Building a 255K Business from Scratch (Make or Break)
It was Friday the 20th of September and I was halfway through my nightshift. It was around 02:00 in the morning that I became unexpectedly ill. I decided I was too unwell to continue working, and the sensible option was to go home. I spent the weekend in bed with a really bad flu, and it was still no better by Monday. It is very rare that I take any time off work for sickness, and I had not had a single "lateness" on my record for that year. I contacted my boss to let him know that I was still sick and would not be in that night. The boss was somewhat annoyed at the fact that he would now need to find a senior member of staff to cover my shift, but there was nothing I could do about it. It was now Tuesday and I was still the same. I contacted my work yet again to let them know they would need to find cover for my Tuesday night shift.
Wednesday came and I was still feeling terrible, but this time there was no one available to cover my shift. I was pretty much forced to work! Just to give you an idea of how ill I was, I couldn't ride my motorbike to work, couldn't walk that far, and ended up taking the bus. To add to my problems the bus was 30 minutes late, and I ended up getting to work 12 minutes late. So now I had clocked up two absences, one lateness, and I was still too ill to work.
Now it is Thursday, I'm still very ill but want to make an effort to come in (after all this company doesn't pay sick pay, so every absence is unpaid). Once again I last until about 01:40 in to Friday morning before going home sick. Now here's where the story escalates. A new HR Manager by the name Beth had just started two weeks earlier. She was fresh out of university with no previous work experience, and took a very sharp "no nonsense" attitude towards my sickness and lateness. She demanded that I contact her in the morning or come in for a meeting asap. I was still not feeling great so I phoned in. The phone call was very obnoxious and condescending, with warnings of unauthorized absence and a disciplinary hearing. She also asked for my personal email address to contact me outside of work should another occurrence arise.
By Friday afternoon I had been signed up to two health insurance plans with my personal email address. I was fine up until that point but this was too ridiculous for me to comprehend. I had been with this company since 2011 (8 years), and I'm certain my sickness record is one of the best in the company.
I spent all weekend letting this annoyance build up inside my head and I was ready to forget about it, but after arriving on Monday night to an email asking what type of phone I use, where is my doctors note, and what medication have I been prescribed... Enough was enough! It was bad enough that I was going to lose a few nights salary and worry about bills for the next month, let alone deal with this awful specimen of a human.
I finally exploded (in the mild way you'd expect of me). I wrote my "letter of notice" to terminate my employment, giving the full one months notice as required in my contract. The following day there were no questions as to why or what happened, but instead a simple one liner from the new HR woman "I accept your letter of resignation".
I continued to work my 30 days notice in the same way I always work... accurately, hitting targets, highly motivated and fixing mistakes. But then unexpectedly after just 3 weeks in her new job, the HR woman quit (probably due to the way she treated people). I was over the moon to hear this, but at the same time I was only a couple of weeks away from losing my job. Finally my 30 days notice were up, I was expecting a "goodbye card" or an email of thanks, but I got absolutely nothing. It was just like leaving the building in the same way I had done every morning for the last 8 years.
For the first 3 days after quitting my job I was fairly sad and depressed. I had now shut off my income, and would inevitably lose my flat by December. There would be enough money in my last pay packet to cover my rent & council tax, and there would be enough money from my savings account to cover the bills, food, and a little bit of running around.
It was now day 6 and the initial shock of quitting my job had worn off. I began to see the positives of moving on. The last 4 years of working nights had broken up all of my friendships, I had lost my ability to socialize, I became very anxious and self-conscious, and now was my chance to see daylight once again. The truth is I still find it difficult to hold a conversation, because the reality of going 4 years without socializing has inhibited my social cues. I'm no longer sure when to speak during conversation.
I had begun the hard task of clearing out my apartment, and by the end of day six all of my tables and chairs were stacked up in the living room. I now needed to decide what to do next with my life?
I was starting to get fed up with living paycheck to paycheck. On my salary I would never be able to buy a new motorbike, stay in expensive hotels, and I'm always buying at the reduced aisle in supermarkets. For someone who has been working full time since the age of 16, never claimed benefits, and helped out with so many different charitable causes. I genuinely expected to have more financial freedom in my life. It was only this year that I could finally buy some protective motorcycle clothing. It was only last year that I realized my wages weren’t enough because after so many years of wanting to visit Scotland, the only way I could my holiday was by giving up my previous apartment and going homeless. Such a drastic step to fund the trip I had dreamed of (there is more info and pics on my Scotland blog).
