We often hear about the wealthy using their financial resources to create startups, or experienced business owners acquiring new firms and expanding their businesses to reach billions of dollars in worth.
These people are motivating in their own way, but some of the most inspirational stories come from entrepreneurs who started from nothing and beat the odds to turn their dreams in successful businesses.
This is the story of two step-brothers who started their grocery business from the back of their van, and turned it into a popular supermarket chain worth $14 million today.
Chris O’Connor and James Brundle are two step-brothers, both of the age 34, who started their grocery business together 10 years ago. The two visionaries wanted to bring smart shopping experience to the British market by providing a wide array of services under one roof. Unfortunately, they were strapped of cash and had to make the best of what they had: a transit van with a decent amount of space in the back to start a small business.
The couple started off by buying fresh and organic produce from the farmer’s market and selling it off at a profit. With time, the business expanded to include a small food stand where freshly-made fish and chips were sold to passers-by.
Now the grocery business has grown from the van to a four-storied supermarket, known as Eat17, which sells more than just milk and eggs. Customers who stop by for a weekly shop can benefit from an in-house butcher, a number of stalls from vendors selling freshly baked goods, a barber’s shop to get a haircut and even a flower stall to pick up a bouquet for your grandma before Sunday brunch.
A Unique Supermarket
Eat17 is unique in its own way: it features a number of well-known brands which stock their own products in the grocery section of their individual stores but many up-and-coming vendors and local suppliers are given a chance to sell their goods as well. Shoppers can also make pitstops across the supermarket to enjoy some of the amazing food offerings from the restaurants housed inside Eat17. Hackney has its own rustic stone oven for those looking to grab a quick slice of pizza whereas Bishop’s Stortford has an entire street food market with a variety of freshly prepared finger food by local vendors.
Chris and James say that the mission of the supermarket is to connect local suppliers from all across the country with the customers under one roof and provide unique shopping and dining experience that no other supermarket can match. The duo quit their jobs in 2006 when they were just 22 and pooled together all their savings to buy a small run-down shop previously used to sell liquor and converted it into a Walthamstow outlet.
A Growing Business
Eat17 has six other chains scattered around the country, each offering a unique mix of local vendors in that area along with well-known British brands. James, who is now a father of two, says that he always wanted his own business since he was sick of being bossed around by others. He had even thought of starting his own ice cream truck business but then Chris came up with a better idea to start a supermarket business together.
The two had never thought that they’d be able to take their small van-run store and turn it into a multi-million-dollar business, but it was the risk they had taken with buying the old liquor store which paid off in a big way. At first, Eat17 was just a run-of-the-mill grocery store which offered groceries from a handful of generic brands but the two brothers decided to do something different and include offerings from local vendors, and the change was received positively by customers who no longer had to look around town for different vendor to buy quality goods.
The business soon shifted from the small liquor store to a big building next-door which is now an à la carte restaurant called Walthamstow whereas the Bishop’s Stortford has its own bakery which supplies freshly made sourdough bread to the rest of the Eat17’s chains. The two entrepreneurs have a lot on their plate as they manage several different areas of the business and keep coming up with new ideas for growth.