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Introducing Minda - our founder and owner
Back in 2000 when I finished high school in my small hometown in Lithuania, my mum told me there was no money for me to go to university. What I did next was up to me. I decided to join the Lithuanian army. Because I was young, ambitious and wanted to be the best, I went to sergeants’ school and took a lot of other courses to get the best qualifications possible. But after three years in the army, I felt I had learnt all I could and was ready for a new challenge.
This is when I started to think about setting up my own business. A friend returning on holiday from the UK suggested that I go to the UK to explore the opportunities. I was 23 and this new life and adventure sounded great. There was one drawback - I couldn’t speak English at all. But on the positive side I would soon learn it!
In October 2005, I packed my bag. I had one month's supply of food, clothes and £100. I promised myself that if I didn’t get a job in one month, I'd return to Lithuania.
Once in the UK I borrowed a dictionary and map from my friend and memorised a few phrases in English. Every morning, I would draw a circle on the map marking the area in Crawley for my job hunt. I could only draw small circles as I didn’t have car or much money. My legs were my transport.
On day three I found a job working at a courier company off loading parcels. After I was paid my second or third wage, I bought a car – a really old Vauxhall. This meant I could now draw bigger circles on the map.
After a week or so, I found a new job repairing old stables for a farmer. After a little while, I became good friends with an older carpenter working there. He helped me a lot with my English and bought me children's books. It’s funny to think I was reading books for three year olds but it really helped improve my English.
Two years on and I joined West Kent College for some evening English classes. I did my GCSEs so that I could show everyone that I could speak English.
Starting out in the exhibitions industry
As the economic crisis hit the country in 2010, I had to change jobs again, this time I started working for an exhibition company. After almost a year, I decided that this is exactly what I wanted to do. I liked the industry, it was interesting and I could build a stand, so I decided to give it a go.
I registered MJ Exhibitions Ltd in May 2011. This was a special and exciting year for me as my second son was born 10 days before the official incorporation of the company.
I thought I could carry on working for the exhibition company while my new business grew, but I was sacked once my manager found I had my own business in the same industry. I was in complete shock. I had one option – ensure my business grew very quickly.
I started sending marketing emails day and night when my son slept and I worked as a subcontractor at every opportunity.
My schedule was very tight and it is still very tight. For the first two years, I worked at least 10-15 hours a day, non-stop. I have to say that my crazy shifts do still happen now.
I sold my first stand while I was running the business from home but I needed a workshop to build it. I couldn't afford a warehouse, so I found a company to share a corner of their workshop with me. They were my competitors – an exhibition company too. I wasn't very happy with the arrangement we ended up with, but I didn't have the money to argue and I needed the space. It didn't work for long but by then the business was six months old and I was ready to move on. I found small premises, packed my tools and left. It felt really good.
This first workshop, with a small office space, was really the beginning of my company. I now had a workshop but still didn’t have money to employ people full time. I would sell stands, make them in the workshop, install them and then the work would dry out, so I would get back to selling. I would go in the same cycle until I could afford to hire subcontractors to help me. I paid the first full-time office employee salary in March 2013 and in August the same year I took on my first full-time installer.
A family business
Now the company is over four years old. We are growing quickly and increasing our turnover by 100% every year. It is a family run business in the true sense - my wife and I are behind the wheel of the company. We have a lovely sales person in the office and her other half works as an installer. Two of the installers are related and another is a very good friend. As I said, we are one big family. Even my little boy likes coming to workshop with me to have a go at painting, measuring or playing with some hand tools.
I haven’t studied business and do not have any big business men or women in the family who could advise or teach me. Everything that I have learnt is through trial and error, bad or good experiences and self-development through books.
It has taken me four years to understand and learn how to run the business and manage people and how I (or I should say my company) can help other companies.
We do not just make exhibition stands. We give our hearts, knowledge and passion to every single client and project. My team of designers, fabricators and installers, have an unparalleled reputation for quality workmanship, show-winning designs and customer care. This is because we are very passionate about our work and always do our best.
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