‘I had to take out a second mortgage’: Business owner expands business by £15m and ‘outpaces’ Apple after almost foreclosure

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‘I had to take out a second mortgage’: Business owner expands business by £15m and ‘outpaces’ Apple after almost foreclosure

“I took out a second mortgage on my house…” Jolyon Bennett, founder of mobile phone accessories brand, Juice, tells me. “It was a hugely challenging time both personally and professionally as I had my first child at the same time as launching my business.” Bennett grew up in a small village in West Oxfordshire before moving to Brighton for university where studies sports science. After graduating, he returns home to work in a local pub and meets people from all walks of life. The pub was frequented by businessmen in suits who flaunted their shiny cars, and Bennett was inspired by their luxurious lifestyle.

This led him to venture into the world of entrepreneurship. One day a customer who worked in the mobile phone industry came into the pub for a drink and told Bennett about an incident that had happened at work. His sales manager had left him – and Bennett knew he had to take the bull by the horns. Beaming with enthusiasm, Bennett confidently told him he was ready for the job. Two days later, he interviewed for the position and later landed the role.

However, Bennett soon realized that he did not like working for others. He was constantly fired, described by managers as too “suspicious” and “unmanageable”. Bennett knew he wanted to be his own boss and realized he couldn’t reach his full potential in the corporate world. In 2012, Bennett launched his business Juice, a manufacturer of mobile phone accessories selling recyclable products. “As I progressed in my career, I was often seen as ‘unmanageable’ and overly opinionated about how things should be done, which would lead to me being fired,” Bennett said. “The last time I was laid off was in January 2012 and that’s when I decided it was time to stop being laid off and start my own business. It was the impetus I needed to raise funds and get the ball rolling.”

Juice is the first mobile phone accessory manufacturer in the UK to remove all single-use plastic from its products. The company is on a mission to become completely carbon neutral with packaging made from recyclable materials that don’t cost the earth. Starting the business was not easy for Bennett. He took out a £100,000 business overdraft which nearly resulted in his house being repossessed. At the same time, Bennett was expecting her first child. The new father had problems in his personal life and his finances were so tight that he was barely making ends meet.

“I took out a second mortgage on my house and then signed an unlimited personal guarantee with Lloyds Bank, which meant they had the right to take all the money I had if I defaulted on the £100,000 overdraft,” Bennett explained. “It was so stressful and I was miserable. I have never made less money and had more pressure in my entire life. It was an extremely challenging time in both my personal life and my career, as I had my first child at the same time as starting my business. It was a disaster. Seeing my cash flow dwindle every day and the red cells constantly appearing on my spreadsheet was just constant pressure.”

Bennett remained resilient and forged ahead in a single-minded pursuit to grow his company. Nine years later, Juice has become a £15m company and one of the fastest selling mobile phone accessories brands at John Lewis, overtaking Apple in UK cable sales. “Success is also freedom, which means I no longer have to go into the office every day,” Bennett said. “We have achieved strong financial success as we have established ourselves over the past 11 years and now have a strong balance sheet and profitability.

“However, I strongly believe that money does not necessarily mean success. Money is a byproduct of a successful business, but a successful business is built on the joy you get from it. When everyone and everything in the business is working right, I think that’s where the real success lies.”

Bennett prioritizes his health and well-being so much that he incorporates it into his business. Employees have free yoga classes and access to a mindfulness program to improve their mental and physical well-being. “I’ve achieved a lot in terms of personal growth,” Bennett said, “I no longer drink much alcohol and I’m working on a personal spiritual practice that is now an ingrained part of my life. It has allowed me to be much healthier in both my mind and body – I feel amazing and I can reflect that in my business.

“At Juice, we offer employees free yoga classes three times a week and look forward to growing our mindfulness program. Whether it’s nutrition or therapy, I’m very interested in creating a ripple effect to improve health, well-being and mindfulness, and in turn drive the business forward.”

With some advice for SMEs, Bennett said: “Go ahead and overcome challenges. If your expenses are rising, create more business. Work weaker, push harder. After all, no one is going to help you save yourself if you run your own business. Make sure you and your team are performing at your best and take care of yourself to ensure you are performing to your best potential. Push, push, push. This country needs SMEs to lift it up. If you look around the world, SMEs in other markets are pushing for it a bit more than we are. We have to take care of ourselves, stay strong and hurry, hurry, hurry.”

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