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Jonathan Straight, the founder of Straight plc and an Entrepreneur in Residence for Connect Yorkshire, told his story at our online Masterclass on 28 July 2020. He structured his history round the 10 commandments that an entrepreneur should follow, that turned into 12 by the time he had finished!


Jonathan was born in Leeds in 1965, his father was a doctor. After school at Leeds GS he worked for a variety of companies including Bemrose plc and Strachan before founding Straight plc in 1994. Its business was the sale of recycling bins and water butts. It was listed on AIM in 2003 and started manufacturing in Hull in the same year. Not long after, Straight plc bought its main competitor, Blackwalls, which was transformational. The company continued to grow and was finally bought by an Irish company in 2013 for £35m.

The Ten Commandments:

  1. Set Goals – Know your end game
  2. Communicate Effectively – Simple straightforward language.
  3. Tell the Truth – Looking for a job Jonathan thought ‘what can I do that would have a positive benefit?’ We pay to bury our waste in holes in the ground and yet the material has value-we pay twice.
  4. Never Give Up – Every entrepreneur has tenacity; Jonathan found SWAP “save waste and prosper” a charity which he joined and helped.
  5. Be Memorable – Not sure this applies to everyone, but Jonathan has distinctive glasses and an unforgettable moustache. While working at SWAP he designed new bins.
  6. Dare to be Different – Early on at his company he learnt IT skills, he sourced new waste containers and devised a caricature of himself for marketing purposes. His first target was sales of £1m.
  7. Know your Competition Blackwalls was the biggest supplier of recycling bins in the UK. By 2000 Jonathan’s company was growing quickly but every product belonged to someone else. One competitor Paxtons had been bought by Linpac, so buying Blackwall would give Jonathan a very strong market position. By 2002 sales were £2m and Jonathan decided he could do this if he had a Stock Exchange listing. So he went to the City, appointed Durlachers as brokers and appointed new NEDs and lawyers and accountants.Straight plc was admitted to AIM at a valuation of £5.5m. By 2004 turnover was £13m and the shares had nearly doubled. Then one day he learnt that Backwalls wanted to sell and Jonathan decided he wanted to buy it. So they went on a roadshow round the city and raised the funds to buy Blackwalls which was a transformational deal.
  8. Keep reinventing yourself – The 2006 drought and hosepipe ban led to his supply chain of agents/distributors/licensees/3rd party manufacturers breaking down. By 2008 the value of Straight plc was less than the cash in the bank. So the company cut costs drastically and decided to move into manufacturing. They bought a site near Hull and by 2013 70% of sales came from this factory. In the process they created a new 3 box stack. In 2013 they were approached by an Irish company and Straight plc was sold. 
  9. Help Others
  10. Lead by Example

The 11th and 12th Commandment:

Plan your exit first

Look after yourself – Keep fit and healthy


Nick Butler