5 Unlikely Business Success Stories

By Andrew Rosler | Small Business

Tales of entrepreneurial success can offer inspiration and guidance to any aspiring business types trying to get their big idea off the ground. Although there is no recipe to guarantee the success of a business, ethical integrity, local manufacturing, sincerity and self-belief are just some of the ingredients that have helped the entrepreneurs below turn their dreams into lucrative and popular businesses.

1. The Cambridge Satchel Company

5 Unlikely Business Success Stories image 3881707524 0ae7841a37 300x1995 Unlikely Business Success StoriesNow familiar to thousands after appearing in international magazines and on a Google advert, Julie Deane’s iconic bags were inspired by her motivation to generate cash for her daughter to have a private education. Working first as an accountant and then as a full time mum, uniquely Julie was able to avoid borrowing cash or forking out for costly advertising. The idea to make traditional leather satchels for schoolchildren required an initial investment of just £600 and then relied on bloggers, word of mouth and celebrity gifting to promote and advertise the product. By December 2007 over 40,000 orders had been put in for Christmas and the bags are now stocked internationally around the world.

2. By Caprice

5 Unlikely Business Success Stories image 21 01 2013 1 lg 300x1995 Unlikely Business Success StoriesAlthough the tale of model-turned-lingerie-designer seems a fairly natural transition, Caprice’s story proves that changing direction in any career is never easy. With bedding, nightwear and swimwear now sold in 13 countries, By Caprice is one of the most successful ranges to come out of the UK. Initially given a deal by Debenhams to lend her name to a lingerie line, Caprice bought back her license and taught herself every facet of how her business worked, using a grant to kick start her company, researching trends and expanding overseas. Caprice attributes a lot of importance to social networking, which works as free marketing and helps build a loyal fan base.

3. Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream

5 Unlikely Business Success Stories image 5729055063 b77e9b562f z 300x1725 Unlikely Business Success StoriesRecognised around the world for their innovative flavours and entertaining names, the founders of this hugely popular brand of ice cream (Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield) conceived their business proposal through a hobby. After taking an ice cream making class together, they researched college towns with a gap in the market and opened an ice cream shop in an unused fuel station. From this first business in Vermont, USA the franchise spread and even after their deaths the company continues to make over $237,000,000 a year.

4. Ratemyplacement.co.uk

5 Unlikely Business Success Stories image ratemyplacement directors 300x2255 Unlikely Business Success StoriesNow the ‘go to’ site for big corporations seeking to find the cream of the crop for their career placement schemes, Ratemyplacement.co.uk was the brainchild of three Loughborough university graduates Oliver Sidwell, Ali Lindsay and Chris Wickson. Disappointed by the lack of paid internships and work placements for talented graduates, these three entrepreneurs established the site in 2008 for students to review their experiences and for employers to advertise. With organisations like Barclays, Disney and JP Morgan paying to post their roles, turnover is over £1,000,000 per year.

5. The 99p Store

5 Unlikely Business Success Stories image 992 300x1665 Unlikely Business Success StoriesThe Lalani brothers originally had the idea for a business selling discounted goods in the 1970s but since then, their business has continued to go from strength to strength, experiencing huge growth even in the face of the recession. Having created and sold two convenience store franchises in the UK prior to the realisation of this new venture, the birth of the 99p store was inspired by the popularity of dollar stores in the USA. Although they acknowledge that their business benefitted hugely from the demise of high street giant Woolworths, the brothers also attribute their success over the last decade to building local interest with promotions. Self-funded until the opening of their 19th store, their 135 branches now bring in a turnover of over £250,000,000 per year.

More Business articles from Business 2 Community:

Subscribe to our mailing list
* indicates required
Small Business Services