Big Interview

RETIREMENT isn't for everyone.

Take John and Cherry East-Rigby.

They are 65 and 78 respectively, but they have no intention of calling a halt to their entrepreneurial enterprises.

Less than a year ago they bought a chain of three antiques and collectables emporiums, Molly's Den, which has emporiums in Winchester, Bournemouth and Christchurch, and are now working hard to build up the business.

And before that, they weren't pottering round with their vegetable patch.

Cherry had recently launched a new career as a swimwear designer, with her own business, ZwimZuit, which has proved very successful, with customers around the world, while John has had several entrepreneurial ventures, most recently selling a classic cars classified ads website he created and ran to an international publishing house.

"Last year, the option came to buy Molly's Den from liquidators," says John, from Ringwood.

"We saw it had potential. It was an opportunity for us to save around 30 jobs and we could see that there was a core business that could be built upon.

"There have been a few surprises along the way, but we're well on the way with it now."

For both John and Cherry, not working simply isn't an option.

"It's all about stimulation, not vegetation," says John.

"I'm fit and healthy and feel it's my duty to be out and create wealth. The NHS, mending roads, education – that's not paid for by the government. It's paid for by taxes. I feel wealth generators don't always get the credit they deserve.

"The thought of a conventional retirement fills me with horror," he continues.

"There's only so much gardening you can do! For me, facing the challenges of business is a pleasure, and if it's something I can do, I feel I should."

"I've never had a career as such, so I never had anything to retire from," adds Cherry.

"People who spend their lives working a nine to five often seem desperate to retire, but we don't have a reason to stop. I can imagine if we didn't have our businesses, life would be very boring. I've always been busy."

The couple only married four years ago, but met when John was 14, and have been together since he was 20.

John's father was an entrepreneur himself, designing and making static caravans, going from making them himself to running a string of factories.

Cherry's father was a Rolls Royce test pilot.

"I grew up within the umbrella of Rolls Royce but within that my father was very entrepreneurial. He knew everyone and was always finding out what they needed. It was all very exciting when I was growing up."

The couple started out buying and renovating property together, and then went on to buy a wine shop with a drinks licence, in North Wales.

"We had come from London and bought this old wine shop, which had an on licence, with visions of turning it into a wine bar," says Cherry.

"I did all the interiors, had the curtains made in London and so on, but it turned out to be more of a wino bar than a wine bar!

"But then John had the idea of turning the cellar into a disco, as there was a real lack of them in that part of the world."

The disco only had a capacity for 60 and frequently there were hundreds of people trying to get in, so John realised there was a huge market to be tapped, bought an old bingo hall in nearby Bangor, and turned it into a 700 capacity disco.

He went on to have three discos in North Wales, along with a number of other ventures.

Cherry was focused on bringing up her daughter from her first marriage, but was always involved in the background with John's ventures.

The couple admit that they are always on the look out for business opportunities, for themselves and people around them, but they have realised that not everyone shares their entrepreneurial drive.

"If we are on holiday, we might spend three days relaxing, then we start to notice a property that looks derelict and think about whether it might be in a good position, and so on," says Cherry.

"This is what we do. We automatically go down that route. It's a form of addiction, we get a real buzz from it."

John adds: "If I see an opportunity I start to think about what I could do with it. For instance, my niece was talking about her passion for baking cupcakes.

"I started going into how she could bake several batches and then take them to a market, and if they did well, start taking orders. I was building up this big multinational baking company and I realised that my niece was just looking at me completely blankly!"

John admits that he has had his share of failures but prefers to keep them to himself.

Cherry is more candid about some of her less successful ventures.

"I showed horses for a bit, and I had an idea that I could sell them, but I'm no good at selling animals," she says.

"We once had a litter of Jack Russel puppies that we were going to sell, but we felt so bad when anyone came for them that we wound up keeping the lot!

"Animal selling definitely isn't my thing. I'm more likely to collect them."

John and Cherry agree that having a passion for your fledgling business is important.

Both felt very enthusiastic about taking over at Molly's Den.

"I've always liked antiques and collectibles, and I also see the opportunity," says John.

"I see Molly's Den as a leisure experience the whole family can enjoy. The older generation might enjoy the nostalgia, their children may be picking out things for their home and there are play areas for little ones, and dogs are definitely welcome! There's even a cafe. I feel I can bring my expertise from the nightclubs to the business."

"Molly's Den is a really attractive business for both of us," adds Cherry.

"When we lived in London and were doing up our house, we used to go skip hunting. It was amazing what you could find.

"Molly's Den is a bit like that. I go with a friend and we have to stop ourselves from buying too much. I'm beginning to accumulate quite a bit!"

John suspects that it is the fear of failure that puts many people off of pursuing an entrepreneurial idea.

"I don't have that," he says.

"I look upon the potential of failure as a lesson to learn from, so the next time I don't fail.

"It's all about risk and assessing risk. Some things will succeed and some will fail. That's the nature of being an entrepreneur. That's what people don't recognise."

John would encourage anyone with a business idea to start by trying it out in their spare time, getting lots of feedback, 'and don't bet your house on it.'" he says.

"It's all very well having an idea, but make sure the number add up!"

The couple agrees that having a passion for what you do is important.

"People often say 'money is the root of all evil,' but that's a misquote," John says.

"It's 'love of money is the root of all evil.' Just doing something for the money is soulless."

"If you want to try something, have a go," adds Cherry.

"Life is quite short, and if you don't try, you'll probably end up regretting it."