With all that said I decided that my basic employment salary just didn’t pay enough to live a fun life. As an "operations supervisor" working nights, for one of the global aerospace leaders, I was ashamed of my basic salary. I wanted to do something that will bring in at least £1700 a month so that I can start living life a little bit better.
I had spent all of "day six" thinking about my options and deciding what to do next. It was very tempting to apply for more jobs that pay a little bit better, but when I started working out mileage & travel expenses... it would just be the same situation as before. My last two (ridiculous) options were: Become famous (not gonna happen) or start a business (possible but very unlikely with no money).
The next few days I sat down and began researching business models, funding, licenses, taxes, locations, insurances and everything else associated with running my own business. It was a very difficult task to come up with a business, and I had to be realistic. My first task was to decide what skills, qualifications, and experience I could put towards a business?
The answers I came up with were:
Skills: video editing.
Qualifications: warehousing & management.
Experience: aerospace & chemicals.
Lets be honest an "aerospace video editing chemical warehouse" sounds fun but it's not something that sounds practical. Then my mum asked a great question: What do you enjoy doing? These answers were easy: Traveling on the motorbike, cooking, and having a few drinks. But what business can I possibly make out of that???
I had to find some middle ground: I enjoy cooking, I have management experience, I have a lot of Thai friends, and everyone loves a drink. So I decided it may be possible to try and open a Thai Bar. I know this sounds a dream away, especially with no job, no home, and soon no money, but I am going to try and make this crazy idea a reality.
It was day 10, I had made several appointments with pubs & restaurants for sale within a 50 mile radius, and with every visit the dream just seemed to drift further away. Some pubs were charging up to £500,000 to buy the freehold, and others are charging £2500+ a month just to rent the premises. I found three suitable premises in Bournemouth and Durrington, but realistically I would need an investor to move this idea to the next level! So before I went down this route any further, I really needed to find out if this was the right business for me.
I had been in touch with everyone I know to see if I could volunteer at some pubs and/or restaurants. It was not looking promising, but I really needed to get a feel for the environment before diving in.
It was now day 14 and I had secured some voluntary bar work in central Amsterdam, but there was a catch... I needed to stand in as a model at the "Loi Krathong" festival - I accepted! The restaurant experience would be a real test, as the bars in Amsterdam have thousands of people pass by everyday, and I had no previous experience.
(Pictures from the Loi Krathong festival)
Day 15, with my limited funds I already know a flight is going to be too expensive, so I will need to take a 12 hour national express ride all the way to Amsterdam. The coach sets off at 05:50 so I set my alarm for 03:00 in the morning. After waking up I packed the last few items in to my bag and rode my motorcycle on the icy roads to a house near the station. It was a 25 minute ride due to the temperature dropping down to minus two degrees Celsius (it was by far one of the sketchiest rides this year). After securing the bike in a safe area, I took a 20 minute walk to the coach station. The coach was perfectly on time and I was glad to be out of the cold and in to a nice warm coach.
The first leg of the journey was 2+ hours to London Victoria coach station. Then there was a one hour connection time so I popped in to Cafe Nero for a quick overpriced coffee. I also had a pulled pork sausage roll, and it was incredible (well worth the £3.50). I was now back in the station patiently waiting for the Ouibus to arrive. It was 15 minutes early, and a completely new model. So new in fact that it hadn't got the Ouibus logo printed down the side, and it didn't have on-board charging or wifi. It was at this point I turned my phone off, I needed to save the battery in case of an emergency. I was prepared for the 12 hours of torture as the coach passed through Dover, France, Brussels, Antwerp, Den Hague, Utrecht and finally Sloterdijk. I arrived at 22:00 and just needed to catch the train to Amsterdam center. It had been a long day so I was just happy to arrive at my friends apartment in Monnikenstraat to get some sleep.
The next five days I would be working in various bars and kitchens to gain some experience, whilst staying with my friend. To be honest it would of been cheaper to book a hotel as my friend was behind on her rent, and asked for €600 to cover it. I transferred the money from my bank but would soon regret that decision in the next few days.
During my free time I was contacting banks, loan companies, and private investors to get the funding to start my business. It was going to be a completely new venture to me but I really needed to give it a try. For the 5 days I was cleaning cutlery, cleaning glasses, stacking wine, checking deliveries, serving customers, clearing tables, and of course pouring drinks. It was exactly as I expected!
