An Orange glow in the Midlands

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Back in the ’80s, everything was big, from hair and shoulder pads through to mobile phones; ‘transportable’ phones bore a closer resemblance to briefcases than today’s slimline devices.

But an entrepreneurial Midlands couple saw the potential of these portable phones and began to sell the technology from home.

The ‘mobile’ was being targeted at business execs who needed to be contacted when out of the office, and they weren’t cheap; Mark and Gail Liley from Nottingham started out selling the devices for £3,000, raking in a cool £1,000 profit per handset.

The couple’s venture into mobile began 19 years ago, selling devices on Vodafone and BT Cellnet (now O2), both of which were available through umbrella group Hutchison.

The husband and wife team named the business Midland, after its location, and began to expand and gain momentum – as did Hutchison, launching its own network, Orange, in 1994.

Midland’s big break came six years later, when Orange took a 25 per cent stake in the business in return for it becoming a solely Orange distributor.

Mark took a shop in West Bridgeford, Nottingham, and began a B2B operation selling Orange solutions to business partners.

Another member of the Liley family, Mark’s brother Peter, was also in sales, but of the kitchen variety, where his passion was dwindling.

Peter joined Midland, and his love of sales was re-ignited.

“With mobiles, I’m still selling to the reseller so the process is the same [as kitchens], but the market has a much quicker pace.

“There’s a different opportunity every month,” says Peter Liley (pictured), now sales manager.

On Orange’s decision to buy a stake in Midland, he says: “Probably for Orange, buying into our business meant protecting its market, while it gave us the capacity to move forward.”

But surely offering a sole network limits a distributor?

Full article in Mobile News issue 424 (October 6, 2008).

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