Schott Packaging

Building a £1million business out of waste cardboard in just three years

It was taking a career break and joining the family business that led Tom Schott to have his lightbulb moment. In just three years, he has gone on to turn old cardboard lying idle in the warehouse into a million-pound business that’s growing by the week.

Named winner of The Growth Engine Award at the eBay for Business Awards 2018, Tom and his business partner Josh, have carved out a niche business, selling a wide range of packaging materials to both consumer and business customers.

Since launching their eBay shop, Schott Packaging, in 2015, sales have soared and the business is on track for its most successful year yet.

Here’s Tom’s story. 

How did you end up launching your own eBay shop?

I had been working as a web developer for four years but found the repetitive nature of what I was doing really difficult. I wanted a change, so decided to quit my job and take a career break. This was in 2015 when I was 23.

I ended up joining my Dad’s removals business in Darlington, thinking I’d just take a year or so out and help create a new website for him and generally help with the business. At the time, it was a small family-run removals firm, with around 12 employees. 

Alongside removals, my Dad also had a storage business and I noticed that a lot of space in the warehouse was being taken up by leftover moving boxes. There was all this cardboard lying idle in the warehouse and getting in the way - and that's when I had a brainwave! I thought I’d see if I could sell some of it, to clear some space and maybe make a little extra cash. eBay seemed the perfect platform to give it a try. 

"I had no idea it would take off like it did!"
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When did you sell your first item on eBay?

I sold a fair few boxes in the weeks that followed, and it was clear, even in that short space of time, that there was definitely a demand there. Before long I thought it may be worth trying to expand what I was selling and so I set up an eBay shop aimed at people moving home. 

At first, we started out with just six listings, which were a couple of sizes of boxes available in different quantities, and with prices ranging from £15.99 to £23.99. 

The orders quickly started coming in and the level of demand was really consistent. I was so busy I ended up quitting working for my Dad, so I could concentrate on the packaging business full time.

How did you grow the business?

I enlisted the help of a former business partner, Josh, to help me run and develop the business as it rapidly grew. 

We started with orders from house movers and the odd bulk order from small businesses, but from there things started to snowball with customers placing larger and larger orders. We invested in expanding our product range to include different kinds of packaging, and the result was that we got even busier. 

Before we knew it, it had snowballed, and we needed to recruit more people to help manage all the orders and ensure we had enough stock. 
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Initially, we had taken over a corner in the warehouse but within six months we needed more space. Eventually we took over the whole place and now have our own lease on it – but still need more room!

Flash forward to today and we are selling hundreds of thousands of boxes each year, to both companies and house-movers. It’s been a rollercoaster and has far exceeded all our expectations! 

In our first year we made around £200,000, in our second year we made around £600,000, and this year we’re on course to make more than £1.1million – that’s a fivefold increase on 2016, which is just incredible. We now have a team of five and work from a 10,500sqft office warehouse. 

What’s the best thing about running your own business?

When I was working as a web developer, there was no gratification in what I was doing. It was just churn, day in day out - moving on from one project to another. Now every project I work on gives me great satisfaction. 

For example, when we introduce a new product line, I will do the research, find suppliers, work on the marketing, get them listed and watch them start selling. I see the full process through from start to finish and can see how I’ve made a difference at every stage. 

"I’m happier than I’ve ever been and it’s because I really enjoy what I’m doing."
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In the beginning, when there was only myself and Josh working within the business, we were working 7 days a week and incredibly long hours. We were doing everything from answering the phones, to dealing with customer service, seeking out new business, picking and packing the orders and liaising with suppliers and couriers. But we never once considered throwing in the towel. 

When you feel like you’re onto something great, you must seize the opportunity with both hands and just go for it!

What does the future hold?

In the two short years since incorporation we’ve grown massively and are now operating what feels like a completely different company to when we started out!

Moving forward, we will be continuing to expand our product range and aiming to gain traction in new markets. We’re also looking at taking on more staff in the warehouse and hope to add another unit, to help us cope with increasing demand. 

The future is looking extremely bright for Schott Packaging Ltd, and we intend to continue with our aim of becoming one of the UK market leaders in our field. 

Why did you enter the eBay for Business Awards?

We saw the awards flash up on the eBay dashboard and thought our story was pretty unique (turning spare cardboard into a business!) so we thought we may as well have a go. We put our entry in and just hoped for the best, never thinking it would actually come to anything. When the email came through to say we were a finalist, we were shocked! 

Winning an eBay business award has been invaluable for us. As we’re in talks to expand into neighbouring warehouses, the prize money has also been very handy! Overall, it has been an amazing experience, and to be recognised for our achievements and able to inspire others, is a dream come true.

Top tips


1. 

Think about innovation early on

Consider the ways you might expand your reach into other markets and do your research. Then set out plans to make it happen.

2.

Present your products really well

This is vital when you’re selling anything online. Use good quality photography and clear and concise descriptions. When you hit on a winning template, follow that for any new products you might add. 

3.

Remember that everything has a value to someone

To start a successful business you need to be able to spot an opportunity, then get your products in front of the right people with the right messaging. A platform like eBay is a great way to do this, as set-up costs are so low, and you will have access to a huge market.


Want to be an eBay for Business award winner just like Tom? You could win an all-expenses-paid trip to the USA, as well as up to £5,000 in prize money, plus much more. You’ll find loads more information about the awards and how to enter, here.

Meet Tom – he’s built a £1million business out of waste cardboard in just 3 years #ebayawardsuk via @eBayUK_News
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Established
2015
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Tom was as a web developer for four years before starting his business
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