Esprit is turning 40 in 2021, and as part of our commemoration of this achievement, we’re telling the story of the company over the next few REview editions.
Back in the late 1970’s, the TV show “Tomorrow’s World” demonstrated a kit for repairing vehicle windscreens. The Managing Director of Ziebart Rustproofing (a company that imported and sold mainly American products to the UK) was watching the slot while recovering in hospital. Ever the businessman, before the show had even ended he was on the phone to the American company and had signed up as their UK distributor.
At that time, John Wellard was working for Ziebart as a salesman, working on a number of campaigns for items such as car sunroofs. A couple of years after that phone call to America, nothing much had been done with the windscreen repair kits, until one day, John was called into the MD’s office and told that unless he could do something with them, the company couldn’t afford to pay him.
A few phone calls later, and John secured a meeting with the Chief Engineer at London Transport, and was soon in Chiswick, ready to make his first sale. “I’ve been waiting for something like this for 25 years” he said, and despite neither of them being able to make the kit work very well, John had made his first sale. When John got home, he spent hours tinkering and working with the kit to perfect the repair method.
After a few months, John had sold that initial load of kits from the USA to coach companies all over the UK. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to save Ziebart in the UK at that time, and John was made redundant in 1981.
Sitting in their back garden with his wife Pam, thinking about the mortgage to pay, and a 4 year old daughter to support, they decided that they would make their own windscreen repair system. This coincided with a phone call from one of the customers he had previously sold a kit to, asking for resin refills – which of course John didn’t have.
Next month… perfecting the repair kit and becoming self employed.