Why it takes failure to cut it as an entrepreneur

Shout About Suffolk's Paddy Bishopp and Toby Durrant

Shout About Suffolk's Paddy Bishopp and Toby Durrant - Credit: Archant

Paddy Bishopp is a highly accomplished entrepreneur who has co-founded a string of businesses in Suffolk, including the multinational coffee chain Paddy & Scott’s. But at school? He “couldn’t be put in a classroom”.

“I really struggled academically, I find it very hard to be put in a box, I’m very free thinking which sadly didn’t develop in education in the 1990’s,” says Mr Bishopp, who lives near Framlingham. “I attempted university and realised that it just wasn’t what I wanted.”

Mr Bishopp, 46, has co-founded the Suffolk Business Start Lab, to support start up entrepreneurs in Suffolk, along with Toby Durrant - who, like him, is a highly successful entrepreneur who didn’t exactly thrive in the traditional school environment. “I didn’t even finish my A-levels,” admits Mr Durrant.

This week, Ofsted announced that it will judge schools less by exam data and more by assessing how schools develop learners’ personal development, behaviour and attitudes - a move which is welcomed by business leaders like Mr Bishopp and Mr Durrant, who believe that entrepreneurial qualities are not always nurtured in exam hothouse schools.

Like most entrepreneurs, the pair have also experienced business failure over the years as well as successes, and are not ashamed to admit it.

Mr Durrant was chief executive of Hichens Harrison plc, an international corporate finance and stockbroking business that was sold for $150m to an Indian financial services firm in 2008.

He recalls, when working in London: “I’ve seen plenty of good ideas executed badly which have failed and some bad ideas executed well that have succeeded – it’s all about the execution. Everyone has ideas, it’s about identifying the pathway to turn that nugget of an idea into a commercially sound business.”

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Mr Bishopp’s first job was selling men’s accessories for Geo. F Trumper’s concession in Harrods where his selling talents were able to shine through. But after being made redundant, his first business venture, an internet advertising website called moneyjingle.com launched in 2001, and “failed miserably” he says.

“Nobody in Suffolk at that time had broadband,” he explains. “After six to seven months of setting it up, the best decision I ever made was not to launch it. I’d hired seven people, we set up a whole company - building it up for launch. I lost all my redundancy money, but it was the best money I’ve ever spent because all those mistakes I made, I vowed that I would never make again.”

Mr Bishopp has also been an entrepreneur in residence at the Lord Ashcroft International Business School, part of Anglian Ruskin University, where he ran a business failure session. It’s a life lesson he’s also keen to impart to the entrepreneurs behind the start ups set to move into Shout About Suffolk’s incubation lab at Riduna Park in Melton.

“I’m very happy to put my hands up and admit failure, but in England, we’re not used to that - in America, it’s a badge of honour. We just don’t like to talk about it,” he says.

“With every one of the mistakes he made, be they great or small, he learned a great deal from. These helped him grow his future success stories.”

Mr Bishopp’s biggest business success - Paddy & Scott’s, which he co-founded with Scott Russell and from which he sold his own stake in 2017 - was a venture that he says was his ‘Remington Razor moment’ (“I loved it so much I bought the company”), by finding an existing product that he knew would be a success, back in 2008.

It all came about because of another business Mr Bishopp founded, called Eat Anglia. He explained: “Tesco home delivery had just started and Farm Shops were becoming part of our landscape, and I came up with Eat Anglia, a home delivery service for local food and drink, based in Earl Soham with a cafe and deli. As part of that, I needed a coffee roaster. I found the ideal person in Wivenhoe in Essex, a man who had a small van he went around events with, roasting his own coffee - which was amazing.

“I asked him to roast for my café, becoming his first trade customer - and we won best cafe in Suffolk in The EADT Food and Drink awards in our first year running.

“The coffee was seen as a big part of that.”

When the roaster moved to Australia, Mr Bishopp asked him to teach him how to roast his coffee and bought his roaster from him.

It was at this point at which Paddy collaborated with Mr Russell, a fellow entrepreneur who he played football with. Hence the birth of Paddy & Scott’s.