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Turning redundancy into opportunity

removals van

Ryan Hutton’s removals firm, Move-It, is not yet six months old, but his second van is at the sign writers and he’s planning a new, complementary business.

I asked Ryan where he got the skills, confidence and contacts to launch his business. After all, we are in the middle of a recession.

“I left school with no qualifications and worked with my dad for a while. He fell ill, and I was getting only two or three days work a week, doing all sorts.

“I ended up with a local removals company where I learned the trade… but I was made redundant. They said there wasn’t enough work, what with the recession. I wasn’t so sure. I’d managed to save a few hundred quid and I was determined to start my own removals firm.

How did you get started?

“Before I even had a van, or even a proper plan, I persuaded Yellow Pages to give me £1,800 credit on display ads. I now get 70% of my work from Yellow Pages. The adverts were due to start in Sept last year and so I had eight weeks to actually find a van!

“I only had £500, but a family friend heard I was starting a removals company, and he had a suitable van. He took a deposit and I paid the rest off when I could. So that was my first truck: a 3.5-ton Luton Transit.”

Who were you first customers?

“Hello, Mr and Mrs Potter from Kellaway Avenue. You’ll never know what a great feeling it was to get that first job – thanks!

Did you get any advice on how to set up and run a business?

“Just as I got started I began a training course, run by BRAVE, at Hartcliffe & Withywood Ventures.

“Over the six months we learnt how to prepare a business plan for the bank. That plan is now being marked as part of my NVQ right now.”

What about marketing?

“Justin Ricks, the course leader, gave us some ideas for advertising and promotion. And I persuaded a mate to put a big Move-It banner on the front of his pub!

“I also sponsor a local football team, Sartan United, and bought them a new kit and so on. That works because it gives me a useful profile, and people see Move-It as an established business.”

What else did you learn on the training course?

“We learnt about tax returns, general business and computer skills. I’ve just started a proper IT course, because I can see how important that will be as I manage the business. I’m proud that I did the course; it’s given me confidence and new skills.”

How do people choose a removals firm?

“When people move house, they need to be able to trust the guys doing the move. I collect testimonials by asking customers to complete a very short questionnaire after each job. Word of mouth is incredibly important in this game.

So have you proved your old employer wrong?

“We are not millionaires but I am breaking even and paying myself a wage.

“My sister has seen what I’ve achieved these last few months and she’s been inspired to start her own fruit and veg shop in Bedminster (south Bristol). She’s going to do the next BRAVE business course, too.

“My advice to her was ‘Don’t spend too long thinking about it — get the right training and then just do it.’

What’s next for Move-It?

“I’m looking to the future, and I want to get my storage business up and running. You’d be surprised how much clutter people want to store! I’ve got to find the right premises to rent, find customers, and make a turn. Storage is linked with removals. When people move house, sometimes they have stuff to store. And if I move it in to storage, then I can guarantee I will have to move it out of storage sometime! Sound like a good plan?”

Ryan was off to pick up his second van from the sign writers after we spoke. I wonder how many storage premises he will be running this time next year?

Ryan Hutton’s course was a Level 3 NVQ in Starting a New Business Enterprise. Justin Ricks worked with Ryan as a trainer and mentor through Hartcliffe and Withywood Ventures in partnership with BRAVE.

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