How the self-made made it

Business start-ups: help is at hand for would-be entrepreneurs

Lesley Clare and Andrew de Rozairo's business idea came to them when they wanted to print a simple colour business presentation. They were so outraged at the price quoted to them - pounds 10 a page - that they decided there must be an opportunity to set up a do-it-yourself computer studio.

"We figured that most of the cost was paying the operator to press `print', so we asked if we could operate the computer and save that expense," says Ms Clare, a former finance specialist with Apple Computer.

Told that customers were not allowed on the machines, they reflected that there must be many people in a similar position to them in knowing how to do the work but needing access to the expensive equipment required for short periods and at a reasonable cost.

The plan was to set up a centre where customers could walk in off the street and start working at a computer - confident that expert help was on hand if they got into difficulties.

But before they went ahead, the pair - who had met at the Insead business school in France - did market research. They sent questionnaires to a group of Kensington residents selected from the phone book and received 40 per cent back, most with positive comments.

So they put their savings into the project and set about getting a bank loan to make up the difference. After weeks of frustration they found a NatWest manager who believed in the idea but, more importantly, adds Ms Clare, believed in them. "Most banks were reluctant because it was new territory."

However, they were still not prepared for how long it would take them to be actually up and running. Having found premises and arranged the lease, they then had a problem over the name they chose - the Government objected to The Home Office. So they resorted to "declare" - taken from parts of their names.

Within 12 months of starting out, in London's Earls Court, they had outgrown the premises. And in the past six months they have bought out a competitor in Covent Garden and opened another centre in Camden Town.

Three years after setting up they have 10 employees and are looking at achieving a turnover of pounds 500,000 in this financial year. With more than 50 computers, 15 printers and six scanners, "declare" claims to be the largest do-it-yourself computer studio operation in Europe.

It has been, admits Mr de Rozairo, "a tough learning curve". But he points out that the business has helped more than 40,000 individuals and firms in its short life, and the duo's greatest satisfaction comes from watching start-up companies - many of whom are given advice based on their own experiences.

Now preparing another business plan with the aim of obtaining further funding for the months ahead, Mr de Rozairo and Ms Clare will be on hand at the Carlton Enterprise Fair, which takes place at the New Connaught Rooms in Covent Garden this Friday and Saturday.

The event - which the television company says is part of its "commitment to putting something back into the region" - will feature contributions from a range of advisers with the idea of helping anybody planning to start or already running a small business. It comes as accountancy firm Clark Whitehill is preparing a similar event for owner-managed businesses for 31 January, with speakers including shadow Chancellor Gordon Brown.

In order to promote the Carlton event, which comes as many leading banks are renewing efforts to inform would-be entrepreneurs of the help available to them, the television company is screening several short films in which Karen Jones, co-founder of the Cafe Rouge chain of restaurants, fashion designer Bruce Oldfield, and Nicola Foulston, chief executive of the Brands Hatch motor racing circuit, talk about their early days in business and what has motivated them.

Ms Jones says: "I think strong business partnership is crucial. I have learned to listen to good advice in all my plans."

It is a view echoed by Mr Oldfield, who says: "When I started, I knew how to be a fashion designer. But I had to learn how to run a business. I survived because I took some sensible advice."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Arts and Entertainment
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity takes him behind the bars again
tvBy Reason of Insanity, TV review
Lois Pryce... Life Without a Postcode. Lois lives on a boat with her husband.. Registering to vote in the election has prooved to be very difficult without a fixed residential post code. (David Sandison)
newsHow living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Retirement Coordinator - Financial Services

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: To provide a prompt, friendly and efficient se...

Recruitment Genius: Annuities / Pensions Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: You will be the first point of contact for all...

Ashdown Group: HR, Payroll & Benefits Officer - Altrincham - up to £24,000.

£18000 - £24000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: HR, Payroll & Benefits Of...

Ashdown Group: Learning and Development Programme Manager

£35000 - £38000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, int...

Day In a Page

Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing