Duncan Bannatyne was lying on a beach in Jersey with his girlfriend when he realized it was time to do something with his life. He was 30, penniless, and had spent the previous five years working as a barman and having a great social life. He says: ‘I suddenly realized I was the oldest swinger in town. So I said to my girlfriend, let’s go back to the mainland, start a business and become millionaires.’ The only problem was how to go about it.
Brought up in a poor area of Glasgow, Bannatyne left school at 15 without qualifications to join the Royal Navy. He then worked on farms as a fitter and welder. His only aim in life was to make sure he did not follow in the footsteps of his family. ‘My father, my sister, my uncle and my cousins all worked in the Singer sewing machine factory, Bannatyne says. ‘The bell would go at six o’clock and they would all come out like zombies. I knew I didn’t want to work there.
And I didn’t want to be poor.’ 165 166 How I Made It On his return from Jersey Bannatyne got a job in a bakery and to make ends meet also bought used cars at auction to do up and sell. When an ice-cream van came up for sale he bought it for £450 and quit his job. He saved every penny he made selling ice creams to buy more vans, until two years later he had a fleet of six and was making £70,000 a year. But there was a problem. He says: ‘I put on a lot of weight.
I was more than 16 stone because I was eating ice cream all the time.’ He decided he needed a change of direction, so he sold the business and started buying terraced houses to provide accommodation for the unemployed instead. When a newspaper article highlighting the shortage of nursing homes caught his eye, however, he decided to invest everything he had to build one of his own. Bannatyne says: ‘I went round local nursing homes and found old ladies living eight to a room at the top of flights of stairs.
The government was paying a lot of money to house them. I calculated that if I built a nursing home with Duncan Bannatyne 167 30 single bedrooms I would fill mine and the others would close down because I would be offering better accommodation at the same price. And I would still be making whacking great money. And that was what happened. It was full within three months.’
He footed the £180,000 cost of building the home by selling his house, car and everything he had. He also managed to borrow a total of £40,000 from four different credit cards after the bank refused his request for a loan. ‘I went to the bank manager at Barclays and said here’s my projections, this is phenomenal, I have got to do this, lend me some money.
But he said that if it was that good, everybody would be doing it – and he threw me out of his office.’ But Bannatyne had the last laugh. As soon as his nursing home opened for business it was valued at £650,000 and he was able to remortgage it to pay off his debts.