One of the bars had just ordered a new touchscreen till system, and none of the workers were computer savvy, so I had the pleasure of setting it up and training the staff. It was nice to help them out after they had given me the opportunity to train in their bar. So now I had bar, till and some kitchen experience. I also got one opportunity to oversee the end of day takings and finances (but some figures were kept secret from me).
It was day 21 and after hearing nothing but bad news from the banks, I had finally got a call back from one of the investors. It was a short conversation simply telling me to bring my business plan, financial documents, and property details. But to be completely honest I didn't really have any of the things he was asking for. There was no business plan, no financial documents, and certainly no property! However I accepted his meeting as I may not get another chance.
I had no way of creating a viable business plan in such a short time, so I decided to go in blind. I had less than one day to come up with an idea so I started with the very basics! When you walk in to a meeting or interview, first impressions are the most important. I went clothes shopping to find something smart and casual on a budget. I wanted the sort of clothes a "school teacher" would wear to a four star restaurant. I think you can picture the look I was going for.
It wasn't long before I found a shirt, blazer and shoes that worked well together. The total cost was €120.00, quite expensive since I no longer had an income. On the positive side, the lady behind the counter was very keen to help, and signed me up for free store membership. It knocked €12.00 off my bill, as there was a 10% discount for new members. I headed back to my friends apartment and prepared to get some sleep.
I finally got to sleep around midnight but I was abruptly woken up at 05:30am (Thursday 21st) due to an argument between the housemates. The argument was about who would take the two bin bags outside. As any normal person would do, I interrupted and offered to take the bins out myself. Worse decision I could of made, both me and the "flat mate" were kicked out in to the street at 06:00 in the morning with all our belongings. She had either been drinking or had taken something to act so erratically.
There was no where to check in at that time so I went to the only place I could think of (the central station). I was sat down in a small cafe drinking a coffee, wondering what the hell to do now. I started searching for hotels, and all the reasonably priced ones were outside of the city. I took the train to Sloterdijk just a few kilometers out of the center. It was 10:00 in the morning and my meeting was scheduled for 15:00. I had to bite the bullet and book an expensive hotel that would let me check-in early. I eventually checked in to the "VEN" hotel, it was a very nice hotel with great room service, and they let me check in at 11:30am. The only downside was that I was a further €176.64 worse off, and tomorrow I would need to find new accommodation.
I quickly got a bite to eat before getting 45 minutes sleep. My alarm went off and now I needed to get ready. I dressed to impress, wrote some random but realistic figures in a pink notepad, and ran to the train station. The figure I was going to ask for was €255,000 (the price of a popular Thai bar in the red light district). I shortly arrived in Amsterdam center, and took the tram to a posh business area close by the Dam Square. I was now running down the road looking for a private office, and the clock was ticking.
I had arrived on time, but it was such a vast building that it took several more minutes to find the correct room - It was now time! I walked in to the meeting, shook hands with the potential investor and was introduced to a property lawyer. It was a very intense meeting based on figures, business, turnover, repayments and interest rates. The business model I used was based on the places where I had been getting some work experience. But the truth was that I was making up the turnover and profits as the meeting progressed. I knew that if I was going to get the investor on board, I would need to show that I could make good profits and pay good interest on his investment.
After two very intense hours of business talks and promises, I finally had the investor on board. However.... there was a new problem! In order for the investor to lend me the €255,000 that I need, I would first have to raise capital (protection money) to secure a deal. The amount of capital required would be 19.6% which is €50,000, on top of this I would also need a further €30,000 to cover three months rent deposit, and to cover the purchase of the stock (food, drink, etc..).
I walked away from the meeting with a new found hope, now I only needed to find €80,000 to start my €255,000 business. Everyone knows £80,000 is still a lot of money, but the reality is I can now get my hands on €255,000 by raising less than a third of the total investment. So my next move is to go back to the banks asking for a more realistic loan amount of €80,000.
It is now evening time and I have just arrived back at the expensive hotel. There is a large casino that makes up part of the hotel building, and after my successful meeting I decided to give it a try. I chose a machine, got myself a drink and prepared to throw away €150 in hope of winning the jackpot. At one point I had doubled my money to €300 and cashed out, but then I met up with another friend. She was convinced she could win the jackpot and stuck my €300 straight back in the machine. It was only 30 minutes before the money had ran out. I was not impressed but when she asked to put more money in so she could win it back, I had to say no! I was not angry as I had won about €160 as well as the €300, and I spent about €150 on drinks so I didn't really lose anything. I took a walk back to the hotel, set my alarm clock and went to sleep.
