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How I set up my business with £2 from the gutter

25/02/2014

With ‘The Fiver Challenge’ giving children the chance to start their own business with £5, one of our readers shares how he started his business with just £2.

In response to our recent blog post entitled “Could you start a business with a fiver?”, which promoted a new initiative giving school children the chance to start their own business with a £5 loan, we received an interesting comment from one of our e-News readers.

Alex Smith, Director at Alara, wrote: “Interesting project. Having spent a year living with no money I started my business with £2 found in the gutter.” Determined to find out more, we tracked Alex down and asked him to share his fascinating story in a little more detail…

Please tell us a little about your business…

Alara is an organic cereal and superfood manufacturing company based in Kings Cross, Central London. We will turn over about £5.5m and make about £400k profit this year while growing at about 25%. We have big gardens round the factory, including 150 fruit trees and a vineyard.

You say you started it with £2 found in a gutter! How did you go about setting it up and getting the business off the ground?

After living for a year without using money I decided to start using money again and found £2 in the street which was used to get a borrowed van into New Covent Garden Market. Going round the bins, where I had been scavenging thrown away food, I could collect more with a van which was then sold in a squatted shop. The money earned was used to buy wholefoods and we turned into a wholefood shop.

What were the biggest challenges you found in doing so?

The biggest challenge was changing the way I lived my life to become much more self-disciplined.

What motivated you to set up Alara?

My partner at the time, for reasons I am still a bit unsure of, got a bit fed up of living without any money.

What aspects do you most enjoy about running your business?

The freedom to shape my own destiny.

What are the primary challenges facing your business today?

In 2012, we set a new mission in the business which is: “The most sustainable food manufacturer on earth.” We have three measurers for this:

Achieving these measures is very challenging.

How do you see the business progressing over the next few years?

The plan is to move more sales online, selling more expensive products while remaining and growing on our current site and engaging more with our community.

What advice would you give to the pupils participating in The Fiver Challenge?

Look at what you love doing and see if you can see any waste around that which, by its nature, is undervalued.

For more information on Alara, visit www.alara.co.uk.

Do you have any interesting stories or useful tips for those entering ‘The Fiver Challenge’, inspired by The Young Enterprise charity in partnership with Virgin Money? Share your comments below or tweet us @HiltonBaird.

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