In-wear to software
All aboard for Marrakech. Remember the song? Probably not, unless you were a pop fan of the late 60s or 70s.
But David Ward remembers it, not just because he was of that generation but because he took the song literally. He went to Marrakech. It was one of those extraordinary moments in commercial history where an incident, apparently of little significance inspired an individual to achievement. Not quite of the moment of Robert the Bruce and the spider, but enough to make Ward into a very successful businessman.
In those days, everyone was into ethnic garb so, why not go out to Morocco, he reasoned, buy a vanload of genuine gear and bring it back to Britain to sell at a handsome profit?
He was left to ponder his naivete in jail in Algeciras.
First lesson: you can’t just drive into Spain with an undocumented vanload of coats and expect the authorities to believe that you don’t plan to sell them in their country. But he learned the lesson and eventually got back to Britain to make his profit.
For his next trip, he flew to Marrakech and did the deal properly, arranging for shipment and documentation. Then he
went to Turkey, China, Afghanistan and about every other place where ethnic garb might be available. He set up a small chain of boutiques, and even went into jeans manufacturing, but when the big boys of the High Street started to boutiqueise their own stores, Ward realised it was time to get out.
His skill, of course, was that he had spotted the market first. He had made his money.
Most people only get one chance at that, but opportunity knocked again when, in the US, he recognised the embryonic home computer craze. He didn’t know anything about software development or the industry generally. But, as with Marrakeck, his ignorance could have been a blessing in disguise.
“To be successful in business you need luck; you need to be in the right place at the right time: and you need to know what people want, but often a lack of specific knowledge can actually carry you through. You have the intuitive feel for something, where others who know the business might tell you it is not possible to do what you want to do,” he suggests.