Meet the retailer: Metal Polishing Supplies
Joe Waggott of Metal Polishing Supplies was recently announced as one of the winners of the 2017 eBay for Business Awards.
Joe’s story is fascinating for anyone, but even more so when you discover he has Spina Bifida. What I love about Joe’s business is that it connects an age old craft profession of metal polishing with the modern day world of marketplaces. Metal polishing may not be particularly exciting to most people but Joe spotted a gap in the market that he knew his products could fill.
I had the pleasure of running into Joe for the first time at the recent Linn Academy (after the judging but before the awards were officially announced). This is Joe’s story and how he launched Metal Polishing Supplies on eBay.
“Whilst winning the award is obviously great for me and the business, I’m also hoping that my story will inspire others with physical challenges to enter the world of business.”
– Joe Waggott
Joe Waggott: Metal Polishing Supplies
From small beginnings in May 2008 Metal Polishing Supplies UK Ltd has become a leading supplier of DIY metal polishing kits, metal polishing and buffing wheels, metal polishing compounds, metal polishes, metal polishing machines and related metal polishing accessories and power tools in the United Kingdom.
Metal Polishing Supplies UK Ltd was started in 2008 on eBay UK by Joe Waggott, who is a disabled entrepreneur. From the kitchen of his one-bedroom flat the business has developed over the last nine years into becoming one of the leading suppliers of classic DIY metal polishing equipment in the United Kingdom.
Joe was born in Zimbabwe in 1969 with Spina Bifida and from a young age has always struggled with his health. When he was a small child, his parents were told that he would never walk without walking aids but at the age of five, he proved them all wrong and started walking by himself. Over the years Joe has had over fifteen operations and has spent many years in and out of hospitals. Amidst all this Joe enjoyed swimming, water polo and rowing at school and excelled at these sports, representing his school in national meets and regattas. In 1983/4 Joe’s was part of a coxed fours school rowing team which won the Zimbabwe Junior Championships two years in a row.
Joe has always been an entrepreneur and had his first business at the age of fourteen making and selling wooden toys. Unfortunately, due to his health and family issues, Joe left school at the age of fifteen without any academic qualifications and started his working life. In the late 80’s Joe decided to leave Zimbabwe and move to the UK where he found that he had a flair for woodworking and carpentry and went to college and succeeded in attaining his City and Guilds in carpentry and joinery. In the early 90’s Joe returned to Zimbabwe and set up a successful Woodworking Machinery Sales Company, importing woodworking machinery into Zimbabwe from the UK and South Africa for furniture manufacturers and woodworking companies.
Due to the political situation in Zimbabwe, Joe lost his business and returned to the UK in late 2005 to try and start again as a pub manager. However due to continued health issues, a breakdown of his marriage and depression, Joe was unable to continue and was unable to hold down a full-time job. Joe knew that he wanted to continue and had to find something that would work around him and his health issues, and that was when he found eBay UK. Joe originally started buying and selling woodworking equipment from a local supplier in the UK and had a eureka moment whilst he was searching through eBay for other items to sell.
The idea that sparked Metal Polishing Supplies
A friend of Joe’s in Zimbabwe used to manufacture metal polishing buffing wheels and, looking through eBay at the time, he found that there this was a niche market. It was a unique opportunity to import the polishing wheels from his friend in Zimbabwe and sell them on eBay UK, and that’s where it started.
The company today
Metal Polishing Supplies UK Ltd now operates out of a 1200 sq. ft. warehouse based in Portsmouth and sells its products not only in the United Kingdom but all around the world. The company works primarily on business to consumer sales via eBay UK, its own website and a trade counter in the Portsmouth warehouse.
The company has grown from strength to strength over the years and now employs three to four staff, the longest serving of which has been with the company for over five years. In the first year of trading (2008/9) the company had a net turnover over of £37,880.00 and since then has turned over a total of approximately £1.85 million pounds, of which £1,050,000 has been on eBay.
The company has always prided itself on its customer service and has outstanding reviews, not only for their customer service, but for the quality of the products that they provide. Joe has been able to achieve this with stringent in-house customer service and quality assurance standards, and he has also personally visited most of the manufacturers of their products in China. A part of the visits was not only to make sure that the quality of the products being manufactured for the company was of an appropriate standard but to also make sure that the working conditions for the employees of the factories was acceptable with the emphasis on staff welfare.
With the continued focus on monitoring fixed and variable overheads and the development of increasing the company’s sales by introducing new products and kits into its product portfolio, the company is hoping to once again increase its turnover by at least 5% – 10% in the 2017/18 financial year.
The future for Metal Polishing Supplies
In 2014/15 the company introduced its own brand of metal polishing products, accessories and power tools to the market called “PRO-MAX” and all of its own manufactured products are now marketed under this brand name. Once again the company are wanting to develop this brand further by increasing its product range to include more metal working power tools and metal polishing products from manufacturers in China and developing ties with other suppliers in the Chinese market for new products.