The next morning was day 23. A friend had just messaged me from a city about an hour away from Amsterdam center. She has an apartment in Den Bosche and invited me to stay for the weekend. I could hardly refuse the offer and it would give me some time to think. I left my hotel at around 11:00 am and walked straight in to Sloterdijk station. There was a twenty minute wait, followed by a forty minute train ride to Den Bosche Station. From the station there was a further twenty-five minute bus ride to the town, and finally a fifteen minute walk to the apartment. I was relaxed to see my friend and knew that I could take some time over the weekend to collect my thoughts.
I was now in a part of Holland that looked nothing like Amsterdam. It was a normal looking town that could easily be mistaken for a UK village. There was a Lidl and chip shop just a few minutes walk from the apartment, and the town was about a 15 minute walk away. I started settling in to my surroundings, done a bit of grocery shopping and spent most of my time at the apartment.
Sunday 24th of November (Day 25). I had just received another communication regarding my investment, and my next meeting was scheduled for Friday. This now gave me just 5 days to come up with £80,000, something that to me seemed impossible. I had already exhausted my list of banks, loan companies, and private investors. I literally could do nothing but wait, well there was one thing I could try... praying. There was a Sunday service at the local temple, and since I had run out of all other options, this seemed as productive as anything else.
After returning from the temple I needed to get back to Amsterdam, after all that is where the investor is based, and that is where I want to start my business. I spent about 15 minutes on my laptop before finding a reasonably priced hotel in Amsterdam. The hotel I chose was the Botel, which was a bit unusual to say the least. The Botel is a cruise ship that has been converted in to a Hotel, and sits in the Amsterdam river IJ.
It was now Monday morning and after almost 2 hours on public transport, I had arrived at my new accommodation. I paid just €250 for 5 nights aboard the Botel, and this is where I was going to create my business plan. The first night I just relaxed, and began writing this blog. The second day I got up early and began doing research in to all of the local bars and restaurants. It was difficult to obtain any financial information as business owners are very secretive about their profit and expenditure. I found out very quickly that everyone in the trade had the same useless answer "We don't make that much profit".
I was not going to accept that anyone in an "A" location with a bar full of people, was not making much profit! So it would be up to me to do some detective work. The till I had set up for one of the local pubs let me back in to check on it. Little did they know that I would be printing the Omzet for the last few days. Finally I could see how much of each product sold and the daily turnover. A quick picture of the menu allowed me to see all of the product prices, so the only thing I had to do now was find out what the "buy in" prices were for each product. This would allow me to calculate the profit and start writing a realistic business plan. (I was very lucky to have access to the till, otherwise I would have to sit in there the whole day and write down every single thing that the customers ordered). I later went back to the boat with my “newly acquired” information and began thinking the best way to document my findings, and ultimately write my business plan.
Day 3 on the Botel and I have still heard nothing back from anyone about borrowing the money. The only thing I can do is wait and try to write my business plan. I began looking up local suppliers and getting quotes for the products listed in the restaurants menu. After getting my first few quotes I noticed very quickly that this particular restaurant was making some serious margins on their sales. The "wet" sales margins alone were between 65 and 70%. To put this in to perspective, 24 cans of coca-cola (330ml) costs €13.90. That works out at €0.58 per can of coke, they then sell each can for €2.00. This works out that for every 24 cans of coke sold, they make €34.10 profit. Not bad for a bar that holds 55 choices of drink, and pulls in between €1600 and €2500 each day. So with all that said, I began writing my first realistic business plan.
It is now Thursday 26th of November and I have another meeting with another potential private investor. This guy was recommended by one of the girls that works in the window. It wasn't long before I realized I was speaking with someone heavily involved in organized crime. The guy was going to lend me the full €80,000 in black cash, but wanted a 20% return on his investment. That means I would have to pay back €96,000 over the course of the year (€8000 a month). This was a very steep number and came with the risk of losing fingers if I didn't pay back. I kindly declined his offer, but thanked him for his time. To be honest he seemed like a really nice bloke and wished me every success.
It is now Friday 27th November (Day 28), my meeting with the main investor is imminent and I don't have the €80,000. Then just when I think all hope is lost I receive a message from the bank with some surprising news, they say they can offer up to €20,000! I immediately felt re-motivated and ready to try even harder. I canceled my meeting with the main investor, and rescheduled for the 12th of December. I thought that maybe an extra week may buy me enough time to find the rest of the cash.
