Starting a company with no business plan, no office and no money isn't a recipe for success. But Alex Cheatle and Andrew Long were confident that their idea for a concierge services firm would appeal to cash-rich, time-poor professionals. Cheatle, 31, hit on the idea in San Francisco.
Returning to Britain in 1999, he and Long, 26, launched Ten (Time Energy Network) UK, relying on their credit cards to keep them afloat. 'Without a business plan, we couldn't even open a bank account,' says Long. They persisted, interviewing potential staff at Cheatle's London flat.
Concierge services have now caught on, but at the time success was less assured. Even so, the pair found plenty of people willing to test-drive the service and spread the word. Individual members pay pounds 1,500 a year for a personal lifestyle manager, who will arrange anything from dog-walking to wedding planning. If you can't take time off work to let the builder in, Ten UK will arrange for someone to be there, and will even find a reliable builder.
Much of the profit on their pounds 3 million turnover is being re-invested for international expansion. TenDE has been launched in Germany, and Cheatle and Long hope that France, the Benelux countries and the US will follow.
'We wanted to do something new that would make a tangible difference to people's lives,' says Cheatle. Customers who forgot to put the cat out now rest easy.