WHEN Thomas Delgado was growing up his mum struggled to put food on the table and pay for clothes or basic furniture.
It was then that the now 29-year-old promised his mum that he would be successful enough to look after her and now Thomas is running a car business with an annual turnover of £3.7million.
Since starting his company, We Buy Cars Today, it has grown to become the third most used online car buying company in the UK, according to Thomas.
But the aim is to become the biggest. And the drive behind it comes from his difficult childhood, which has pushed him to always wanting more.
‘My mum couldn’t afford a sofa’
“My mum brought me up as a single mum, and we didn’t have any money,” Thomas told The Sun.
“It was very, very tough. We didn’t have a sofa, we’d be sitting on boxes to watch TV.”
Thomas grew up in Enfield in North London as an only child with separated parents.
His mum, who worked as a nanny and cleaner, often struggled to make ends meet.
But in 2007, Thomas left home to study economics at Brighton University to give himself a better shot of getting a good job.
To make some extra cash during his university years, he worked at Sainsbury’s pushing trolleys.
One night, during a three-hour shift, he found a scratch card with £20 yet to be claimed. This was an eyeopener for Thomas as it made him realise there were easier ways to make money.
So two years later, he jacked in his Sainsbury’s job and quit his degree so he could start his own business.
Thomas says he’s always been passionate about cars; a love which was passed down from his dad.
His parents separated when he was four years old and Thomas lived with his mum but had regular contact with his father.
The two would spend weekends together talking about cars and Thomas would help him wash his car – a Volkswagen Golf GTI.
This sparked Thomas’s idea to start buying and selling cars.
He began placing classified adverts on online forum boards, saying he’d pay cash for a quick car sale.
Thomas would then sell on the cars at a higher price without doing them up. And the idea quickly paid off.
‘My phone was ringing like a hotline’
“I listed adverts on internet forums saying things like ‘I want to buy your car’ and included a phone number.
“Within a few weeks, my phone was like a hotline. It was ringing non-stop.”
He used his only savings – £400 – to buy his first car, a Citroen Saxo.
Once he sold that off at double the price, he bought a more expensive car, and then sold that off at an even higher margin.
The business quickly grew and within three months, Thomas hired his first employee.
“At the beginning, I was the receptionist, the driver and the collection agent.
“It got to a point where I couldn’t do everything. I was too busy.”
Learning from success
THESE are Thomas’ best tips for other budding entrepreneurs:
- Don’t procrastinate: Start today. If you want to do it, you’ll find the time. Sacrifice a night out with your friends or the weekend enjoying yourself. Instead, get yourself some quiet space, put your headphones in and brain dump. Dump anything you’ve got in your head on a piece of paper and go through it afterwards.
- Invest time regularly: You need to invest a lot of time. That can be weekdays when you get home from work or going to bed a little bit later and spending an hour on it every night. If you do that consistently, things get moving more quickly than if you just spend one day a week.
- You can start from little: Keep in mind that you can start a business from very little money. People overestimate how much money they’re going to need, but you don’t necessarily need a lot of investment to get the business off the ground.
- Read books: Reading is probably one of the cheapest educations you can get. You can buy a book for £10 and learn how to run a business.
- Build a name for yourself: There are many great website builders out there, so you could just start off online and then develop it. Thanks to social media it’s never been easier than now to get your name out there.
Now, We Buy Cars Today, which is based in Hertford in Hertfordshire, has bought and sold tens of thousands of cars across the UK.
Anyone looking to sell their car can put their registration number on its website to get a free quote to buy the vehicle.
If you’re happy with that offer, We Buy Cars Today will send an independent car inspection company, working on its behalf, to your home or office to check the car over.
This costs between £29.99 and £49.99 depending on the value of the car.
If We Buy Cars Today is happy with the state of the car, it’ll pay you the initial offer price and leave with the car. If it’s not satisfied, We Buy Cars Today may lower its offer.
Some customers have complained online that they’ve been offered less than their initial quote.
We put this to Thomas and he said this can happen if a customer has not disclosed any issues with the car – whether cosmetic, mechanical or paperwork-based – that would affect the resale value of the car.
Thomas also stressed that customers can explain any issues before booking the appointment and they’ll be told their adjusted valuation straight away.
The company then sell the cars on to car dealerships – businesses that sell new or used cars to motorists – across the country.
Up until recently, Thomas had never taken on any outside investment and instead reinvested the cash the business made. But last year businessman Jamie Waller, 39, invested £500,000 and became the chairman of the firm.
This stake means Mr Waller owns 45 per cent of the business, while Thomas owns 55 per cent.
Thomas says Mr Waller, who has founded debt collection company JBW Group and private equity firm Firestarters, has come on board to guide Thomas through the next few years. And the plans are bold.
In 2019, We Buy Cars Today is on track for a turnover of £6million. The year after it’s aiming for a turnover of £9million, and the following year £20million.
To achieve this they need to buy a whopping 30,000 cars over the next three years.
The business currently has 25 full-time staff members at its Hertfordshire base and a further 10 employees in Pakistan, who help with admin duties.
It also subcontracts around 200 people in the UK, who inspect and collect the cars.
‘I’ve made a lot of sacrifices’
But Thomas, who lives with his French bulldog called Rufus, in Hertford in Hertfordshire and now drives a Ferrari California, which cost him £100,000 at a local car dealer, says the growth hasn’t come without sacrifices.
“I’ve made loads of sacrifices over the years.
“It’s been things like not going on holiday sometimes in order to focus on the business and not going out with my friends drinking.”
Thomas’ working days are also long, often stretching from around 6.30am to 11pm with breaks for food and walks with his dog.
He usually also works all day Saturday and half of Sundays.
This has been the case since the business was founded, although he admits his days are even longer now than before.
“We’ve taken on an investment, so I have a lot of responsibility to make sure that it’s well maintained and looked after”, Thomas said.
“But I’d rather make those sacrifices now at this age, so I can enjoy it when I’m a bit older in life and I have children.
“Maybe I don’t need to work anymore then, or I can work when I want to provide for a family.”
And what happened to Thomas’ mum? She’s still working in the same job but Thomas makes sure she is financially comfortable.
Keen to start your own business? Last week, The Sun chatted with a mum who went from living on the streets and begging for food to starting her own £100,000 office space start-up.
Earlier this month, we also revealed how a dad-of-three went from suicidal and broke to running a multi-million pound business.
And we told the story of how a 26-year-old entrepreneur who grew up on a council estate started a ticket company now worth £22million.