Part 2 of 2…
Cousin Wesley had originally been packaged in corrugated cardboard and there was a lot of interest in the boxes alone which were fetching well over a hundred pounds. I bought a genuine Wesley in original packaging and also ordered in a truck load of 2-ply corrugated cardboard. The box that Wesley came in wasn’t glued or stapled but folded over neatly, fitting together like a very simple 3-D jigsaw. By unfolding the cardboard I made a stencil template and proceeded to replicate the design. Once the boxes were made all that was left for me to do was bash them about a bit and drag them around on the floor so that they gave the appearance of housing a pig for a few years.
I advertised the boxes on eBay as ‘replacements’ rather than originals and sat back to watch the money roll in. To begin with it did. They fetched around eighty quid plus postage and packaging and I was selling an average of three a day.
I’d missed one rather important factor – the market. I was selling to eBay users who wanted a box for a limited edition pig. After only a few weeks the price had slipped to twenty pounds and some boxes were not selling at all.
There was no copyright on any of the NatWest merchandise so I branched out a bit. I bought some blank key-rings and put images of the pigs in them that I printed off the computer. The key-rings went well so I moved on to coasters, calendars and other little keepsakes. I bought in a load of clocks where all you get is the hands and the mechanism that powers them. I chucked pictures of the pigs on everything and was selling dozens of items a day. All of the items were listed as ‘new’ to avoid comeback if someone wanted to make an issue about them not being genuine or original.
This continued for three months, until the returns started to diminish again. There isn’t a lot of satisfaction in selling worthless tat although I did make about £9,000 over a three month period.
Most of my entrepreneurial ventures had one of three things in common. They were either rubbish, I couldn’t afford to get them started or I couldn’t be bothered. Another eBay idea was to set up a company that held payments people made to an eBay seller. I’d seen tales where someone had won an auction, sent the money and then never saw their purchase or the cash again. It would seem some of the sellers are a bit dodgy. I was going to set up an auction website based on eBay where the payments would be held by a middle man (me) until the goods had been satisfactorily received, when they would be released to the seller. I still think that’s a winner, but I never did anything about it.
I’d decided at one stage that I was going to set myself up as a business guru. I had planned to leave my own repeated failures off my CV and provide big companies with ideas – a good ideas consultancy. The premise behind all of this was that I felt I could identify a problem that a company was having, find out what caused it and then provide that company with a solution. I was actually going to provide three solutions – one would be a dead cert, one a little bit more risky and another that would require the nerves of someone who catches bullets in their teeth to even contemplate.
The target company for this idea was the National Lottery. At the time it was having problems selling tickets. My solution was to diversify the lottery and increase the numbers of scratch cards on the market. In addition, the Lottery’s primary goal is to raise money for good causes. I felt that the overall image of the draws was poor as a lot of the money was going to what I called ‘undeserving’ causes, things like The National Opera House and to buy paintings. These were things that your average person couldn’t care less about.
I’d thought it all through and was on the verge of phoning Richard Branson. His company Virgin were in the process of bidding for The National lottery and I thought my ideas would help him win it. You’ve probably seen the one major flaw in this scheme. The ideas themselves were fine, but were a little bit obvious and it wasn’t long before Camelot did the changes without my help. Big businesses employ people with brains bigger than mine to ensure success.
Most of my ideas were good while they lasted. They were the talk of an inebriated, deeply unhappy man setting the world to rights. I didn’t have the motivation back then to do much about anything at all.
My hands clung tightly to the railings on the bridge and my mood rolled with the water below. The catering business I had set up with my sister’s husband had gone under. I had worked like a lunatic for scant reward for months to keep it ticking over. Saying goodbye wasn’t only ending a part of my life, it was like losing a friend or a part of me.
I relaxed as the fight was over, then I tensed with the blind terror of an uncertain future. It always stays with me as my ‘Shawshank Redemption’ moment. Did I get busy living or get busy dying? With options like those there’s only ever going to be one route forward.
It was a glimpse of clarity amidst the confusion. The moment eyes met in a crowded room and then moved on. I walked away from the river and wandered around Leeds city centre, window shopping for items I could no longer afford. It was nearly morning and I stopped at a newsagent’s to by some cigarettes and a paper. The chill had gone out of the air as I walked the last few hundred yards back to my front door. The newspaper was filled with other people’s misery that made my life seem wonderful in comparison.
Then as I turned to page 57 I found an idea for another get rich quick scheme. It was an advert that would change my life forever because this time my idea would work.