Successful people have a few things in common, but the most important one to note is hard work. Entrepreneurs from all around the world share their wisdom with others and almost every single success story comes from hardship and a lot of hours spent on working hard to lead to what you love doing. We spoke to Harsha Rathnayake, founder of London Junk, whose application for start-up funding was turned down by the banks so he cleaned up by creating a million pound company collecting rubbish in London and working 19 hour days.
What was the moment you decided you wanted to start your own business?
After graduating with an MBA, I went full time with the waste company I worked 20 hours a week for during my studies.
Shortly after, the owner decided to retire and close the business, so I saw an opportunity to set up my own business.
I accepted an old Ford Transit 3.5 ton tipper truck, instead of my final month’s salary and stated my own business shifting people’s unwanted rubbish.
You worked various jobs to be in the position you are now. Working 19 hour days must have been exhausting. How did you keep the momentum going?
Childhood was quite difficult for me, as I lost my dad when I was 5 years old. But it was always my childhood dream to start and build my own business.
I was really passionate about building on the opportunity to start my own business, and make it the very best I could. I was willing to do whatever it took to make it successful.
Working 19 hours a day was hard, but I had a vision was motivated by the progress I was slowly making towards my goal.
The money never motivated me - happy faces and nice feedback from customers after going the extra mile on a job gave me extra energy to work even harder.
How did you fund your business in the beginning stages?
I stated London Junk with my lifetime savings of £160. I went to three different banks – all of them refused to lend the money, saying I had no credit rating and was therefore a bad risk.
Some banks even refused to let me open a bank account, as I didn’t have any credit history in the UK.
I borrowed £400 from wonga.com and soon realised that this wasn’t a good idea, as I faced the massive interest rates. I settled this loan and looked for other options.
I didn’t know where else to go, and soon realised the only option I had was to do it myself. I looked for part-time work for the early morning or late evening. I was lucky to find two part-time jobs to get that extra cash to help grow my business.
What has been one of the biggest career milestones for you so far?
One of the biggest milestone for me so far is growing the fleet from one to six custom build trucks.
Another is being able to employ 10 people in a company I started with just £160 seven years ago, with no contacts, support or credit history.
Many people are aware of the importance of hard work to become a business owner, but the level of this rises so high that some quit maybe due to exhaustion or lack of confidence. How did you avoid burn outs and over exhaustion?
It is so important to start a business only in a field you are really passionate about.
Your passion will keep you moving through the hard times. If you really want to achieve something, you will find a way.
That’s what I exactly did. As Winston Churchill said once “If you are going through the hell, keep going.”
What have been the hardest things for you to tackle when you first started?
Yes I do agree with this. When I started my business I was working 19 hours a day, and this meant I could no longer go out with friends.
Friends told me that they didn’t understand why I refused to enjoy the life I had, especially as I was young.
They understood me less and less - I chose not to spend money on fancy foods or designer clothes, when these were the types of must-have things that my friends valued.
My only focus was to cut down on all unnecessary expenses so that I was able to invest everything in building my business. This worked out brilliantly for me, but was hard for the people around me to understand.
Knowing what you know now about starting a business, what are some things you would have done differently?
I did everything I could at the time to make to most out of very limited resources.
Looking back at these things after seven years, I can say honestly that I have nothing to regret. It has been hard but I didn’t waste anytime, I am always glad of that.
What advice do you have for aspiring business owners?
Be sure about your motivations and be realistic about the sacrifices you will have to make. Don’t wait for the perfect business plan: start now, fail, learn and try again.