Russ Conway set up BJB Hire Centre over ten years ago, having since seen the business grow sizably.
Based in Thurmaston, BJB Hire Centre provides tool and machine hire, whether it be for the home, garden, decorating or construction.
In setting up the business, Russ obtained a £10,000 start-up loan from the Sir Thomas White Loan Charity, and explains why the financial assistance provided was so important to the development of BJB Hire Centre…
What were the foundations for BJB Hire Centre?
The company started back in 2003. Myself and my brother-in-law, Barry Brewin, had worked in hire trade before. He was working for a national competitor and he had a really bad back, but he wanted to stay in the business.
I sold my business and it was in August 2003 that we set up BJB. BJB actually stands for Barry, Jack and Bill; even though my name is Russ, I was known as ‘Jack Russell’.
How have you grown since 2003?
Quite organically; we’re still here after ten years. To start, we had a pot of £25,000 between us – and that’s why we needed assistance from the Sir Thomas White Loan Charity. We’ve gone from one digger to having seven or eight; we have two dumpers, a multitude of equipment to hire and a team of four staff. Everything is going well.
How did you find out about the Sir Thomas White Loan Charity?
Our accountant actually used to do the books and accounts for the Charity itself in the Chamber of Commerce on New Walk. She said ‘why don’t you go down there and see how you get on’. I submitted a business plan, had the interview and was lucky enough to get the £10,000 which required repayment after nine years.
What were the reasons for you requiring assistance from the Charity?
We needed some specific hire software, because it is a very strange industry with software and booking things out. We also needed a deposit on a digger, so there was about £5,000 set aside immediately, with the other £5,000 providing help with cash-flow, allowing us to buy kit and grow.
How did you find the application process?
The application process was easy; the interview was a little daunting because you have got people around a table asking you questions – and not being used to that kind of thing, that was the hardest thing. However, they’re really nice people, very easy to talk to and a joy to deal with.
How important do you think the Sir Thomas White Charity is to the business economy within Leicestershire?
I think it’s fantastic, because they want to give you money! There are no real restrictions and as long as you can get four good guarantors that can help if you do falter with repayments – they want to give you the money and they want help you. When they come out and visit you every year, they want to see where you are and how things are going. I think, because some of the Trustees have an accounting background, they are happy to give you advice as well.
Hopefully it also means that your business will employ people from within Leicestershire, so the whole county benefits.
How important is it that you have a three-year period before you’re obliged to start making repayments?
It is really good, because you then have time to work out how you’re going to pay the money back. It’s not like going to the bank, where you have to pay a set-up fee of £400; it’s so complicated and they require everything – inside leg measurement, grandparents’ birth certificates, the whole lot.
With the Sir Thomas White Loan Charity, they are just so easy to deal with.
What would your words of advice be to prospective applicants?
Just apply! The Charity can only say no. There’s a basic criteria; you need to be aged between 18 and 35 and living within Leicestershire. What have you got to lose? Some of the banks don’t want to know at all.
If you’re a start-up business with no records or trading figures, and all you have is a business plan and an idea, the definitely give it a go.
What are BJB Hire Centre’s plans for the future?
Just to keep growing. We’ve already gone from one digger to eight, but hopefully we can gain more customers. Obviously it is only natural to lose some along the way – but we want to expand and continue to enjoy ourselves.
For more on BJB Hire Centre, please visit bjbhirecentre.co.uk