Deputy Editor David Jordan visits Hemel Hempstead to meet two of the industry’s youngest entrepreneurs.
While most young people leaving school with a string of A Levels would be looking forward to the distractions of student life and a world of academia, school friends Matt Williams and Justin Yates had other ideas. But then, Matt and Justin are definitely not most young people.
Justin had called The Mover’s office and asked if we’d like to do a profile on his company, JamVans, and after hearing his story I was happy to oblige.
JamVans – an amalgamation of the partners’ names – specialises in removals in and around London using Luton vans. Nothing unusual about that. But what is unusual is that Justin and Matt were only 18 years old when they started the company back in 2010.
As I sat in JamVans’ office on an industrial estate near Hemel Hempstead, Justin and Matt explained how they got into the removals business. “My dad has been running a moving business since 1996 and I used to earn money at weekends washing the vans and generally helping out,” said Justin. “That gave me a feel for the business and it also gave me a taste of what it was like to earn money. As well as cleaning the trucks, I had my own car cleaning set-up. Several family friends would come around on a Sunday and chat to my parents while I cleaned their cars. I’d do two or three every week.”
Matt also had an early introduction to the world of commerce and demonstrated his entrepreneurial skills by buying sweets wholesale and selling them to other kids in the school playground. “I started by selling a bar of chocolate that I’d bought in the local newsagents for 20p for 40p and it all sort of mushroomed from there,” said Matt. “I used to keep the stock in my school locker but when I started buying wholesale from Costco there wasn’t enough room, so I bought some of the other kids’ lockers to gain extra storage space. I sold drinks as well, there was much more profit in those. Soon I was making about £30 a day.” Not bad for a 14-year-old who started with just 20p!
Matt and Justin were both offered places at university and had saved around £4,000 each to go towards their tuition fees, but when the time came the lure of business was too strong and they decided to use the money they’d saved to buy a van and start their own removals company.
The pair pooled their university fees and bought an old Transit van. “The van cost £3,500 and we spent the rest refitting it, getting the correct insurances and launching a website,” said Justin. “We took ads in the local paper and had 3,000 leaflets printed to stuff through doors – that gave us a lucky break.”
“One of the leaflets went through the door of a manager at a well-known brush-makers in Hemel who needed components delivering to outworkers every morning and the completed brushes bringing back to the factory. The job paid all the basic overheads of the business and was done by 9 o’clock in the morning, leaving the rest of the day to make a profit,” said Justin.
Although they were only a one van operation, Matt and Justin were determined to make a success of their venture and insisted on everything being done by the book. “We had proper goods in transit insurance right from the start and all the cash went through the books,” said Matt. “We had a machine for credit card payments and we were VAT registered.”
By 2012 the fleet had grown to three vehicles and a ‘niche’ market was developing for work in central London. “We started buying leads from price comparison sites and found that because of our smaller vans and being based just outside the M25, we were very competitive,” said Justin. “A lot of our customers are young professionals and although they tend not to have a lot of stuff, what they do have is often expensive so they want a professional service. We like to compare ourselves as the John Lewis of removals, offering a quality moving service, without compromise.”
JamVans now employs 18 people, operates nine Luton vans and has recently become a member of BAR. A remarkable achievement in such a short time. The young entrepreneurs’ next milestone will be to buy - not rent – their own warehouse, probably in the main industrial estate in Hemel Hempstead. “We’ve already talked to our bankers about a commercial mortgage and we’re hoping to move within the next 18 months,” said Justin. “At the moment we rent a lot of storage space from other movers, but as the business expands it makes sense to buy our own.”