a business manufacturing window blinds, I supplied
his stationery. I was operating from a small lock-up shop in
Kidderminster, an old tram shelter in years gone by as I was
often told by elderly couples who would come in to reminisce
about their younger years. What on earth they used it for I
could not possibly imagine! Joe, I think, operated from home.
businesses grew at a similar pace and my tram shelter was soon
too small for me and anyway Sainsburys wanted to buy me out,
well they wanted more than my little patch of earth of course.
I found some premises in an old carpet factory, took on some
staff and a business partner, Harry, and together we started
growing at a faster pace. Renting premises is never ideal but
for us there was no option. We did look at the possibility of
buying premises once but it was out of our range financially
and we were surprised to find that Joe eventually bought it.
Time went on and we were in our third premises on an ex RAF
supply site, it was cold and damp, water actually ran down the
walls when it rained heavily and we were determined that it
would be the last time that we rented although where the money
was going to come from was a mystery.
found I had some sort of talent with words and we started pushing
ourselves as a business card provider and every Wednesday evening
the two of us would be off pushing leaflets through doors in
town centres and industrial estates. It didn't have a huge effect
but we desperately needed new business and we felt that if our
business was doomed to fail at least we would be comfortable
in the knowledge that we had tried everything we could. Then
suddenly we struck a seam of pure gold. We had a response from
a major insurance company who, amazingly no longer wanted to
supply their vast sales force with business cards, they were
to use their local printers. We collected the addresses of each
office in the country and mailed them regularly with our offer.
We did well. We then mailed other large companies and did even
better so that when our lease expired we had bought a plot of
land on an industrial estate and had our own factory built.
who do you think built his factory next to us? Yes, Joe did!
So we showed him round our premises and he showed us how to
manufacture venetian blinds.
were printing for many small local businesses by this time and
we were always amused by some of the lines they would include
on their stationery, things like 'Open seven days a week, including
Sundays.' and 'You've tried the rest, now try the best.' Now
Joe was much better than that, he had real style. Television
played a great part in his publicity campaign, he avoided the
BBC and stuck steadfastly to ITV, I'm not sure he was that interested
in the programmes themselves, he was more interested in what
came in between. He was interested in the adverts. Sipping his
brandy and flicking the ash off his cigar into an ashtray bearing
the words 'My milk round was my life until I discovered Smirnoff,
the effect is shattering' he would mull over the punchy lines
and try and apply them to his own business.
had many bright ideas but by far his best was 'Olympic, the
name on the world's finest blinds!' He got away with this for
a fair time but one day he walked in through our door much affronted
having just received a strong letter from the legal advisers
to Wilkinson Sword bearing a strong offer of taking legal proceedings
against him were he not to remove the offending bit of plagiarism
from his stationery. He did of course.
sold his business eventually and moved to Spain where no doubt
he is doing a roaring trade with ex-pats and we have since lost
touch. He was a real character and I'm sure that when he was
born some clumsy oaf dropped the mould. We probably won't see
his like again.
wait! I was driving through Swansea yesterday behind a van which
bore the slogan 'A carpet fitter is for life, not just for Christmas.'
It is not quite as relevant to the product as Joe's but with
a bit of nurture that particular seed of genius could flourish
and could even produce - Joe, the sequel!
can only hope!