“I took out a second mortgage on my house…” Jolyon Bennett, founder of mobile phones accessories brand, Juice, tells me. “It was a super challenging time in both my personal life and career, having had my first child at the same time as launching my business.” Bennett grew up in a small village in West Oxfordshire before moving to Brighton for university where he studied sports science. After graduating, he moved back home to work in a local pub and met people from all walks of life. The pub was frequented by businessmen in suits who flaunted their flashy cars, and Bennett was inspired by their luxurious lifestyle.
That influenced him to go into the world of entrepreneurship. One day, a customer who worked in the mobile phone industry came into the pub for a drink and told Bennett about an incident that happened at work. His sales manager had walked out on him – and Bennett knew he had to take the bull by the horns. Beaming with enthusiasm, Bennett confidently told him he was up for the job. Two days later, he interviewed for the position and later got the role.
However, Bennett soon realised that he didn’t enjoy working for others. He was constantly getting fired from jobs, being described by managers as too ‘opinionated’ and ‘unmanageable’. Bennett knew he wanted to be his own boss and realised he couldn’t reach his fullest potential in the corporate world. In 2012, Bennett launched his business, Juice, a mobile phone accessories manufacturer selling recyclable products. “As I continued in my career, I was often regarded as being ‘unmanageable’ and too opinionated on how things should be done, which would result in me being fired,” Bennett said. “The last time I was fired was in January 2012, and that was when I decided it was time to stop getting fired and start my own business. That was the impetus I needed to raise the funds and get the ball rolling.”
Juice is the first mobile phone accessories manufacturer in the UK to remove all single-use plastic from its products. The company is on a mission to become completely carbon neutral with packaging made from recyclable materials that don’t cost the earth. Starting the business was no easy feat for Bennett. He took out a £100,000 business overdraft which almost saw his house repossessed. At the same time, Bennett was expecting his first child. The new dad was left struggling in his personal life and his finances were so tight he could barely make ends meet.
“I took out a second mortgage on my house and then signed an open-ended personal guarantee with Lloyds Bank, which meant that they were entitled to take any money I had if I defaulted on the £100,000 overdraft,” Bennett explained. “It was so stressful, and I was miserable. I’ve never earned less money and had more pressure in all my life. It was a super challenging time in both my personal life and career, having had my first child at the same time as launching my business. It was a disaster. Seeing my cash flow go down every day and red cells constantly appearing on my spreadsheet was just constant pressure.”
Bennett kept resilient and moved forward in a purpose-driven pursuit to grow his company. Nine years later, Juice has become a £15 million company and one of the fastest-selling mobile phones accessories brands at John Lewis, outselling Apple in UK sales of cables. “Success has also been freedom, meaning I no longer have to go into the office every day,” Bennett said. “There has been a strong financial success as we have established ourselves over the past 11 years and now have a strong balance sheet and profitability.
“Despite this, I strongly believe that money doesn’t necessarily mean success. Money is a by-product of a successful business, but a successful business is built on the joy you get from it. When everyone and everything in the business is operating as it should be, I think that’s where true success lies.”
Bennett prioritises his health and wellness, so much so that he incorporates this into his business. Employees have free yoga classes and access to a mindfulness program to improve their mental and physical well-being. “I have achieved a lot in terms of personal growth,” Bennett said, “I don’t drink much alcohol anymore and I’ve been working on a personal spiritual practice which is now an ingrained part of my life. This has allowed me to be a lot healthier in both my mind and body – I feel amazing and I’m able to reflect that in my business too.
“At Juice, we offer employees free yoga classes three times a week and we are looking forward to developing our mindfulness programme. Whether that’s with nutrition or therapy, I’m very interested in creating a nuclear effect to improve health, well-being and mindfulness, and in turn, drive the business forward.”
In a few words of advice to SMEs, Bennett said: “Go and get through the challenges. If your costs are going up, create more business. Work leaner, push harder. At the end of the day, no one is going to help save you if you are running your own business. Make sure you and your team are working as best you can and look after yourself to ensure you are performing at your highest potential. Push, push, push. This country needs SMEs to lift it. If you look around the world, the SMEs in other markets are pushing that little bit harder than us. We need to look after ourselves, remain strong and hustle, hustle, hustle.”