Telling the truth about SME life today

5 of the UK’s most successful working class entrepreneurs

Mone, who recently left her Ultimo lingerie business to concentrate on her government work is to spearhead a review into why those from disadvantaged backgrounds in the UK are no longer creating small businesses.

The government fears that part of the reason for a lack of street spirit is a shortage of inspiring role models from this section of society.

Here we do our bit by listing five of the UK’s most successful working class entrepreneurs the rags to riches brigade with the swagger and spark born out of their tough backgrounds.

1) Charlie Mullins, founder of Pimlico Plumbers

Mullins grew up on a South London council estate. At the age of nine Mullins decided he wanted to be a plumber for the respect, the lifestyle and the money. He bunked off school to earn “two bob a day” working with a local plumber. He left school at 15 and did a four-year plumbing apprenticeship scheme. He started out with a second hand van and a bag of tools and in 1979 started Pimlico Plumbers from a basement of an estate agent in Pimlico.

It now employs 270 people with a turnover of 25m.

Read more from Charlie Mullins:

2) Alan Sugar

Like Mullins, he is the product of a London council estate. According to a BBC profile in 2007, Sugar said he wasnt a ruffian but had plenty of lip. By the age of 12 he was getting up at 06:00 to boil beetroots for a local greengrocer.

He started out in business selling car aerials and cigarette lighters and at 21, and in 1968 he launched Alan Michael Sugar Trading better known asAmstrad.

He helped revolutionise the computer industry and in 1991 became chairman of his beloved Tottenham Hotspur. His relationship with the fans soured whilst some Amstrad ideas such as the videophone phone, video and e-mail in one handy apparatus failed to take off.

Despite becoming a Sir his appearance on TV show The Apprentice revealed there is plenty of working class rebellion and toughness still in him.

3) Brian Souter

Souter began work as a student bus conductor with Alexanders Bus Company in his hometown of Perth, Scotland when he was 18.

Whilst studying at University Souter, he held down a full time job as a bus conductor in Glasgow where he worked early morning split shifts before sprinting to lectures in his uniform and then going back on the buses in the afternoon.

He became an accountant after leaving university though it took him a while to land a job A lot of the people that I was interviewed by were terrible snobs. I didnt go to the right school, live in the right street,” he said in The Scotsman in 2002.

He worked as an accountant during the day and . you guessed it, he worked as a bus conductor in the evening.

Soon the man with “diesel for blood” left the world of accountancy to set up bus group Stagecoach with his sister. His bookish colleagues warned him not do it, but Stagecoach now boasts rail and bus operations around the world. What a ride.

4) Michelle Mone

According to the IMDb website, working class Glaswegian Mone left school at 15 to achieve her dream of becoming a model.

After becoming pregnant with her first child and getting marred she moved into marketing, instead working for brewer Labatt. One night at a dinner dance the idea for a more comfortable bra came to her and after obtaining a licence for a new silicone product she began MJM International. Based in the traditional ship building district of Govan in Glasgow the company created the patented Ultimo bra. It was lift-off from there.

5) Derek Trotter aka “Del Boy”

Trotter, founder of New York, Paris and Peckham-based, Trotters Independent Trading, ran a market stall in the 80s and 90s. Ably assisted by brother Rodney, Grandad and uncle Albert as well as a series of cocktails served up in his urban apartment he wheeled and dealed through a series of crazy schemes.

This time next year well be millionaires,” he kept telling his brother. His optimism and hard work finally paid off in 1996 when he found an antique watch in his garage which made him a fortune.


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