Tell us a bit about your background Archie?
I had a very privileged upbringing with a prep school and public school education and I grew up in a family where I was very lucky to have regular holidays and a swimming pool at home. I went to Oxford Brookes University to study History and German, not really having any idea of what I wanted to do with my degree once I’d finished it. Whilst at University I began working for myself as a street trader initially hair braiding and then as a henna tattoo artist earning up to £1,000 a week, having been bitten by the entrepreneur bug whilst in my teens I knew it was the only way I would end up working. I’ve always been hugely ambitious but following the birth of my son in 2003 all I have wanted do is to be able to give my son half the lifestyle I was blessed to have as a child.
What is your proudest achievement?
I’ve had many proud moments over the years so I’m not sure there is one particular moment that stands out. Winning the regional finals and representing London in the Shell Live Wire competition when I was 24 years old was a big achievement, selling everything I owned in the world and getting onto a plane with £1,000 to fly to India to run a business and coming back 6 months later having made £4,000 and investing that into stock worth £25,000 was another. I also supplied over 300,000 bindis in 1997 to Miss Selfridge, Top Shop, Mark One & Tammy and Etam was another as bindis became the fastest selling accessory line to date in a 5 month period. Moving from home to an office and then the company snowballing to 4 full time staff within 9 months was another.
Today I’m incredibly proud of the 12 man team I have and the fact we’ve grown throughout the recession with a turnover of over £2m is a current proud achievement!
Who is your female inspiration?
I’m really not sure I have a female inspiration. My mum died when I was young and I’m sadly not very close to my step mother. I’ve always been very inspired by my Dad he has been a huge inspiration to me as I’ve grown up.
Contraband is a corporate entertainment agency. Our office is based in London but we work with performers from across the UK and internationally. We have over 1,500 acts on our books equating to over 20,000 performers from across the globe all the very top of their game. We have ballet dancers to street dancers, beat boxers to African drummers, casino tables to fair ground rides, graffiti artists to sand artists.
We’re proud of our talent roster brimming with the best entertainment the industry has to offer.
Tell us about your successes
I’ve been incredibly lucky to build up a business from nothing to a turnover of £2m, 12 full time staff and a swanky new 3,700 sqf office in the Chocolate Factory, North London. I literally sold everything I owned on a second hand market in 1995, got on a plane and started my business with £1,000. I sofa surfed in the beginning years and lived very much hand to mouth but with sheer determination and a great self-belief I’ve managed to grow the business from such a humble start to a business currently growing in SME status and finally being able to buy the dream convertible car and currently working towards the swimming pool I’ve always dreamed of.
What about the challenges you have encountered
I faced many challenges over the years including lack of money, bad debts, poor financial advice from book keepers, lack of business experience as well as upheavals in my personal life including the breakdown of my marriage and a difficult divorce. I’ve also been a single mum for 6 years and juggled a growing business alongside being a mum and running a home although I’ve been lucky to have great support from my colleagues at work and fabulous nannies over the years.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
The best piece of advice I was given was when I was 11 years old by my best friend’s father. He was a self-made entrepreneur. He said to me
‘let me teach you one important lesson in life Archie, and that’s minimum effort but maximum reward and that doesn’t mean work lazy it just means work smart’.
Time is incredibly precious and there are only a finite number of seconds in each minute. So everything you do in life needs to be smart, both in your work and personal life. I’ve lived my life by it and it’s an invaluable piece of advice to pass on.
What would you like to achieve over the next 12 months?
We’ve been very lucky to grow through the recession and have grown this financial year at a 15% increase compared to last year. I’d like to push for a 25% increase for the next financial which I know is ambitious considering the current economic climate but we’re working on several ways to expand our client base in particular globally to increase market share and developing other areas in which we operate including production, higher end entertainment options and experiential marketing.