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Flashback to 1991: Catching up with James Tomalin-Reeves

Fri, 07 November 2014

In 1991, James Tomalin-Reeves won a Shell LiveWIRE Award with his then business partner Ricardo Rava. We caught up with him to find out more about his entrepreneurial journey.
What can you remember about your involvement with Shell LiveWIRE?
My main memory of the Shell LiveWIRE Awards is that we were the complete underdogs, having been previously rejected by the Princes Trust, and the award came as a welcome surprise. Apart from the £1,000 prize money the win attracted good publicity.

How have things changed for you since you won your Shell LiveWIRE award?
The Furniture Warehouse slowly grew over the years – Ricardo left to open a restaurant in Porthcawl which he successfully runs with his wife today – I continued to grow the company, eventually exporting furniture to Canada, America, Japan and Australia. Typically, the main obstacle for growth was funding and, particularly, persuading banks to provide loans so all profits were ploughed back into the business, generally to the detriment of my wages.        
James Tomalin Reeves (The Furniture Warehouse)
 James Tomalin-Reeves (Centre)
How have you had to adapt as an entrepreneur over the years?
I took a change of direction in 1999, partly due to the change in fashion for old and antique furniture and also with a growing family, and started to commute to London on a weekly basis working for a commercial property company. I soon realised that being self employed for so many years I found working for an employer restrictive and I started a property company that I still run today.

I still live in Port Talbot and apart from my work in London I am a director of Morphious a not-for-profit company based in Merthyr Tydfil employing 23 people. The main objective of the work is to engage with hard to reach people and get them back on track with growing their self confidence and life skills. The work is very varied and rewarding and I have had the opportunity to meet people from backgrounds in complete contrast to the clients I deal with in London.
What has been the biggest obstacle you have overcome in business?
My biggest obstacle in business has been bank funding and as a result I rely on funding from high net worth individuals.                                                           
What are your top three tips for a young entrepreneur who is about to set up in business?
  1. Thoroughly research the demand for your product or service in the marketplace.
  2. Take advice from experienced business people, particularly within your field of interest, and do not be afraid to look for a ‘business angel’.
  3. Do not get fazed by setbacks or knocks, it makes you better at business.
Shell LiveWIRE UK has been running for over 30 years. If you have been involved with the programme at any point and would like to share your story, please contact Emily Carlson at


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