(This article originally appeared in Business2Business, a business magazine for Banbury, Buckingham and Bicester)
Of all the Olympic values courage has to be a cardinal one. Each and every one of the competitors has to have physical, emotional and mental courage. It also takes courage to found a business. In the early 1960s a Canadian newspaper and radio station owner, who was well past the age of 60, came over to the UK and bought The Scotsman. It caused consternation in Edinburgh, but the buyer, Roy Thomson, could point to having a Scottish grandfather. That purchase was an act of courage.
But Thomson didn’t stop there. He bought other Scottish newspapers and then followed that up with buying The Liverpool Post a couple of years later, and then more English papers. Nearing the age of 70 he bought The Sunday Times, and several years later he bought The Times.
When he died as Lord Thomson of Fleet he left behind the Thomson Organisation, which today is part of Thomson Reuters. If all those years ago he hadn’t shown that courage to fly the Atlantic and buy a paper that was up for sale, we would never have heard of him.
What Thomson had going for him was deep pockets of cash and long experience of his industry. Some business owners start with neither. That shows even more aplomb. Not all such people succeed. But one who has is Bicester-based Melanie Patterson, owner of Patterson & Patterson, hamper makers.
Paterson is a blonde, gutsy, larger-than-life Aussie. Her attitude to something new is ‘let’s give it a try.’ In 2011 she launched her hamper business, almost by accident. She had started to make hampers for her friends, then for friends of friends. She had always enjoyed making things, she says, doing craft work , designing clothes etc. But the big world of hampers was new to her. Undismayed by that, she launched herself as a commercial hamper maker, buying the best and the most nutritious food and drink (she’s a qualified nutritionist), and slowly built up her clientele. She was quick to learn from her mistakes. “I had to learn about stock control pretty fast,” she says.
Using all her imagination she has constantly innovated. Bespoke hampers have become a speciality. When I last spoke to her she was creating lavish Valentine hampers, with mouth-watering contents. Her enthusiasm shines through everything she does. But it all started with an act of courage. Courage, plus intelligence, pays dividends.