Matthew Moreton’s company Compare and Recycle was founded on a whim in 2010, turned over £300,000 in its first year and has now passed the £1.2 million mark – all with just seven employees and a burning work ethic. And he’s still only 37.
Matthew admits the idea for Compare and Recycle came when he was slightly down on his luck. He had lost his job and when a girlfriend said she wanted to sell her mobile phone, he agreed to find out what sort of a price he could get.
“I had a look on the internet and realised there was an opportunity to make money in the phone recycling business. There were a few sites which dealt in them, but nothing allowing you to check out the whole market and find the best deal.”
Matthew, who describes his earlier self as “introverted and massively geeky”, spent six months developing a website which would act as the link between people with a phone to sell and the companies that recycle them.
The new venture needed a cash starter and Matthew was delighted when an experienced business associate offered to help. “He had just sold his company and was at a bit of a loose end. He came on board because I had no idea how to run a business. It was a great decision, he showed me what was possible.”
After a few years, Matthew and his mentor decided to go their separate ways. Matthew bought him out in 2015.
Matthew explained the reason for the split: “He wanted me to keep the business small, but I was keen to build it up. I’d become more self-assured and knew there was potential out there.”
With the help of a graphic designer, Lee Elliott, Matthew started developing the website and moved into a bigger office in Maidstone. The company is now poised to take on more employees and the scope of the business has grown to include any electrical items which can be recycled.
So what happens to the phones etc when they are recycled? In the early days, they were shipped to Hong Kong and taken over the border into China, where they were sold, but now that the Chinese population is becoming more wealthy and materialistic, people want the latest models, not hand-me-downs.
A market then grew in the UK for refurbishing phones and distributing them as insurance replacements. This has now morphed further into direct selling of secondhand models, with a specialist section on the Compare and Recycle website. Matthew is also looking at offering contract phones to customers direct. It has higher profit rates, he says.
I ask him if he is worried that the phones he’s offered are stolen property. He says staff make every effort to check credentials, using databases and any other resources at their disposal.
Looking ahead, Matthew is still very enthusiastic about the job and the market. Two competitors were taken over by MoneySupermarket, but he has resisted a take-over bid by a bigger company and wants to be there when Compare and Recycle moves into other countries and other aspects of the business. “There’s lots to do yet,” he promises, with youthful optimism.