About John Caudwell…
John Caudwell was born on the 7th of October 1952 in Birmingham. Originally from the Midlands, his family moved and settled in Stoke-on-Trent – an area which has always battled with economic and social challenges.
John was aware of his entrepreneurial and creative streak even as a child, engaging in schemes as varied as growing worms in a box under his mother’s bed which he would then sell to fishermen, collecting gift coupons from cigarette packets and selling the goods he bought with them, and selling motorcycle clothing – a business so successful that the manufacturer eventually blocked his supply after complaints from competitors.
John abandoned his A-levels in favour of something more practical, and began an engineering apprenticeship at the Michelin Tyre factory in Stoke-on-Trent.
But it was in the mid-1980s, when operating a successful car dealership in Stoke, that he turned a business problem into a business opportunity.
Ever pro-active, John would search for cars for customers if they asked for something he didn’t have in stock. One of the sources of these cars was auctions – John would see a car about to come through, and then phone a prospective customer to see if they were interested. But there was a challenge: one payphone and lots of car dealers resulted in many missed sales.
John had heard about mobile phones, but knew little about them. He researched and approached one manufacturer to buy one. The price for a single unit was £1,600. He asked if they would do a deal on two, which was agreed but only on the basis that John would start a dealership. In turn, it resulted in an agreement between the two parties which entailed buying 26 handsets.
It took 9 months to sell these 26 phones to local plumbers, taxi drivers and television repairmen at a price of £2,000 each. The company made a loss every month for the first two years of operations.