My story

Business in my blood

Growing up, my dad ran his own business, so I guess that’s what originally sparked my interest from a very young age. I remember always trying to sit in on dinners he was having with staff & clients, picking his brains, telling him my ideas.

From the day I was born, my mum had dreams of me becoming a doctor or lawyer, but that wasn’t going to be the path for me. I wanted to be my own boss and make millions – I just didn’t know how I was going to get there yet!

“My teenage years were a combination of absorbing every business book I could get my hands on, selling every product I could find down at the markets, performing magic (my other passion) for tips in my local Italian restaurant and trying to map out my route to future success.”

When I was 18, my dad invested in a local business selling uniforms and career wear. I was desperate to avoid the conventional three years at university, but my parents weren’t having any of it. As a compromise, we agreed that I’d complete my course whilst working three days a week at my dad’s business so I could learn the trade – to say it was full-on is an understatement!

It wasn’t long before I had to drop out of uni, but with a promise to my parents that I’d restart my course if I wasn’t successful in 12 months. (More than 20 years on, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I don’t fuck up enough to have to enrol as a mature student!)

My dad was too busy enjoying the early stages of his retirement to get too focused on the uniform business but it needed some serious and urgent attention – so he agreed to let me take the reins. I was thrown in at the deep end but after 3 years, I had taken the business from a 300k per annum loss to around 30k in profit.

“The uniform business was a fantastic training ground for me, being plunged into pretty much every problem a business owner would wish he didn’t have to deal with. Terrible customer service. Declining sales. Breached overdrafts. Theft. Politics. Broken supply chain. No marketing budget. You name it, I had to suffer it. But I couldn’t have asked for a better learning experience.”

The Big Break

After 3 years in the uniform business, I was bored. I discovered that I loved a challenge, solving problems and dealing with the cut and thrust of negotiations – being on the front line. So off I went to try my hand in the world of leisure, bars, clubs and pubs. And ultimately, strip clubs!

I didn’t know anything about bars, but as an eager 22-year-old who knew how to drink and wanted to make money whilst meeting girls, I felt qualified to try!

Dabbling to various degrees of success in community pubs I realised my calling was in bringing strip clubs to the mainstream and working to brush off the outdated ‘underworld’ image. So in 2004, I found a site in Wakefield town centre – and Wildcats was born! It was my attempt at bringing a funky brand and serious business principles to a previously underground scene and shunned industry. 

“We will never know if it was a matter of the right place at the right time, or the perfect alignment of my recently learned belief of round pegs in round holes (no pun intended) and doing what makes you happy. Maybe a perfect combination of all. Whatever the reason, we opened to great success and things rapidly went from strength to strength.”

Over the next 5 years, I was living the dream! Well, the business dream I had always envisioned! I got introduced to hungry lenders who were eager to feed my expansion plans and went on a mission to take over the world. Well, Northern England at least!

I opened more clubs, then pubs, then retail shops, then restaurants and juice bars. I became a lender. A property developer. An investor. And even a dad.

I built big. And continued to dream bigger. I spent like a champion. I thought it could never end.

But then it did.

I Lost it all

Over-leveraged, undercapitalised, disorganised, spread too thin. Where do I begin?! It was July 2008. The credit crunch was starting and it was going to finish me. My lenders closed their doors. My customers stopped coming out.

I had finally found a situation I couldn’t negotiate and charm my way out of. The cracks quickly turned to gaping holes. And in a matter of weeks, I lost the lot. Yes. Everything. Not one business left and zero income. And to top it all off, I was made personally bankrupt.

“I was 27. I had a one-year-old daughter.  Everyone around me told me that was now the end of my business life forever! No one would ever deal with me again. Lend to me again. Associate with me again. But I had other plans…”

I am not one to wallow in self-pity. It isn’t attractive and it doesn’t get you paid! And getting paid well was something I wasn’t going to give up on at 27!

Back, and better than ever

From then onwards I basically started doing what I wish I had done from the age of 17 and saved myself 10 years of problems. I started to build my network. Surround myself with mentors,  learn skills, be more pragmatic, and learn from the 10 years of mistakes. I had a more stable footing, and I used it to rebuild myself better than I had before.

“I went from borrower to lender. Operator to advisor. Investment seeker to investor.”

Funding, supporting, advising and building the businesses of tomorrow using my mistakes of yesterday, and my cash of today!

If you ever meet me and ask what I do, I’ll tell a much shorter story.  I’ll simply say, ‘Hi, my name is Matt Haycox and I’m a mistake maker. I have made a fuck ton of mistakes. But I have done it so you don’t have to.’

So, if you have a business that needs funding, a problem that needs solving, a network that needs growing or a potential mistake that needs avoiding…… I am your man!

Timeline

DECEMBER 1980

I was born.

June 1996

My first ‘big’ idea came to me when I was 15. It was the early days of the internet and there was a land grab for domain names. A friend of a friend had made a fortune buying and selling Spicegirls.com and I was going to do the same with my crush at the time, Natalie Imbruglia! So off I went and purchased www.natalieimbruglia.com ready to kill two birds with one stone. I’d make my fortune and meet my future wife at the same time! Unsurprisingly, it didn’t work out as planned… I never got to meet Natalie and her record company accused me of trying to blackmail them and refused to buy it! Eventually, I sold the domain and a low-budget website I had built to a fellow fan, pocketing £500 – not what I wanted but a profit at least! I was hooked and quickly started plotting my financial future…

1997

I started performing magic at my local Italian restaurant. They only paid me in garlic bread but I made some serious tips! 

1999

I started university whilst working three days a week at my dad’s career-wear business.

July 1999

I enrolled in a Chartered Institute of Management Accounts (CIMA) course as a fallback – at my mum’s request. I never actually completed the course, but I learned a hell of a lot that has helped me over the years.

2003

I embarked on my first real solo adventure and opened my first pub in Leeds.

March 2004

I launched Wildcats in Wakefield City Centre.

September 2006

My gorgeous daughter Harlie was born.

2007

Over the previous 3 years I had opened more than 70 clubs, pubs, retail shops, restaurants and juice bars – business was booming.

June 2008

Everything came crashing down. The credit crunch hit and I was plunged into bankruptcy overnight.

September 2008

I lost all of my businesses. My credit was non-existent and I was declared personally bankrupt.

OCTOBER 2008

As they say, I got straight back on the horse and started hammering my contact book to get back in the game!