Decisions: Charles Hunt, Duvet and Pillow Warehouse

The online bedding retailer's co-founder on going into business with a friend, taking the leap from the corporate world and admitting defeat too early.

by Hannah Prevett
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

My best decision...

When I was founding the company, I ignored the industry experts who said it was difficult and dangerous to directly source feather and down pillows and duvets from overseas factories. They suggested it would be better to use UK wholesalers. I did some research and found they were just protecting their own interests. By ignoring them, we've created a business that's grown to a £5m turnover in just over four years.

It was also a good idea to go into business with an old friend Adam Prowse (left), who introduced me to my wife 20 years ago. Adam has a high degree of operational and procedural skill and I have a flair for innovation and creating opportunity. So I'm the entrepreneur; he's the manager. We do often row, though. But when we do, it's constructive, not personal. I think conflict is healthy - providing it's under control.

The conscious decision to jump from a corporate to an entrepreneurial world was a big - and, as it turned out, excellent - decision. I left a good job to set up my first business with a £5,000 car loan from Barclays - and haven't looked back.

My worst decision...

... Was not admitting defeat with my first company earlier. I spent every penny I had and borrowed huge amounts to keep it afloat. I should have been much more ruthless. It was a bed and bath retailer and first got into trouble when Royal Mail went on strike in the last week in November 2004 and it didn't deliver our whole Christmas catalogue campaign. We lost half a million in sales as a result. It was a mortal blow for us. That was a very difficult time in my life. Losing a business knocks you flat. It didn't help that another bad decision was rejecting an offer from a competitor to buy that particular business a year before the strike. They offered us £1m cash, but we wanted more.

Another bad decision around that time was to spend a lot of money on consultants so they could try to save the company. But what we found was that they were just plugging gaps in the management team that should have already been filled with full-time people. We should have employed people from the off rather than relying on expensive external sources.

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