Traffic jam sparks £1m business idea
An entrepreneur who was inspired to launch his own online business selling traffic products after being stuck in a motorway queue has topped £1m turnover in less than two years.
Sam Eastwood, from Bolton, clocked up 2,000 miles a month working as a sales rep when he noticed how many traffic cones were on the UK’s road network.
He launched Street Solutions UK in March 2017, focusing initially on selling cones, traffic barriers and kerb ramps to consumers, especially wheelchair and mobility scooter users. He recently extended the product range to include personal protection equipment (PPE) like gloves, helmets and workwear along with light plant equipment.
The company reported a turnover of £150,000 in its first year of trading and is on track to report £1m in 2019/20, despite Eastwood being the only member of staff.
He said: “We are on track to achieve £2m in 2020/2021 revenue with a healthy profit in the coming financial year but I don’t know what the impact of the coronavirus outbreak will have from this juncture however we continue to invest in staff and growth opportunities both in the UK and overseas.”
The 24-year-old former pupil of Turton High School, in Bolton, had always planned to launch an online business but didn’t know what to sell until inspiration struck in the most unusual setting.
He explained: “I’d done some research on drop-shipping, where the manufacturer delivers direct to the consumer. It means you’re not storing stock so you don’t need big premises or a big workforce. The problem was I didn’t have a product to sell.
“I remember I was driving down to Hampshire in my role as a sales rep with a software company and as far as I could see were orange traffic cones and barriers. I thought ‘somebody must be supplying them’.
“I started researching it and found the B2B market was well catered for but the B2C sector wasn’t. I realised how big the opportunity was when I saw three traffic cones selling on eBay for £150.
“I managed to form a network of strategic partnerships with around five or six manufacturers and carried on working as a sales rep while I grew Street Solutions UK to the point in June 2019 that I could go full time. That was a game-changer.
“Everything has been bootstrapped. I didn’t take a penny out the business for the first nine months and carried on juggling two jobs.”
Eastwood said most of their customers are members of the public rather than businesses.
“It could be to disabled people in wheelchairs or mobility scooters ordering ramps so they can negotiate the kerb to people who live near football grounds and want to put a few cones out on a match day so their drive isn’t blocked. It makes a big difference to their life and is inexpensive.
“We’ve expanded our product range into personal protection equipment (PPE) sector. Working with the likes of Amazon and eBay I'm looking to build the business to be a one-stop-shop for our customers, with quick service and deliveries catering to their urgent needs.
“It’s been a really good steep learning curve but now when I’m stuck in a traffic jam I smile because that was where it all began for Street Solutions UK.”