Day 30, I decided to stay in Amsterdam and booked another hotel. With my business now becoming more of a reality, I decided to check myself in to a hotel directly opposite my "potential future restaurant". The check-in time was 14:00, so I had time to go to the launderette and wash my clothes. After checking in to the hotel I unpacked my bags and sat in the window. I had a clear view of the "bar restaurant" and spent the whole day watching how many people walked past the door, trying to speculate how many were likely to enter. On average in an "A location" about 3% of the total footfall are potential genuine customers. So I was looking at taking between 50 to 90 customers per day based on the opening hours of 15:00 to 04:00.
Monday (Day 31), The bank has now confirmed I can have a maximum of €20,000. All I need to do is fill out the forms and agree to the repayment terms. So now I know there is money available and I just need to sign the forms. However I don't have a business yet, and it might be a bit premature to jump in and take the money straight away, so I decided to wait a few more days. After all, I didn’t want to take a high interest loan if I had no way of paying back the money.
Day 32, Sunday the 1st of December. It was getting late and I was relaxing in my hotel room. I had just put my shoes on and was planning to get a takeaway. I had made it halfway down the stairs before my phone began ringing. To my complete surprise it was another investor, and he invited me out for a business lunch at 20:00. This was not what I was expecting on a Sunday evening, but I rushed back to my room and changed my shoes and trousers.
I took the tram followed by a pleasant nighttime walk through the city to a small restaurant on the outskirts. Upon entering the restaurant I was greeted by two business owners. We discussed my situation over a pleasant meal and started talking numbers. Once again this was a very intense meeting and faced me with yet another hard decision. The proposal was as follows "we will give you €127,500 for a 50% share of your profits (for 10 years), and you must pay back the €127,500 within 3 years".
So I would get the €80,000 I needed plus an extra €47,500. But I would have to pay back all the money and still give 50% of my profits away. After realizing I was running out of options, this might be a sensible offer to take, but I was still prepared to renegotiate. I thanked the “couple” for their time and said I would call them back in the next few days with my decision.
Day 33 Monday the 2nd of December. I was starting to realize that I had a variety of options open to me, but each one wanted a large slice of the cake. I thought the best thing to do now was head back to the UK, after all I would lose my apartment in the next two weeks, and it still needed clearing out. Today would be my last day in the hotel, and to be honest I was glad. The hotels and meals were starting to add up and becoming very expensive.
Day 34, I was just about to check out of my hotel, but then I received a phone call from the accountant of the previous business owner (from the premises I'm looking to takeover). She had contact details for the company that owns the 2 gambling machines (which were still inside the premises). She said the company have finance options and they may be able to help with my situation. I immediately booked another night in the hotel and made an appointment to meet with the Marco from the gambling machine company. The meeting was scheduled for 15:00 at “De Wag” restaurant. I got there 20 minutes early and waited for Marco to arrive.
The meeting was pleasant and relaxed but he said there was very little help he could offer with financing. He was more interested in keeping the machines inside the premises, and if I was successful at opening the bar, he would split the gambling profits with me on a 60/40 basis. After the somewhat strange meeting I headed back to the hotel.
It was now 18:00 and I received yet another phone call from the accountant to schedule a meeting at “Thailand Food”. It was a very short notice meeting and I was looking forward to what new information she had to offer me. I entered the restaurant at 18:20 and waited for her to arrive. She walked in very happy and simply passed me some papers. It was the business account information from the previous owner. So I now had all of the financial details of the previous Thai Bar owner which would finally allow me to make a very accurate business model based on exact figures and taxes. I was really excited as I could now show proof that my business model can work, solely based on the profits of the previous owners.
I went back to my hotel and began studying all of the documents. They were really promising and showed that I had the potential to make some real money. There was no reason for me to stay any longer in Amsterdam and I still needed to clear my apartment. Money was beginning to run out, so the sensible option was to head back to the UK and clear my apartment. My next investment meeting was still scheduled for the 12th of December, so I had a few days to sort things out in the UK.
Day 35, It was a 6 am start! I finished packing my clothes and left the hotel. I began making my way to Sloterdijk station as my coach was due at 10:00 am. It wasn’t long before I was “on board” and ready to endure the 14 hour drive. I arrived back in my neighboring town at 23:10, and then began the "cold" 20 minute walk to collect my motorbike. I arrived home freezing cold just after midnight.
