Britain’s Charles Sampson on cost-effect storage and launching a successful start-up

Growing up in the English countryside, Charles Sampson always had an entrepreneurial spirit. As a child at school, he found ways to make money, once selling safety pins on a school sports day for competitors to pin their bibs on with. Even from a young age, he seized opportunities and found niche markets to capitalize on. His grandfather was a stockbroker, and Charles still vividly remembers him checking share prices on the Teletext, green arrows going up and red for a share that was not quite so lucky. He was always intrigued by what a company had to do to get that green arrow by its price, and as he grew up this fascination turned into a deep passion for business and finance.

Now, Charles is an industry leading business adviser who has worked with many successful startups. He holds an ACA accounting certification, which is only held by 150,000 people worldwide. He is known for helping to launch the shipping start-up Ashley Chartering Limited, making it the worldwide success it is today. Similarly, his guidance with the leading cloud platform Old St. Labs allowed the company to go from a small start up to a multi-million-dollar business. His experience is vast, and his talent unparalleled.

“I want to be able to have a say in a business’s strategy and be part of an executive team that can help build something great. I am now at the age where I like applying my skills to a start-up or a small company to help them grow and become a success story. As a finance director, you get a lot more exposure in the business. Your role starts to overlap with all the other departments, and you get a great view of the business as a whole,” he said.

Currently, Charles is also working with Blue Bear Storage. It was setup to provide cost effective containerized self-storage which creates a return from land they acquire.

Initially, Sampson was just a client benefitting from Blue Bear’s self-storage services. However, after speaking with the two directors of the company and understanding their business model, he offered his services and took on an active role.

“I was attracted to the business by its relatively small size and the potential I felt it had for significant growth. The fact the company was still at an early stage was a huge attraction, I was confident I could add value and from a personal perspective I knew it presented a challenge as well as an opportunity to further my exposure and understanding for the processes and challenges a start-up business faces,” he said.

When Sampson started to help the business, it had 18 shipping containers on some land in Sussex, and the business needed more effective cashflow modelling to meet its ambitious growth plans. It also needed investment plans, accounting advice, better marketing analysis and more efficient data management. Now, Blue Bear Storage operates over 120 shipping containers across three different sites in the UK, with this set to more than double this year. The turnover of the business has grown from £5,200 in the first 6 months to over £100,000 in the first 24 months of running. This has been achievable partly due to the treasury management that Charles has put in place for the company. Such results have felt great for Charles, but he still has a great deal of plans for the company to continue growing over the next several years.

“Working directly with the founders who were ambitious and very driven was a great experience. We all come from very different employment backgrounds, so it created quite a unique dynamic where everyone was learning a lot from each other, but each individual’s previous experience also provided a very stable balance of knowledge across the company. It is quite rare to find a small business that provides so many varied and interesting challenges. It crosses the boundaries between a number of industries, which enables you to meet a huge variety of people along the way. I feel fortunate to have been involved in a really successful and ambitious startup company,” he said.

Charles found his role was extremely varied, from modelling and remodeling forecasts to in-depth market analysis and creating better in-house data analysis. From the perspective of decision making it was straight forward because he was helping to resolve inefficiencies or problems as they arose or if he could see them coming. Therefore, his decision making was based purely around trying to find the most productive, cost-effective and efficient solutions for Blue Bear.

“They are focused on a service that so many of us will need over our lifetime. What I really liked about the business was its genuine determination to provide a cost-effective solution to the market, as we all know in the UK, self-storage can be expensive. It was refreshing to see a company really pushing to provide cost effective solutions without reducing any quality in the service. I really liked the fact that the directors of the business had seen a problem and gone out to try and solve it. Their enthusiasm and determination were infectious. Blue Bear Self Storage are a mover and shaker in the UK self-storage market. They have lots of exciting avenues that they continue to pursue in order to try and provide their customers with the best value for their money for a service which is becoming more and more essential,” he concluded.

Written by Annabelle Lee
Published January 16th, 2019

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