How one couple started a side hustle with just £10 and both quit their jobs

One day when watching BBC’s The Apprentice with their family, an entrepreneurial young couple from Scunthorpe, Kevin Blackburn and Kylie Thomas, then 25, decided they wanted to have some fun doing their own family apprenticeship game. Little did they know at the time, this would transform their lives.

The couple, who’ve been together since they were 17, took what they learnt from the success of the challenge and set up a side business alongside their hairdressing and engineering careers. Within 12 months, they’d turned it in to a six-figure business and decided to quit their jobs to manage and grow their business, which later became known as Systemise Fulfilment.

The duo – now both 33 years old – have grown the business significantly, to the point where they now operate internationally and employ 21 members of staff. They also run a training programme which has helped over 4,000 people follow in their footsteps and build their own businesses.

The family challenge, which ultimately led to their success, was similar to the BBC shows’ challenge where candidates are tasked with making money by buying and selling.

Kevin Blackburn, Director at Systemise Fulfilment explained: “We made a family challenge to spend £10 and turn it into profit. We headed to our local charity shop and bought around eight second-hand porcelain birds for 75p each and sold them on eBay for £8-12 each. This quickly turned our initial £10 investment into £60-70. It was like a lightbulb moment going off for us when we realised – if we could source hundreds or thousands of these birds, we could make a huge profit”.

Initially, the couple began selling on eBay but soon found having to queue up at the Post Office every day wasn’t an efficient way to work. So they found a solution to their problems in the form of Fulfilment by Amazon.

In their first year, the savvy entrepreneurs also began purchasing popular Monsters Inc teddy bears from Tesco for £12.50 each and re-selling them online for £28.00. In their second month of buying and selling, they made £15,000 and by Christmas that year had made £130,000.

Explaining how they achieved continued success, Kevin added: “We used insights from Amazon to analyse the volume of specific products being sold, their sales rank and other information available for each product listing. This allowed us to make strategic decisions based on information already out in the public domain.

“We always talk about our core values, one of which is ‘massive action’ which means we focus on the here and now. We’re committed to being open and transparent in all aspects of our business with our team and customers, we want to help our team build long, rewarding careers with us. We’re always looking to optimise our services so they’re the best they can be, from improving efficiencies to quality control and ensuring our pricing is as simplified as possible, so there are no confusing pricing tiers for customers.

“The ultimate key to our success though has been our belief in what we’re trying to achieve. We’re doing this for our family, we wanted a better life, a better work-life balance than we had in our previous careers, we wanted to be at home more with our young children, not working overtime and weekends and this really has changed ours and our families lives for the better – that goes way beyond just financial benefits”.

Now, the couple ship a wide range of items including beauty, food, toys and seasonal products and work with over 250 businesses to support their fulfilment needs. Kevin also started a YouTube channel in 2016, documenting their business success story and how they’ve got to where they are now, which now has over 9,000 subscribers.