In 25 years, Jas Purba and his wife Tripta have gone from selling embroidery backing from a secondhand council van to running one of the largest suppliers in the garment decoration business. Here, he discusses the growth of ETC Supplies since setting up in 1991

“When we started out in business twenty five years ago, we didn’t have two pennies to rub together. I had knowledge about clothes manufacturing from my past jobs and the will to succeed. I rented (six months free) an old, derelict security guard’s flat and borrowed £80 to buy a clapped-out council van from an auction.

“One of my old contacts gave me £500 of embroidery backing on credit, purely out of trust. As I sold this I repaid the initial amount and invested the profit in more stock. In those days, a lot of business was done on trust and a handshake. I look back with great pleasure at the opportunity I have had to work with some brilliant people who supported me in business to get started.

“It was a lot of hard work in the early days. I would get up early and go round the factories door-to-door selling. Then at 2pm I would go to my paid job until 1am at night. In those days, only one type of embroidery backing was available. I spoke to embroiderers and found out what problems they were having with the backing and then went away and developed with the factories better products that were more suited for this type of use. The rest, as they say, is history.

“The company has branched out into other products, and we continue to invest in large stock holdings and develop new products. The company is well placed to continue to expand in the future. We are already the UK’s largest supplier of embroidery backings. This, complemented with our new Premium embroidery thread, will ensure the continued strong growth of ETC Supplies. In the future, we will be consolidating our business in the UK and setting up supply bases in major European countries because the demand for our products is very strong there.

“I still make a point of getting out on the road for six months during the summer and visit as many customers as I can. This interaction with my customers is priceless. I can tell them all about our new products and in turn I listen to them and find out what problems they are having, and then I go away and develop solutions for them. It’s simple: if one person is having a problem then others will also suffer the same issue.

“I have used the phrase ‘customers’ in this article, but I should apologise and make the correction to friends. I have had the great pleasure to meet nearly all of our friends on a one-to-one basis at their own premises.

“Together with my wife Tripta and all the wonderful people that have worked for ETC Supplies over the years, we have made a strong, successful and profitable British company that we are all proud of.