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Flashback to 1994: Catching up with Jason Cooper

Thu, 04 April 2013

In 1994 Jason Cooper was runner-up in the UK Shell LiveWIRE Young Entrepreneur of the Year Awards, for his business Fire (International) Ltd. Now trading as BLAZE, we caught up with Jason to find out how business is going.
What can you remember about your involvement with Shell LiveWIRE?
I recall the excitement of progressing through the awards system, the first discussions in Doncaster then the regions and through to the final in London.
How have things changed for you since you won your Shell LiveWIRE award?
The economy seemed to be more alive then. The UK economy is, sadly, in a real mess at the moment and, in my opinion, will be for the next 10 years or so. We will follow Japan with years of low growth. The positive to this will be low interest rates. There is also a social housing crisis. The opportunity therefore, as I see it, is to borrow the maximum and buy as many houses and apartments as possible at the £40-£50k mark. They will generate a fair return now, pay back any borrowings and generate future rental income and perhaps good capital growth in the next 15 years. The internet of course is the biggest overall change.
Jason Cooper in the Rotherham and South Yorkshire Advertiser

How have you had to adapt as an entrepreneur over the years?
I have found that consumer electronics is very fast paced and fast changing and that having stock of any kind is a risk, so you have to create a situation where you have a large gross margin, as generally the costs associated with running a business are high. I have learnt that when you have made a buying mistake, take the first hit and get the cash as quickly as possible to then re-invest in a (hopefully) better product. I have also found that property is the perfect foil to trading businesses. We have also just invested in a genetics business.
What has been the biggest obstacle you have overcome in business?
My company got wrapped up in legal action in the United States to the tune of $100m. It took me many years, a seven week trial and a small fortune to get the right result. But in the US your legal fees are not recoverable, so it became simply a waste of time and money.

What are your top 3 tips for a young entrepreneur who is about to set up in business?
1) Make sure your gross margin is high. Your STARTING POINT should be to double your money, anything less than that is commercial death.

2) Get into property in some way shape or form. It can be slow and unexciting but, over time, it can provide a stable income. Now is the time to be investing in property in the UK.

3) Employ the right people. You spend more time with these people than your own family. Create clear roles and responsibilities. Sales are essential, so for sales staff ensure they are continually target driven and make a point of regularly mapping actual figures against forecasted figures. Have monthly board or management meetings.

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