Young entrepreneur Joshua Stevens, founder of the £15m turnover One Retail Group, explains why it is important to nurture the next generation of entrepreneurs.
Joshua Stevens is a new school entrepreneur with an old school approach to entrepreneurship.
Just four years on from founding One Retail Group, Joshua has proven his business credentials beyond doubt, with a company that turned over more than £15m last year. No mean feat for a 28 year old.
His personal story is an extraordinary one that is very much about simplicity and not reinventing the wheel. He has become successful through identifying trending products and having a natural flair for product innovation.
With his proven eye for what is working in the market and what can be sourced, improved and sold at a competitive price point, Joshua is building a reputation as a new generation of business leader.
Joshua, who grew up in London and went to Haberdashers’ Aske’s Boys’ School in Elstree, has shown incredible tenacity in his career and first started trading and doing business as a teenager.
Aged 13, with his eye on purchasing a motorised scooter, Joshua discovered they were manufactured in China. He found the manufacturer’s contact details in a Chinese phone directory and began faxing them with the intention of buying direct.
Eventually, he managed to purchase one from the Chinese factory at less than half the UK retail price. He promptly sold it on to a passerby in the park for double the price he paid for it. Surprisingly, young Joshua didn’t spend the profit, but used the money to purchase two more scooters.
A year later, aged 14, Joshua moved on to buying mobile phones direct from China. His hobby had turned into a bedroom run import business and he was becoming skilled in dealing with suppliers in the UK and Far East. Albeit in its infancy, Joshua’s teen business was the prototype for One Retail Group.
By the age of 16, Joshua’s product range had grown to include scooters, games consoles and mobile phones, making him £8,000. He soon moved onto purchasing mp3 players directly from Japan, but disastrously lost all his money when the vendor took the money, but did not deliver any product. However, a year later, Joshua made all the money back and more, which he used to fund his bachelor’s degree in Business and Computing at Warwick University.
Upon graduating, Joshua went into the city, and became a bond and equities trader. After two years, he realised he didn’t enjoy the financial markets and his passion lay in running his own business.
“It dawned on me that I didn’t want to work for anyone," he said. "I wanted to do what I loved most which was manufacture, import and sell physical products. I was often told I had a gift, so I decided to utilise it."
Joshua was 24 when he decided to make use of all his early business experience. When he browsed online to look for consumer purchasing trends and find out what consumers were talking about, he soon found multiple celebrities writing about the huge benefits of Argan Oil from Morocco. Seeing the product’s potential in the ever-evolving health and beauty sector, Joshua decided Argan Oil would become his first product line.
He added: “I knew I had experience in sourcing product, I saw that Amazon was changing and was giving small vendors the opportunity to showcase their products. I saw the scope to grow and I knew that I could create amazing products that consumers really want.”
Four years later, Joshua’s company is debt-free and has never had a loan or external investment. It has built four brands and manufactures over 80 different products spanning the beauty, home appliance and sports & outdoors sectors.
One Retail Group dispatches over 2,000 orders per day across 7 countries (UK, USA, France, Italy, Germany, Spain and Canada). The company partners with 18 different factories worldwide to produce its hugely successful and diverse brand portfolio including The Body Source, Pro Breeze (leading home appliance brand) and NailStar (one of Britain’s most popular gel nail lamp brands).
One Retail Group has grown consistently year on year. Revenue in 2016 was £8m and the company saw revenue top £15m last year, with only five members of staff.
When parts of the UK were hit by floods a few years ago, it prompted Joshua to think about dehumidifiers. Also, when the Zika virus came about, Joshua thought about mosquito bracelets.
But with a growing consumer demand for natural and organic products, Joshua’s innovative instinct was to make them-all natural and chemical free using popular essential oils. All of these products are best-sellers, shifting thousands of units weekly.
“I feel that many entrepreneurs today have stepped away from supplying consumer goods, but there will always be a need for physical products that enhance people’s lives. I take an interest in products that may often be overlooked by others.
"There is so much overthinking that goes on around business, when there are so many opportunities that can still be tapped. Things that are going on in the world can often prompt demand for quite simple products.”
The next stage for Joshua’s business is getting products stocked in high-street stores, launching in Japan and opening up different, innovative income streams for the group’s products.
Joshua’s approach to modern entrepreneurship is refreshing in today’s climate of would be disruptive startups:
“People spend so much time perfecting their brand and lose sight of developments in the market. A brand like Apple can spend months or even years developing a new brand or product, but this is not always essential when you are starting out.
"Whilst many other businesses are still focusing on being the next Uber, we are agile and ready to pivot when we see a new opportunity. If we have a great idea, then, we do it!”
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