Secret millionaire inspires budding Teesside Entrepreneurs

Secret Millionaire: Carl Hopkins reading his copy of Tside

Secret Millionaire: Carl Hopkins reading his copy of Tside

Secret Millionaire and serial entrepreneur Carl Hopkins  visited Teesside University to share the secrets of his success with students.

The event was organised by Andy Price, the Universitys’ Head of Enterprise Development, to give students valuable insight into running their own business.

Carl became famous during his appearance on the hit Channel 4 TV series The Secret Millionaire.

The programme, filmed in the North-East town of Easington, saw Carl going undercover to find worthwhile causes to give his money to.

It resulted in him giving £42,000 of his own money to some of the people he met.

His business journey started long before his appearance on the show and it was not as straight forward as it first appears.

Mr Hopkins started life on a council estate and he told us that he has often been referred to as lucky in terms of his success.

This is not a term that sits well with him. It is evident once you have heard the real Carl Hopkins story that luck is only a miniscule part of the puzzle.

Sheer grit, determination, self-reliance and belief and the ability to take calculated risks have got him where he is today.

He said: “Lots of people say I have been lucky but that’s a view point and it’s not the real journey.”

“It suggests that the individual hasn’t had anything to do with it. I talk about how it affected my first marriage, seeing my son, getting into more debt than I have even been in in my life. It was tough.

“It was about sticking at it, it was about self-belief.”

His first job at 19 was not what he thought he would have done. As a talented artist he finished at art college with hopes of  this as a career.

Instead, he got a job working for JDA, a direct marketing company as a Junior Designer.

The company experienced a huge growth during his time there and he rapidly progressed through the ranks eventually taking over as MD in 2000.

He took the business from strength to strength and the turnover of the business from £9.6 million to £19.6 million.

Carl sold the business years later just before the recession, this could be the one time luck played a part.

Throughout the fascinating presentation he shared his personal life timeline but also what was going on in the world around him at each key point.

It is this global commercial awareness that surely helps him make some of the challenging decisions he has had to face.

One of his key pieces of advice is constantly be thinking about what value you can add to everything you do.

He said: “I have never approached my career or my business thinking how will this benefit me.”

“I think that anyone who does that will fail. If you go in there thinking how can our business benefit the customers then you will succeed.

“I think it is important to always have a plan. Even now I always have a two year plan of what I want to achieve.”

He explained to me that he always had a sense of being an observer during his youth. He wasn’t interested in the same things as his contemporaries on the estate as a teenager.

He said: “I had this interest where I wasn’t really good at anything else but I was that little bit better at art and you cling to things like that. I never really got into trouble.”

The entrepreneur from Yorkshire was refreshingly candid and did not shy away from sharing the tougher parts of his journey. He was keen for everyone to understand that running your own business is tough and not for the faint-hearted.

He credits the breakdown of his first marriage with the long hours we worked, often in different countries at the time when his first son was born.

He explained that he has often had to borrow money when he had very little to his name, even joking that he is “very good at spending other people’s money.”

Interestingly he never saw any of these investments as a risk.

He said: “I never put in any money that I couldn’t afford to lose.”

He recalls nipping out of his house to look at a new housing development and coming back having bought four houses.

Carl currently helps his wife Stefanie with her successful business Faith PR which is growing every year.

The couple have also launched their own business to business magazine and Carl has been involved with mentoring and The Princes Initiative, which supports the over 50’s starting their own business, as well as owning a coffee shop.

His work now is very much about inspiring others to get into business, motivational speaking and bespoke business consultancy work through his business Kloog.

Amongst all that, he has managed to set aside some time one day per week for his beloved art.

It seems that after all his impressive achievements he has found life balance and is able to enjoy the rewards of all of his hard work.

The event was extremely well received and Hopkins received a rapturous applause and many questions from eager students.

Andy Price said: “It was a great event and I think everyone got something useful out of it.”

“The University is very supportive of students who are interested in starting their own business and there is lots of support available.”

If you are a student at Teesside and you are interested in starting your own business email ents@tees.ac.uk for more information on the support they can offer.

from Tside