Every day, we speak to optimistic new business owners excited about what the future will bring. But, as time goes by, it can be easy for the day to day running of your company, managing staff, and juggling finances to cloud your view.

If you feel like you’re starting to lose sight of your long-term goals for success, it can be challenging to keep your company on track. That’s why we’ve compiled some of our favourite underdog stories from the world of business.

From a humble beginning, these three very different Derbyshire businesses all grew to dominate their respective industries. With the careful planning and the right support, there is no reason your business can’t be next on our list.


From small mechanical business to the Best Car in the World

Way back in 1904 Henry Royce, the owner of a small electrical and mechanical SME, decided to put together his first ever motor car. Later that same year he met quality car salesman Charles Rolls, and a new company was born: Rolls-Royce.

The partners began designing, manufacturing, and selling their creations across the UK. Within just three years, their Silver Ghost was declared “The Best Car in the Word” thanks to its record-breaking success.

Explore new horizons

By the 1930s, the Derbyshire business had branched out their product range substantially; taking to the skies with their unrivalled aeroplane engines. They established a new world air speed record of over 400MPH in 1931.

Continuously making and smashing their own records, Rolls-Royce’s designs even powered the Hawker Hurricane and the Supermarine Spitfire for Britain during the Second World War.

Along with their success in the world of air travel, Rolls-Royce continued to focus their efforts on their motor car roots. They grew to become the only company in Britain capable of delivering unrivalled power for use in the air, on land, and at sea.

In the 1950s, Rolls-Royce received an enormous publicity boost as they became the official car of choice for the royal family. Following this, Rolls-Royces became something of a status symbol; with musicians, movie stars, and other celebrities all opting for the award-winning brand.

Attract new investors

By 1980, Rolls-Royce had been purchased by British defence company Vickers. The firm went on to produce Rolls-Royce alongside Bentley motor cars.

A decade later and the BMW Group bought the rights to produce Rolls-Royce cars. This investment would go to fund new technologies, original designs, and multimillion pound testing facilities.

Today, Rolls-Royce has a turnover of £3,088,835,000, and it has more than five thousand employees.

Thorntons Chocolate

“Make this the best sweet shop in town.”

From tiny acorns grow mighty oaks, and that was certainly the case for Thorntons. Over a hundred years ago in 1911, a travelling confectioner named Joseph William Thornton opened up a sweet shop in a little street in Sheffield.

Without quitting his day job, he entrusted his two sons, aged just fourteen and eleven, to run the store. He handed over the keys and told them to “make this the best sweet shop in town” – and that they did.

Invest in your company

Business was booming, and in 1931 the brothers decided to switch out their small shop front for larger premises on Stalker Lees Road in Sheffield.

At the same time, the Thorntons purchased their first enrober for £175. This handy piece of machinery allowed them to coat their products in chocolate; resulting in the handmade truffles, candies, fudges, and fondants the brand is famous for today.

In 1934 the brothers commissioned a purpose built factory to expand their business further. They later moved to a much larger site in Derbyshire in 1948 where they have stayed for the last seventy years.

By 1967 the Derby business had more than sixty shops across England; turning over £1.7 million and making profits of £250,000 a year.

Know when to accept help

In the early 2010s, Thorntons began to go through a period of financial hardship. Their chain had more than 240 stores by this point and, rather than risk the company collapsing; they decided to open its doors to potential buyers.

The company was later purchased for £112 million by industry leader Ferrero; the Italian behind the Kinder Egg, Nutella, and Ferrero Roche.

Thornton’s shares soared nearly 43% to 145p overnight following the offering, bringing the company to their highest level in over a year. Today the company have a revenue of more than £190 million.

EcoBat Technologies Ltd.

Small town smelter turns global leader.

While the name EcoBat is relatively new, this company was founded on centuries of work in the smelting industry with some links spanning back as far as the 14th century.

Smelting has been an invaluable trade to society since ancient times as it involves extracting metal from its ore for use in a wide range of tools, materials, and technologies.

EcoBat Technologies grew from a single smelter by the Mill Close Mines back in 1934. It was then purchased by H J Enthoven and Sons in 1941. This London-based lead producer required a shadow factory away from the Blitz in London and so set up shop in a 250-acre woodland at the edge of the Peak District National Park.

H J Enthoven’s smelting empire later developed into the world’s largest lead group, EcoBat Technologies. The company now have almost thirty facilities across Europe, South Africa, and the United States with a total of thirteen professional lead smelters.

Offer an end to end solution.

Once they have extracted and refined the metal from its ore, EcoBat Technologies manufacture and sell a wide range of high-grade pure lead and lead alloy products.

Not only is this Derbyshire business currently the world’s largest producer of lead but they are also the only global company in existence to offer a closed recycling loop for lead batteries.

That means, once their lead-based batteries have been used, EcoBat group companies then collect, transport, and store waste lead batteries and battery powered appliances ready for safe recycling.

Once returned to the EcoBat headquarters, these products are reduced to their core materials for reuse in brand new products. In fact, more than 80% of the company’s lead production is pure lead refined from scrap lead sources.

Their lead battery recycling operations also have a recycling efficiency of more than 90% making their products high quality, efficient, and environmentally responsible.

So what can we learn?

One of the main takeaways we can see from these Derby business leaders is that expanding your product base can establish you as a leader in multiple markets.

Furthermore, by reinvesting in your business and understanding what your customers want you can significantly increase your profits and growth. Growth always brings challenges, especially with cash flow, so always make sure that you have your accountant on side to help you plan each step carefully and methodically.

Feeling inspired? Speak to the Maple experts today

All globally leading businesses start off as an SME. For professional advice and guidance on how you can grow your company into something great, speak to Maple today.

If you would like a FREE strategy session with our business experts here at Maple, call us on success@maple.uk.com or call 01332 207 336