Working on a Liverpool market stall next to the Matalan founder John Hargreaves was good entrepreneurial training for the teenage Mike Basso. He went on to found a business that imported leisurewear from the Far East. But when that business came under pressure in the 1980s as big retailers did their own importing, Basso renounced his 20% importer’s margins. Instead, he took commission for offering the likes of Matalan clothes designs and an introduction to suppliers in India, Hong Kong and Vietnam. ‘Nobody in the industry really understood why I did it,’ says Basso. ‘But a couple of years later, other importers were desperate to do similar deals and nobody was interested.’ Basso sold his company in 1988 and then bought it back when the buyer went into receivership. He renamed the firm UCCL in 1990 and went into the branded sportswear market, which now accounts for 85% of company sales. By designing and manufacturing sports clothing under licence for firms such as Asda and Littlewoods, UCCL has boosted its sales 165% a year from £584,000 in 1997 to £10.9m in 2000, when it employed 41 people.
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