Former Homeless Veteran Turned Successful British Entrepreneur Sets Sights on a Slice of the American Dream
From collecting welfare to becoming a successful entrepreneur, 41-year-old Paul Rowlett from England has engineered a meteoric rise to the top of the promotional goods industry.
The ex-Royal Navy man had served his country in the second Iraq war and left the service in 2004. After a series of dead-end jobs, he was unable to keep up with repayments on his house and saw it repossessed in 2011.
Armed with little more than a laptop he obtained for free with a cell phone contract, Paul relied on the generosity of friends for shelter while he collected welfare of just $90 a week. Faced with no leads or prospects, he decided to master mind a way out of his rock bottom.
“When I told my friends I was going to be like Richard Branson and build a business internationally from a base in Leicester, they were in utter disbelief. They just couldn’t see it and, can you blame them given my situation,” Paul says.
The trailblazing firm secured its lead in the promotional gifts industry by forging ahead with a digital first approach; streamlining processes to provide a rapid turnaround to companies scrambling to obtain products at a reasonable price point within a matter of days.
After winning a UK industry award as top distributor, Paul decided to set his sights on the $28bn promotional goods market in the United States. However, before putting down roots in Las Vegas, he was pulling shifts well into the early hours of the morning from his UK base to check the viability of the model and the ability to best service USA clients.
`After proving the concept, the firm put boots on US soil in 2018 and started trading a year later. It was a hit: their American dream appeared to be realized with the first year generating sales of $14 million.
After a year of learning and heavy investment, Paul and his team eased into a lifestyle a million miles away from that in the UK. He comments: “Being based in Las Vegas and having a pool I could actually use daily really helped to keep me focussed on making our American dream a reality.”
After finding some fantastic early success, Paul had the chance to tell his story with TV appearances and media coverage; proving to others that anything is possible with the right focus and hard work.
“Too many people make excuses for not hitting their goals when in reality the problem is staring them in the mirror every day. I truly believe if we were all a more self-critical then we would have a much more productive society.”
Never forgetting his roots, Paul has established a charity arm to the company called Everything Community which contributes generous support not just to local charities, but also a range of good causes worldwide.
“The community platform has been a great success and my ultimate goal is to link up similar charities internationally using our support so that they can share experiences to help themselves become better at what they do.”
Following the running start in Las Vegas, Paul was soon faced with a huge dilemma. While the team of 20 were settled into their new premises, the landlord decided to sell the building. With a rolling contract in place, Paul only had 30 days to find new premises. He explains: “The landlord had asked for a longer lease, but the location just wasn’t right long term, so we decided on a rolling contract while we found a new home. Little did we know that the building was about to be sold and we would only have 30 days to find new premises, agree financials and move the entire company! We did it and whilst stressful we managed to find the perfect space which really helped with recruitment. We were even able to hold some events with the local business community.”
So in September 2019, Paul agreed a new 7-figure lease, committed $300,000 in renovation costs for early 2020 and a team was deployed to train the new employees with investment in two houses to avoid exorbitant hotel fees. Everything was falling into place for a well-planned expansion. Yet little did Paul know; an unavoidable disaster was around the corner.
When the Covid-19 pandemic began to shut down countries and businesses across the globe, Everything Global was forced into a tricky situation.
Paul says: “Suddenly we had to make 21 staff redundant and the UK-based team members flew home. When you pour your soul into training these people and getting them excited to work for the company, it’s gut-wrenching.”
This wasn’t the worst of it: the financial exposure of the US headquarters amounted to $21,000 a month in rent whilst sitting empty on top of the commitment to $300,000 in renovation costs. It was the perfect storm.
Sadly, the office remained closed until June 2021 leading to a considerable money pit burning a hole in the Everything Global wallet while generating absolutely zero income.
Paul Rowlett restructured the business model; testing his business acumen and the company’s flexibility, he wasted no time in assessing what he had to work with.
Straight away he pivoted and poured resources into selling health products as the core market vanished. It was time to get creative and reflect on the business, monetizing in-house expertise.
“This was certainly up there as one of my better business moves, but at the same time it was annoying that it took a global pandemic to realise we had so many internal skills! Under the new Everything Global umbrella we offer services from content creation to fulfilment which have not only proved great for revenue but also created new jobs and helped our customers who require a more 360 marketing solution.’’
Fast forward to April and the firm has now reopened its more permanent home in Las Vegas, and currently has a team of 11 plus one manager. With room for 75, the plan is to continue to invest and expand their service.
The hurdles and obstacles along the way have done nothing but ignite a deep desire to turbocharge the relaunch in the American market while carrying the same company values which have led to such success in the UK. Paul stresses the importance of a light and fun environment to get the most out of employees.
“I learned my work ethic in the Royal Navy, everything else about treating people I work with has come through experience in building the brand. And without an upper limit there’s no telling how far we’ll go. We are already working with Amazon, Netflix, Harvard, Nasa, West Point, Microsoft and Google.” Paul concludes.
Aside from the ability to spot a gap in the market and deliver great products and service, perhaps this is why Everything Global is looking set to deliver on the promise to bring the American dream home to Leicester.