Most entrepreneurs are much too focused on building their businesses and making a success of their products to contemplate what they would do in the future if they had time on their hands and a nice bank balance to help them fill it. Undeterred by their commercial focus – and their quintessential British modesty – GrowthBusiness waited for an opportune moment and sprung a very simple question: If you had £100,000 to play with in a guilt-free moment of individualistic indulgence, what would you spend it on?
Name: Mark Fisher
Career to date
Not content with the place he secured in music folklore as the keyboard player of 1980s pop icons Wham!, Mark Fisher went on to join jazz-influenced group Matt Bianco in 1985 and spent the next 17 years recording a plethora of albums and touring the world.
Two years after leaving the band Fisher made a fairly radical departure, launching first4sale.com, a web portal through which home owners can sell their own property online and, in doing so, avoid the pain of estate agent commission. With a typical £300,000 house, he reckons around £5,000 of costs can be avoided in this way and believes that ‘estate agents needn’t be synonymous with selling property any more.’
A dash of sun in Spain
‘I’d buy a property abroad… probably in Spain. I’d avoid the English parts and would look instead at the traditional Spanish regions – maybe Barcelona, or perhaps Madrid. I also really like Alicante.
‘There are a lot of things I love about Spain. I like the culture, I like the music and the food. The wine’s great too. I’d love to spend more time out there if I could.’
Name: Adam Balon
Company: Innocent Drinks
Career to date
With university friends Richard Reed and Jon Wright, Adam Balon set up smoothie maker Innocent Drinks, starting in 1998 with just £500 worth of fruit at a jazz festival.
In a moment of seeming frivolity, they put up a sign saying ‘Do you think we should give up our jobs to make these smoothies?’ and put out a bin saying ‘yes’ and one saying ‘no’, asking people to try the drinks and put their empty bottle in the appropriate bin. The ‘yes’ bin filled up and the next day they went to their respective places of work and handed in their notice. Last year’s sales at their tasty venture hit £16.7 million and a 45 per cent market share of their niche market suggests they have done everything right thus far.
Alpine cheese heaven
‘I would like to buy a log cabin maybe somewhere very remote in the Alps so I could snowboard in the winter and read and sunbathe in the summer. Really basic, with a big fireplace, an axe to chop wood, a massive rug and big fridge (ie, the outdoors) to keep cheese in.
‘Then I’d spend the change on the best ever cheese club gathering, some really rare cheeses and lots of lovely red wine for 20 of my closest cheese-loving mates and colleagues.’
Name: Rosemary Conley
Company: Rosemary Conley’s Diet & Fitness
Career to date
Rosemary Conley’s Hip and Thigh Diet was published in 1988 and total sales of all her books are now approaching eight million. In 1993, she and her husband, Mike Rimmington, launched Rosemary Conley Diet and Fitness Clubs and in 1996, the Rosemary Conley Diet & Fitness magazine was launched and is read by half a million slimming fans.
In December 2001, Rosemary was granted the Freedom of the City of Leicester, the first woman to receive this honour, and last year received a CBE in the New Year’s Honours.
Golf clubs for my hubby, diamonds and a new Bentley for me
‘If I’m not allowed to give it to charity I would obviously spend it on myself and my family. For myself I would get a pair of solitaire diamond earrings from a jewellers in Leicester. The only reason I’ve not done it before is that I thought it was too indulgent.
‘Next, as it makes me happy to see my family happy, I’ll get my husband a new set of golf clubs and send my daughter on a skiing holiday in Lech in Austria, which is beautiful and has the best skiing in the world.
‘And finally, for me again, I would buy a newer model Bentley Turbo R, sticking with the colour scheme of burgundy with ivory upholstery. They are such comfortable cars to drive.’
Name: Dominic Berger
Company: Venue Solutions
Career to date
A former film producer and managing director of music and DVD e-tailer business Blackstar (now sendit.com), Dominic Berger currently heads Venue Solutions, a specialist provider of IT solutions to concert halls, sports stadia, shopping centres and the like.
Founded by Berger in 2002, the company boasts a range of offerings – from CCTV cameras through to venue management software – to its clients, which include the Scottish Rugby Football Union and Fulham FC, among others. Currently loss-making but expected to break into profits next year, Venue Solutions is planning to list on AIM later this autumn.
Wine – and the vineyard it came from
‘My big hobby is wine. My father used to lay down a case for me every year on my birthday and that’s a tradition my wife and I are continuing with our children.
‘So with £100,000 I’d either buy a lot of wine or maybe even a vineyard. A £100,000 is about 1,000,000 Rand and for that I could probably afford a fairly nice estate in South Africa. I’d work the land and drink the fruits of my labour all the way through to the 2010 World Cup!’
Guitars, horses and houses in Jersey, the objects of desire for AIM-quoted leaders
John Kembery, chief executive of acquisitive AIM-quoted data capture specialist Belgravium Technologies, says he would use £100,000 ‘to buy a racehorse’, if he could find one with promise at such a price, though he might consider putting the money into a syndicate to buy a better one. ‘I’d like to buy a house in Jersey,’ he ruminates, ‘but even a flat there would cost much more than that.’
Grant Ellis, chief executive of Harrogate-based Broker Network, which links a collection of independent community insurance brokers, says ‘I’d buy ten or 12 things.’ They would include ‘a very nice electric guitar’, which he would play in a band of ‘closet rockers’, to which he belongs, consisting of like-minded business contacts who ‘strut our stuff for charity’.
Another item would be one of Eric Clapton’s old records. Ellis would spend some more on tuition to improve his guitar playing and golf skills and booking ‘two holidays a year surfing off Cape Town’. Much of what would remain ‘I’d put into a recording studio’.
Serial entrepreneur John French heads a range of young companies, from AIM-quoted surveillance and security equipment specialist Croma to OFEX-traded Sexual Health Group, whose products include ‘Condomania’ condoms, ‘Sutherland’ lubricating jelly for the British armed forces, and pregnancy diagnostic equipment. Eschewing frivolity, he says he would spend a £100,000 windfall on ‘investing in smaller companies. I look at early-stage companies and so I get “seed capital” [usually on appreciably better terms than those who buy when the companies are floated].’