Monday, 13 August 2007

Duncan's Super Ices

Mr Bannatyne’s sister Helen died in 1972. His sister and husband had plans for selling up and moving to Canada. Her death changed everything and his parent’s relationship were never the same again. After Helen’s memorial Mr Bannatyne had to take care of his parents and he ended up in a few scrapes and lost his licence for drink driving.

He moved to Jersey as some told him his driving licence would still be valid there. He tried to get a work as a bartender, but thought if he can’t then at least he can drive a taxi with his licence. He founded a bar (job) and made some friends in this bar. Working in the bar meant he had the mornings free, so he’d often start the day on the beach. Whilst in Jersey he also did other occasional jobs, like deck-chair attendant, hospital porter, lorry driver or ice-cream vendor. He survived on a tiny amount of money, but never felt poor. It was virtually impossible for non-residents to start a business in Jersey, unless they’re incredibly wealthy, so there was no incentive to do anything other than part-time jobs. This was here where he worked out schemes on how to make extra money, like renting an ice-cream van for the day and buying some stock and then sold it on the beach. It was here that he learned quite a lot on how to run a small business. He earned about £200 per month on the little jobs he did in Jersey.

He then met Gail in Jersey who was a petite blond girl. She worked as a waitress at a golf course. It was one Sunday morning on the beach with Gail when a turning point came for Mr Bannatyne. He had picked up a newspaper to read when he read the story about a man who’d started a business on a shoe string and gone on to become a millionaire (sure it was Sir Alan Sugar).

Mr Bannatyne thought to himself, “if this Alan Sugar guy can do it, then so can I” He bought his first Vauxhall ice-cream van, called Catweasel, and it cost him £450. It broke down quite a few times. He started this ice-cream business as he did not need any staff, don’t need much capital and easy to start without business knowledge. The only problem was, he was too tall to stand up in it properly. The only way to stand up properly was without shoes, so he drove round in his socks. Most ice-cream business in the country served soft ice-cream as it was easier to serve. Mr Bannatyne decided to serve hard ice-cream in scoops. Although most people said it would not work as he cannot sell them as quickly as hard ice-cream he imported a special scoop from America that is strong and can quickly serve hard ice-cream. An important thing was, this scoop left a little smile on top, like a smile. He then later on filled this smile with strawberry sauce and added some aniseed balls for eyes. Suddenly he realised he could charge 10% instead of the usual 8% for an ice-cream with a face. These face ice-cream became very popular with kids and Duncan’s Super Ices got off to a good start. He then gave names to all his ice-creams. A competitor started to make life difficult for him, but managed to drive him away and buy his ice-cream van. He now had two vans and staff.

He decided to take these two vans to a local park in the hot summer days and sell his ice-creams there. He thought that it would cost around £2000 for the summer holidays to park his vans there and sell ice-cream. He needed a licence for that and phoned the Council. That first summer he made £18 000 in the park. The amazing things were, no other ice-cream business phoned the Council for a licence. He was new to this whole business. If he could see this opportunity, why did no one ever think of this? The reason: whilst everyone in the country, selling ice-cream, was happy with selling enough ice-cream to run a profitable business and the status quo, Mr Bannatyne was not! He carried on building his business and towards the end of the business he had a turnover of around £300 000 a year of which about £60 000 was profit that he took as a salary. This is the equivalent of about £120 000 today. But, it all changed for good in 1984 when he started building the “foundations” of his fortune.

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