Biofuel-powered transport company JPM Eco Logistics became famous when every Dragon from BBC’s Dragon’s Den wanted a share in it.
Paul Merker (joint company owner) said they were pleased with the deal they picked, although if they’d thought more about it they would have negotiated with the Dragons rather than just accepting one of the deals on offer. As it was they ended up with two of the Dragons.
On Dragon’s Den
Originally it was co-owner Jerry Matalvanos’ partner who filled in the form that got the company into Dragon’s Den. Ben Armstrong rang them and said he was a producer on Dragon’s Den. He asked them in for a screen test at BBC Manchester.
At first Jerry and Paul thought it was a wind-up and rang the BBC and asked for Ben confident in the knowledge that he didn’t exist. They were immediately put through and their screen test arranged. The test was a bit of fun and took about two or three hours. Afterwards they were told they’d probably hear in 10 to 12 weeks if they’d been picked to be on the show. Instead one week later they were asked to go down to Pinewood for filming.
Paul said that ideas and companies were appraised as quickly as it looks on the TV screen. However, there were some companies were the Dragons delved into great detail. And JPM Eco Logistics was one of them, in all they spent 2 and a quarter hours being grilled and discovered exactly what the Dragons look for in a pitch!
JPM Eco Logistics Birth
Roughly 7 years ago Paul and Jerry met whilst working for different divisions of the transport company DTS. Paul was a driver with 17 years experience and Jerry was a transport manager working in a different division also with 17 years experience.
Paul helped set up the distribution network for Next when DTS won their transport contract. When Next took its transport back in-house Paul was transferred with it under TUPE.
Paul wasn’t happy at Next and he’d kept in contact with Jerry who’d moved to an engineering company by that time.
Together they discussed ways of getting a green transport company started that would have a very small carbon footprint.
They trawled the Internet looking for a suitable company to buy. And at the same time they wanted to make sure they were as environmentally responsible as possible, partly to be different to all the other haulage companies.
In the end they couldn’t find the right company so they set-up JPM Eco Logistics from scratch. They wanted their company vehicles running on bio-diesel and without charging customers a premium for the fuel.
They talked to all the vehicle manufacturers to find out if their lorries would run on bio fuel. They discovered that Scania could use bio fuel provided it met the EN14214 standard fuel. However, as it turned out they didn’t go with the Scania lorries.
The company finally started operations in September 2007 with 6 full time drivers recruited from the Rochdale and Middleton areas and based in a yard in Rochdale.
By the time you read this the company will have moved to other premises.
The Bio Fuel
The fuel is made from rapeseed, which is grown by a Lincolnshire farmer.
The company buys direct from the farmer who grows his own rape seed, encouraged by the EU. He presses the seed to obtain the oil and refines it. He also composts the residue runs his own tractors with the bio fuel.
The result is a carbon footprint, which is Euro5 compliant (the best you can get). That means that carbon dioxide emissions are cut by 50%.
When the company has a lorry in the farmers area they schedule the return journey so they can pick up a 1,000 litres of fuel to maintain their stocks at the yard.
A Useful Business Lesson
After Paul and Jerry’s initial enquiry to vehicle manufacturers Volvo kept in touch every week to see how things were progressing. Then in July 2007 the Volvo technical director rang and agreed to supply vehicles under contract/hire with full warranty using bio fuel.
The business lesson was that Volvo sold 6 contracts for vehicles by keeping in constant contact with the company even whilst the company was considering another company – Scania.
In fact, Volvo were so interested they’re looking at designing their lorries with the bio fuel capability as a retro-fit. JPM Eco Logistics lorries are fitted with the filter and pipe work for using bio fuel during assembly.
In The Fast Lane To Growth
JPM Eco Logistics is servicing companies including:
- TDG – Corus steel contract
- TDG – just started curtain side trailer work (at Carrington and Warrington)
- Bibby Distribution – based in Chadderton
- Sellers Engineering – based at Oldham
Business increases led Paul and Jerry to move their operation to the previous Seddon Atkinson lorry manufacturing plant in Oldham. It has an excellent yard where Paul and Jerry plan to install a bio fuel tank, to allow them to collect larger amounts of fuel with a tanker. The extensive offices will allow for the company’s future expansion.
Don’t Get Burnt In The Dragon’s Den
The one quality that Paul suggests is paramount for the Dragons is honesty.
Then if you’ve a reasonable idea they’ll quiz you on your cashflow, as cash is vital, particularly to a new and growing business. They’ll ask about your exit strategy, because their investment needs to come out of the business within about 5 years.
The Dragons are also keen on learning of how your own experiences qualify you for running with your business idea. The Dragons Paul and Jerry went with were Deborah Meaden and Theo Paphitis. They’ve met both of them a couple of times and Deborah Meaden has been particularly pro-active with her help.
The original £100,000 the Dragons invested came in handy for taxing the vehicles and to maintain the cashflow and to invest in a further 6 lorries.