How Andrew Wright harnessed the self-discipline learned from championship fight training to unleash a multimillion-pound retail business.
What do elite pugilism and entrepreneurship have in common? A great deal if you ask 36-year-old former British kickboxing champion turned company founder Andrew Wright. Don’t worry, we’re not about to duck and dive into a series of cliches about rolling with the punches and refusing to throw in the towel. But what we will do is examine exactly how Andrew launched online appliance retailer The Wright Buy in 2009 with £2,000 and turned it into a £23m company.
“I was British Kickboxing Champion twice in the mid-2000s,” says Andrew. “I hung up my gloves in 2007 after breaking my arm a couple of times, so I’m a bit soft around the edges now. But kickboxing stood me in good stead for business.”
The Wright Buy’s founder is also a former British champion in another sport. Aged 12, he ruled these isles in yo-yo-ing, finishing 13th in the World Yo-Yo Contest in Hawaii. Of course, many entrepreneurs excel at PR spin, but Andrew is the first we’ve met who shines at this type of spin!
So, Andrew has a hat-trick of British titles to his name – two in kickboxing and a third in yo-yo-ing. He’s also created a £23m company. How has he hit such dizzy heights? We’ll look at the link between sporting rigour and business success later, but Andrew provides an initial clue: “I used to practise the yo-yo for three or four hours a day when I was a kid. I took that discipline into kickboxing and then into business.”
He started The Wright Buy in 2009, two years after retiring from kickboxing. First, he bought ten cooker hobs, selling them on eBay for a profit. He then repeated the exercise, buying more and stacking them in his parents’ hallway.
“Next, I took over the dining room,” he says. “I’d run the car to the post office each day and post out the goods. I wanted to build a business that would give me a nice income so I wouldn’t need to work for someone else – being my own boss was my main motivation.”
Keeping it simple
Like a snowball rolling downhill, Andrew bought more stock, made more sales and used the profit to rent shipping containers for storage. All the while, he never wavered from his single-minded aim. He says: “I didn’t have a business plan except to make £10 profit per box. If I made £10 each time, I was happy because I knew that if I sold 1,000 boxes a week, I’d be making good money.”
Three in a row
Soon, by keeping it simple and consistent, Andrew was turning over £10,000 a week – the target he’d set for renting a warehouse. On cue, he took two neighbouring units in Bishop’s Stortford and knocked them through. Later, Andrew took a third adjacent unit and connected that, too.
The art of good buying
Before long, he had seven warehouses scattered around the Bishop’s Stortford area. “It was a headache, but we had to do it because we had so much stock,” he says. “I built the business using end-of-line stock, so manufacturers would call up and say: ‘Can you take 1,000 washing machines? Or 500 cookers?’ They’d ask for, say, £200 each, but I’d haggle them down to £100. I wouldn’t call myself a salesman, but I am a good buyer. Also, I always stuck to my word. If I said I was going to take something, I did.”
Another step up
In 2016, Andrew consolidated, buying a single 100,000-square-foot warehouse in Haverhill, Suffolk. “I didn’t want to pay rent for the rest of my life,” he says. “So I decided to buy a big building and pay off the mortgage. I’m pleased I did because the property has doubled in value in six years. I’ve also bought another warehouse around the corner, so we’re now up to 150,000 square feet.”
The reasons for The Wright Buy’s success
So, that’s Andrew’s story in a nutshell. Let’s now examine the reasons behind The Wright Buy’s impressive growth. Remember, this company began life in 2009 in Andrew’s parents’ hallway but evolved into a £23m online retailer with its own appliance brand, Cookology. How?
First, success has come from keeping it simple. Andrew started with an uncomplicated goal: to make £10 profit per box. While that number may have changed, the principle remains the same. Andrew confirms: “To this day, I still wonder: how much am I making on each box? Things can get complicated in business, and people obsess over all sorts of things. But at the end of the day, you need to make a certain margin on each sale. That’s always been the basis of my business.”
Second, The Wright Buy’s growth has come from keeping costs low. The company has never chased glamorous offices, unnecessary frills or excessive staff headcounts. Instead, like a budget supermarket, it focuses on delivering the goods efficiently with minimum fuss. The founder says: “I rarely pay too much for stock. Also, I know the importance of keeping costs down. Currently, we employ 18 staff despite being a £23m business.”
Third, success has sprung from keeping both suppliers and customers happy. Andrew and the team started by winning the industry’s trust because they always stuck to their word. Next, they got consumers on-side by following their golden rule of retail: do what the customer wants. Always. Andrew says: “We’ve built up good relationships with manufacturers. We’ve done the same with customers by doing what they want. At the end of the day, they can get credit card refunds if they aren’t happy. So ultimately, no matter the issue, you’ve got to suck it up and do what they ask.”
Finally and most importantly, The Wright Buy’s growth results from Andrew’s mindset – a mentality forged during his relentless sporting training. He says: “As with elite sport, business has no shortcuts. Success depends on hard work and consistency. I worked six days a week for the first seven or eight years to build The Wright Buy. You’ve got to be absolutely all over it to get a business off the ground – you’ve got to give up pretty much everything.”
He continues: “Sports training and entrepreneurship are similar – doing well in both requires complete tunnel vision and consistency of effort. But in many ways, business is even harder because you get so many knockbacks and curveballs.”
The ‘secret’ of success
So, in conclusion, on one level, there is no ‘secret’ to Andrew’s success – just as there is no ‘secret’ to becoming a sporting champion. Quite simply, you need enough talent to start with, and then you must put in the hours, almost daily, over many years. But on another level, maybe there is a kind of ‘secret’ – or ‘golden rule’ – that can help people to achieve such metronomic consistency of effort. Andrew’s keywords are these: “To reach your targets, you’ve just got to keep at it, no matter how bad you feel.”
“Just keep at it, no matter how bad you feel.”
The ability, or mindset, to follow that golden rule – relentlessly, in all weathers – is, in all likelihood, what separates champions from also-rans and successful entrepreneurs from mere dreamers.
It’s a ‘secret’ that has undoubtedly worked for Andrew – three-times British Champion and now the owner of a multi-million-pound business.