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10 Big Businesses That Started With No Money

For many, the route to starting a business will be in finding venture capital. A lot of entrepreneurs get so caught up in the search for that capital that they fail to think about whether they might be able to start a business on their own. It’s not as outlandish as you might think, either. Here are some big UK businesses that got their start without having to borrow or raise money at all.

Virgin Records

The ultimate rags-to-riches story, all started by Sir Richard Branson with only £300 investment. From starting a student magazine, Richard raised the capital to open a mail-order record company, then a record shop, and from there, kept growing and growing, until Virgin moved into music production, telecoms, and now is even poking its nose into space travel and tourism.

Hargreaves Lansdown

Now a member of the FTSE 100, this financial service company, which sells funds, shares, and other financial products to retail investors in the UK, once only had £500 to its name, as well as a couple of cars. These meagre investments, floated by Peter Hargreaves CBE and Stephen Lansdown, were enough to get the business started, and today it’s valued at over £4.5 billion.

Carphone Warehouse

As humble as any retail chain can begin, Carphone Warehouse started with Sir Charles Dunstone, who was selling mobile phones from his own bedroom. He and his partner Julian Brownlie managed to save up £6,000 to put into the company and in eleven years, their smartphone retail shop became the largest in the UK, going public.

Beltway Cash and Carry

While now a multinational conglomerate operating across the world and serving over 125,000 retailers, the wholesale business was started by (now Sir) Anwar Pervez, who was born as the son of a poor farmer in Pakistan. After moving to the UK at the age of 21, he established his first convenience store with savings of £2,200, which eventually grew into the worldwide wholesaler we have today.

The Range

Initially a market-trader, Chris Dawson moved from selling seafood from his van, into selling perfume and jewellery from a suitcase. Humble beginnings, but ones that helped him raise enough capital to open a store called “The Range Home, Garden & Leisure” which eventually became the billion-dollar brand The Range.


One of the smallest investments in this list, Jon Hunt began with only £100, used to put a deposit down on a one-bedroom conversion. This began a successful career in independently buying and selling properties that eventually allowed him to found Foxtons.


Another famous example of the quintessential self-made man, Lord Alan Sugar started, as the legend goes, with selling electronics from a van that he bought for only £100. From there, he started Amstrad, which sold electronic goods across a wide range of markets, and gained a reputation that even landed Lord Sugar gigs on TV programs such as The Apprentice.


The £5,000 loan that Steve Morgan OBE won got from his father isn’t nothing, but few would imagine that it would be enough to build a fortune of £650 million. However, that is precisely what happened when Steve, once a site agent for Wellington Civil Engineering, build Redrow, which went on to become on the best-known housebuilders in the country.

WorldWide Travels

Another self-made millionaire, Rita Sharma started her fledgeling travel industry business from her garage after dropping out of college, with little more than £4,000 that she was able to raise. This grew into WorldWide Travels, however, and then after that,, which now makes over £100 million in sales.

New Look

Tom Singh OBE was also lucky enough to be able to start off with a £5,000 loan from his parents, but this is a sum of money that many nowadays could save on their own or with the help of a partner. In Tom’s case, it was enough to found New Look, which has now become a huge women’s wear and footwear retailer with over 1,000 stores worldwide and a highly well-known and respected brand.

Not all businesses can be bootstrapped into existence, but you might be surprised by just how many can. If you’re thinking of a starting a business, think about what you really need to get it off the ground, and whether or not you need to find capital for it.

Still need a helping hand? If you’re interested in seeing what business loan options you have for your business, get in touch today and we’ll get you on the right track. Call us now on 020 3355 7462.

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