Day 36, I started the day with a full English breakfast before packing more of my things. Everything had to go as I had nowhere to store it. Soon all of my furniture and possessions would be donated to several local charity shops. On the positive side, I knew my stuff would be going to good causes!
After giving away so many things that I had collected and purchased over the years. I was feeling really unsure if I was doing the right thing. Day 37 I took some time to relax and decided it was time to film my “8K subscribers” video. I could let my subscribers know that I had something in the pipework, and with my free day I had time to donate the cat & dog food as promised in my 7K video.
Days 38, 39 & 40 I was determined to clear the apartment as quick as possible. I was loading up big travel-cases with all of my belongings, and then constructing harnesses made from my belts, enabling me to carry the goods on my motorbike. It was certainly very uncomfortable to wear, and quite scary riding the bike with such unstable loads. But I ended up making a total of 7 trips (totaling 110 miles) to a variety of different charity shops. Now the only things left in my apartment were clothes, tables, chairs and kitchenware.
Day 41, my meeting with the investor was becoming imminent. I had managed to get my hands on a total of €20,000 from the bank, and now another €20,000 from two private loan companies. But this was still only 50% of the €80,000 I needed. I had completely exhausted all of my options and I knew that I only had half the money for my meeting. So now I could only hope and continue my preparations.
I received another phone call from a Holland number, It was a lady helping me search for a chef and she had some great news! There were two candidates who would be able to start at the end of the month, and they both hold the SVH social hygiene certificate required by Holland law.
The next and potential final step was to head back to Holland armed with my business plan, my €40,000, my potential chefs, and a convincing speech. My personal funds were almost depleted, so I booked the cheapest national express coach I could find (15 hour road trip), and booked a budget hostel where I would be in shared room with up to eleven other people. The price of the hostel was €26 for 2 nights, and included breakfast.
Day 42, I woke up to my alarm at 04:00 in the morning. Straight away I packed my documents, two sets of clothes, and then took a cold wet ride to Ringwood. I dropped my bike at a secure property, and then took the 20 minute walk to the bus stop. I had got there just as the coach was pulling in. It was now time for the dreaded 15 hour road trip (again).
I finally arrived in Sloterdijk perfectly on time (23:00), from there I took a 20 minute walk to the storage unit to drop off a suitcase. Before taking the “22” bus to Amsterdam center, and finally walking to the hostel. I found the “Heart of Amsterdam” hostel after wondering around for just 15 minutes. From the outside it looks like a grand hotel, but once you get inside you soon realize it is several rooms, filled with bunk beds (wedged wall to wall). It was not the best nights sleep but it was all my budget would allow.
Finally the big day came (Day 43 - 12th December), I started my day with the light breakfast provided, and then I prepared my documents, business plan, accounting figures, and practiced the speech I was going to deliver. It was now 14:30, and I wanted to grab some lunch prior to my meeting (after all the meeting could last for several hours). I heading towards Keizersgracht, walked in to the building and sat down with the investor, his lawyer and my accountant. We discussed many things including the interest rate, the minimum repayments, the business model, opening hours, cost of goods, gross profits and all other aspects of the business.
The meeting went on for only 50 minutes, and after very careful deliberation the investor and lawyer were on-board. However there was a potential legal issue. If the the investor and real estate owner give me all of the money I need to open the business, the municipality may find it very unusual and suspect illegal movement of money. After all why would someone who doesn’t know me invest €255,000 for a business they know nothing about??? The municipality could shut me down within three months! Without a "foolproof" legal structure in place, we would need some thinking time. So once again there was a new meeting scheduled for Monday.
Shortly after leaving the meeting I headed out to the casino with friends (as we had planned to celebrate whichever way the meeting would go). It was a fun night in the casino and I eventually headed back to the hostel around midnight. One of the guests in the neighboring bed was acting very unusual. The guy was pacing around the room, kept turning on the lights, and eventually all became clear... He was on the “gear”. Finally at 06:00 in the morning he settled down, but for me it was one of the worst nights sleep so far!!!
At 07:30 I took my shower, and by 08:00 I was downstairs eating breakfast. It was now time to head back to the UK again! I walked to central station and caught the “22 bus” to Sloterdijk, I quickly popped in the storage unit before running for my coach. Here we go again, 14 hours on the national express! Yet again it was a fairly pleasant drive, with another funny driver loaded with quirky jokes. I arrived back home shortly after midnight, and was asleep by 01:30.
