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better than everyone. I’ve lived by that throughout my life,” he recalls. By contrast, his father wasn’t so supportive, and always asked when his son was going to get a proper job. “Even the Bentley I was driving years later was ‘a bit big’ to my dad,” he says. Keen to keep up momentum after the sale of Easy Clean, Stephen bought a fivestorey Georgian property and rented out ten of its rooms while running his business from the basement flat. By the age of 27, the boy who began with nothing was worth several million pounds thanks to a number of firms and an ever-expanding portfolio of properties. Today, the Fear Group has an annual turnover of over £100m through interests in hotels, key worker accommodation and affordable housing. If tireless hard work and talent have created great wealth for Stephen, then this success has also been used to help break down barriers for others in society. “Entrepreneurs should never be ashamed of making money and wanting good things for themselves, but we owe it to society to give something back to allow others to come through, so that wealth benefits more people,” Stephen says. He is Patron of Lucy Air Ambulance for Children, a charity dedicated to delivering air transfers for seriously ill babies and children in Britain, and is a former patron of Heropreneurs, a support service for Armed Services personnel and their partners aiming to set up themselves up in business after leaving the armed forces. In 2014, Stephen became Patron of Emmaus, a charity that has established 24 homes nationwide where the homeless can find sanctuary, community and employment. “I also think we live in a more thoughtful business era, and I hope this will continue. I believe that we need to create wealth as a society,” he says. This year, Stephen will be helping to nurture a new generation of entrepreneurs when he joins the judging panel of the NatWest Great British Entrepreneur Awards. So, what does a self-made multimillionaire and philanthropist look for in a business, its products, and the personalities behind it? “When I’m judging, I’ll ask if the product or service is of real benefit to society, as well as to the person. Is the entrepreneur thinking uniquely of making money, or are they thinking that their efforts are great for everyone as well as themselves? “Resilience is crucial, because things don’t go right all the time. You have to do a lot of cold calling to bring customers around to your business. Also, someone 13

who doesn’t want to go out and just spend money they don’t have before it’s earned. “I’m looking for someone who doesn’t want to be too flash too quickly, someone who’s thought through the financial and marketing models of their business – looking at how they’re going to achieve their plans.” For all their relevance today, glamorous awards ceremonies are a far cry from the council estate in Bristol where Easy Clean was founded, and Stephen is well positioned to reflect on how barriers to business have fallen in the years since, while support has flourished. “Communication now is far simpler – you can go into a café with your smart phone and ring or email someone. We couldn’t do any of that; it’s much easier today in many ways. People say the banks aren’t lending, but banks are lending; there are lots of ways to finance your business, such as crowdfunding.” Stephen is often introduced these days as the Phone Box Millionaire, in tribute to the way he accessed customers in those spartan early days. The moniker stands out against today’s complex business landscape in bright testament to just how much you don’t need in order to succeed, so long as you are willing to roll up your sleeves. Or could it simply tell the story of an entrepreneurial superhero? Stephen Fear, who went into a phone box as a boy, and came out a businessman.

Entrepreneurs should never be ashamed of owe it to society to give something back to

Profile for GBentrepreneurs

Great British Entrepreneurs Magazine (Spring 2018)  

This magazine brings incredible stories together in one place, helping to shine a spotlight on some of the biggest issues facing entrepreneu...

Great British Entrepreneurs Magazine (Spring 2018)  

This magazine brings incredible stories together in one place, helping to shine a spotlight on some of the biggest issues facing entrepreneu...

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