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How to start your own business

How to start your own businessFounder of tyre retailer Black Circles Mike Welch has come a long way since leaving school with only an E in maths.

But what he lacked in academic ability, he has more than made up for in tenacity and drive.

The result: at 31 Mike has built a successful online business, which is giving the high street shops a run for their money.

Leaving school

Mike left school at 16 with a B in English, 2 Cs, some Ds and an E in maths. “I re-sat maths but got an F!” he says, adding: “I just wanted to go and earn money at 16. I was never particularly academic.

“So, I got the first job I saw in the local paper, fitting tyres in my local garage.
“It was there I noticed the guys in the garage weren’t that efficient the way they bought and sold tyres.”

Mike’s motivation to earn started at a young age. At one point in his teenage years he held down two paper rounds and a milk round.

He took this to the next level when, after being made redundant from his tyre-fitting job, he set up his own online mail-order tyre service from his parents’ home in Liverpool.

Mike did a course in web design to keep the overheads down and then took an accountancy foundation course at Liverpool John Moores University.

Equipped with these skills and a £500 grant from the Prince’s Trust, his business grew and, after three years he took a job launching Kwik Fit’s website, which he worked on until 2002.

The business

Mike set up Black Circles in 2002, a UK tyre retailer selling to independent garage franchises. He said: “The concept was fundamentally the same as it was with my first business. We keep the overhead costs down, which means we can offer tyres at 45% less than high street prices.

“We’re now finding that people are choosing our tyres over the big names. A lot of it is down to the fact that customers are shopping harder for the product. Kwik Fit is now my rival, but we’re still the underdog!”.

Being an entrepreneur

“What I’m doing is a tough business but I’ve learned that actually, you can do anything if you put your mind to it. I know that later in life I will do something else, somewhere else.

“I’ve also found that people buy into people. It’s less about the market and more about the person delivering it. When I quit Kwik Fit, my boss wanted to invest in my company. I was so confident and I think that helped.
“I would say the most essential skills for an entrepreneur are tenacity, experience and focus.”

Mentors and inspiration

“If there was any single person who helped me the most, it was Graeme Bissett. He’s the company chairman and started here in 2004.”

Graeme, who used to be the financial director of Kwik Fit, is described by Mike as: “a great financial man who provides a good centre balance.”

“I was also massively inspired by the founder of Kwik Fit, Tom Farmer.
When I left his company he invited me into his office and gave me lots of advice. A lot of it I still refer to now. “

Free time?

As an entrepreneur, Mike admits it’s easy to lose yourself in the job. But he says he has achieved a better balance now. He said:”I’m a lot less obsessed with the business now.

That’s probably because I’ve got an experienced team working with me. I also do amateur boxing in my free time and am training for a fight. Of course, I’m still an avid supporter of Liverpool football club too.”

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