Day 45 & 46, and it was back to clearing the apartment again, I now had less than one week to completely sterilize my flat. I was cleaning cleaning windows, stacking furniture and making several more trips to the charity shops. There was no time left to do anything else. The next few days I was solely focused on clearing everything.
Day 47, The morning started off with a positive phone call. One of the landlords had finally responded to my request for an apartment (in my price range). It was a central Amsterdam apartment, inclusive of all bills for €650 per month. There was no hesitation, I immediately accepted the apartment, and my move in date was scheduled for the 28th of December.
It was now 14:30 in the afternoon and the "Pramacare" charity group arrived to collect my furniture. All my furniture would be sold in the local charity shops to help fund care for senior citizens. To my complete surprise the two gentleman came in and instantly valued all of my furniture, only taking small trinkets and large items that could be sold for in-excess of £50. I genuinely thought they should take everything! After all, it was agreed in the shop when I showed them the individual pictures of my furniture??? My local "Maze charitable Trust" shop offered to take all of my small tables (which was a massive help), and then I contacted several different companies to scrap the rest of my furniture (but none could do it in the time frame). I would need to do some more thinking!
The clock was ticking and starting to get late. I had heard nothing from the investor all day. Then just when I was ready to settle down for the evening, the phone rang - It was the investor and his lawyer. They informed me that they had found a loop hole to avoid the municipality problem. In order to avoid all suspicions, they had to bring in a "third party" investor. The "third party" investor would bring €50,000 to the table, and my "big" investor would bring €205,000 to the table. Now the investment money would be split, and wouldn't arouse suspicions. So you guessed it.... the money and the premises were now verbally agreed as mine. All that was left to do was sign the paperwork back in Amsterdam (the meeting was scheduled for Thursday 19th December). I would love to say I was excited, but I just felt relieved. All of my hard work & travelling had paid off. I celebrated with the only "alcoholic beverage" I had.... A bottle of Stella Artois.
I began to contemplate how I would dispose of my remaining furniture, and there was only one really obvious solution (well, cheap solution). I tore apart the dressing table, and placed the wood in to bin bags. It was a loud and awkward task but it was all I could think of. I then disposed of the wood in a "skip" about half a mile away. I know it is a bit naughty using someones "skip" but I really had no other options in my time frame. I had managed to completely dispose of the "dressing table" but it was getting late, and I wouldn't be able to attack the other furniture until tomorrow.
Day 48, I had a quick breakfast and immediately went to work on the sofa and the wardrobe. It was a very noisy process, slowly breaking the furniture down piece by piece. I didn't rush in with a hammer but instead unscrewed all of the screws, and used a saw to cut the furniture in to manageable pieces. It was a big task and took the majority of the day. I managed to dispose of the sofa in to trash bags, but the wardrobe was far to big, and would take a lot of work to cut down. After speaking to my neighbor they said I could throw the remaining wood on their friends fire pit. The pit was located on a farm about 2 miles away, and ended up taking several hours taking one piece of wood at a time. After all, each plank of "solid" wood weighed around 12kg and was incredibly awkward to handle. I made my last trip shortly before 22:00 and by the time I got home I was completely exhausted!
Day 49, started with a phone call. The lawyer had found another problem that would delay my business plan. I didn't have a Holland address and therefore couldn't open a Holland "business" bank account. Also with the whole Brexit issue, they didn't know how secure my business would be, and how my rights would change after Brexit. This was a big concern for the investor and his lawyer, so I needed to come up with a quick solution to get this deal secured. I spoke with my friend Lin (who has Dutch citizenship) and asked if she would like to have her name on the business papers, just in case Brexit was going to cause me any issues down the line. This was a big risk for me, as I would be responsible for the business loan, but on paper Lin would be the business owner. So if she was to sell the business, legally I would be entitled to nothing, and I would still have to pay the debt!
With all of this agreed over the phone a meeting was scheduled Thursday. So now I had one day to clear everything in the apartment, pack my bags, book tickets and get back over to Amsterdam. The latest coach was 16:00 so I now had just 5 hours to clear my home, clean everything, hand back the keys, and catch a coach back to Holland. I was rushing around like a madman, all of the possessions I was contemplating on keeping were now going straight in the bin (this included all of my fishing equipment). I really had nothing left except for the clothes I was taking to Holland, a laptop, and a hard-drive filled with family photos. I tried to give the keys back to the agency but they wouldn't accept them. They told me to get in touch with my landlord and sort it out with them.
