After travelling the world for a few years, Nicholas Topham and Richard Althorp returned home mid-recession to do the logical thing – start a business. “Banks told us we were stupid to start up a company in the middle of a recession,” recalls Topham, Sol-Tec’s operations and finance director. “They wouldn’t offer us any help at all.” Friends and family were equally dubious, but supportive. The friends “bootstrapped” their growth by cold-calling potential customers from Topham’s bedroom, offering computer reseller services. Fidelity Investments received one of those pitches and bought in — a lucky break, given the giant had just begun aggressively expanding into Europe – and is still one of their largest customers. Sol-Tec’s two man team moved into Topham’s family garage – later expanding it to accommodate five employees. Eschewing pay for the first two years, they invested every penny in advertising to make the company look bigger. Today, the Reading-based company has sales of £3.2m and owns its own property.
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