I ran out of the letting agency, left my camping equipment & motorbike at my mum's house, before making a final dash for the coach. I had made it to the station just a coupe minute late, but I still managed to board my coach. Once again I was ready to endure another 14 hour coach ride. Shortly after leaving London Victoria coach station there was a piece of paper being passed around the coach. It was asking for everyones passport and personal details. I filled it in and then realized it was for P&O ferries. Obviously this time I would not be taking the tunnel!
Day 50 had just arrived as the clock struck midnight. I was on the ferry and I had just finished eating a steak & ale pie with chips & gravy. It was then that we heard the first announcement! France had just declared another day of action which would result in our ferry being unable to dock. The Calais team could only take one ferry at a time due to staff on strike. We were stuck in the ocean for 4 hours before finally being allowed to disembark.
I arrived in Holland a few hours late, and was now behind my planned schedule. The meeting was scheduled for 15:00, so I only had a few hours to get ready (and I couldn't check in to my accommodation until after 15:00). My first stop was the storage unit, as I needed to sort out my clothes and papers. Now I had the problem of finding somewhere to freshen up. After speaking to a couple hostels asking to use their shower, they all said I would need to to pay for a nights stay. I then went on google and found a sofa surfing app, it was a complete shot in the dark, but it might work (and it was free!!). I created an account and immediately messaged several of the members in the local vicinity. I only received one reply and I asked very kindly if I could use there apartment to freshen up - they said yes!
I was now making my way to a complete strangers apartment just outside of Amsterdam's center. I rang the bell and headed up to the third floor. I was welcomed by an overly friendly couple and they directed me straight to the bathroom. Within 20 minutes I was showered and dressed and on my way to meet my "Dutch friend" Lin. We met up at "Hema", a local shop with an upstairs cafe. We ordered food and then I set out a plan asking for Lin's help.
As I did not have a Holland address, I could not set up a business bank account. Also my investor had fears over the potential effects of Brexit. So my plan was to list Lin as the new owner of my restaurant on paper, and she could go and open a business bank account. Lin agreed as there was "no risk" for her, and she was going to provide the live entertainment for the venue anyway. After a lengthy conversation I would now be making Lin the owner of my business, but I will still have to do all of the work. The biggest concern with this scenario is she could legally (at any point) sell the business for a large sum of money and then walk away, leaving me with a 255k debt. Anyway, as crazy as this sounds I decided to take the risk.
We walked to the meeting along with my accountant, and prepared to lay down a new option. I explained that the business would now be in Lin's name, and Lin would set up a business bank account. But for my own security the contract would have to state that I was an investor, and would receive a percentage of the profit each month. This would ensure that not all the money would go to Lin, as she would have a legal responsibility to forward a percentage of the profit to my account every month. The percentage calculated was designed to cover the rent, repayments and running costs (so basically it is to ensure the investor gets his money each month, and I'm financially secured).
The contracts were agreed in principal there and then, and all financial aspects of the business were now covered in a legally binding contract. The next step was to sign the contracts and get them legalized. This would have to be done at the notary, so we would now need to make an appointment to finalize the documents. We didn't have long as the contract states the opening date as the 1st of January 2020. The meeting was finally over and verbally I was now the new owner of Amsterdam's number one Thai Bar!
It was now time to celebrate so me, Lin and my accountant all went out for a celebratory meal with drinks. It was a very successful day for me, and all that was left to do was check in to my hotel (the Botel again), and get some sleep!
Day 51, It was a 07:30 start as I had to catch yet again another coach back to the UK. I arrived at Slotterdijk station 10 minutes early and got on my coach. Around 11:00 am I sent a message to my lawyer and the investor asking for copies of the contracts, and to confirm the initial payment. I received a response a couple hours later confirming the bank details along with the two payments that needed to be made by Monday!
After a long day on the coach I arrived back in Ringwood shortly before midnight. I then had the long walk to collect my bike. But I completely forgot that I had nowhere to stay! I made a few quick phone calls to everyone I knew in the area, and was lucky to find a room for the night. It was a small cramped storage room, but it had a bed and it was warm.
Day 52, Saturday 21st of December. It was another early start as I had to get to the bank before they close. I went in to Natwest around 10:00 and made my first 2 transactions (€5000 + €6050). There was a £20.00 fee to transfer the money, and this would be my first official business transaction. It was a short and simple process that took around 20 minut