A multi-millionaire who is set to buy an African gold mine said working in the cold at Toxteth Market was the “hardest” work he’s ever done in his life.
Earlier this week the ECHO reported local dad David Webster, 55, was going to make the mammoth deal in Guinea after starting out working life as a market trader.
The Toxteth-born businessman is set to start trading in gold following the coronavirus pandemic, and said he wants to give back to his home community by recruiting new, young workers.
David started work at 14 and said the secret behind his success was simply hard work. He’s shared his rags to riches story with the ECHO, and how it all began.
He said: “My dad was the finest entrepreneur I’ve ever met in my life. He could make money out of anything, I’ve never seen anything like it.
“And he had a very successful market store and shops around Liverpool, so I ended up working with him. He had a good business, he did very well and then he took me out of school when I was 14.
“He actually did a deal with the headmaster, which you could do back then. He said ‘I need him to come and work with me’ so I started working on the market.
“Being on Toxteth Market was the hardest work of my life. Waking up at four in the morning when it’s snowing, it was like hell and back every day. You couldn’t feel below your knees, your legs were frozen.
“For a 15 or 16-year-old lad, I didn’t know what had hit me. But I look back now and I think everything since then has been easy, because that was the hardest labour of my life.”
The father and son’s market stall sold household goods and bedding, and David said his dad was one of the finest traders in Liverpool at the time.
He added: “I learned everything from him, I was just this lad who came out of school and didn’t know left from right. I can’t thank him enough.”
Although the work was challenging, David added: “I remember the camaraderie from all the other traders, we had a good laugh.”
The business duo had their sights set on something larger than their stall, though.
David said: “That progressed into working with my dad until I was about 25 or 26, and then we just went on our own way and we ended up with a very successful retail business, with shops in Waterloo, Widnes and we did really well.
“I really enjoyed retail and working with people, we had a great laugh doing that. We did that for about ten years, but then we stepped into property and real estate in the 1980s.
“It was all down to hard work. The ethic we had was ‘if your eyes are open, you’re in work’ and ‘there’s two modes; work and sleep’.
“We had a company called Merseyside Developments and were working with big names, I think I had about 800 hours in my personal name, at one point.”
But David said he always wanted to keep the business at home, in Liverpool, despite his business ventures taking him onto new horizons.
David’s hard work meant he was able to retire by the age of 42, with millions in the bank, and he had his sights set on going to live in Barbados.
But personal tragedy struck, when his sister, Jane, suddenly died of a brain aneurysm at just 34.
Jane was like a rock to David, he said.
The pair were best friends, so as well as having to deal with the sudden tragic loss of Jane, David said he had to pick himself back up to return to work.
He said: “I thought I’d done it. I was in Barbados and I didn’t need to work because I had a fantastic sister who was going to run the company for me while I was abroad.
“Then all of the sudden, out of the blue, she doesn’t feel well and two days later she dies. You just cannot write it, but the whole business was in her name.
“Within a week I went from being a multi-millionaire, with enough money to last me the rest of my life, to zero.
“I just didn’t even know how to handle it. My world fell apart overnight.”
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David returned to work for the company but faced difficulties and eventually had to declare himself bankrupt.
Starting again, David built himself back up again and for the last six years he has been visiting and working in West Africa, looking at gold mines.
He said: “Because my sister had been working in real estate development, and had worked with me for 15 years, it saddened me every time I looked at it.
“So I thought I’m going to look for something new, that excites me. I tried ten businesses, 20 businesses, looked at a football club, but it wasn’t for me.
“And then all of a sudden I got asked to be a consultant for a law firm, who wanted me to represent them in Africa. It sounded exciting, so I thought I’d go and see what Africa was all about. And that was six years ago.”
Along with his two sons, Jake and Curtis, David spent years West Africa gaining experience in mining, buying and exporting gold for third properties.
The gold mine purchase is set to cost David £7.75 million, as he looks to buy a 60sq.mile working mine in the Siguiri region of Guinea.
Ahead of the multi-million pound investment, David said he recognised that gold was still a lucrative market for him to invest in.
He added: “I did well at property, but I was born to be a gold miner”.
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David is offering recruitment opportunities here in Merseyside, but has also offered business advice for savvy entrepreneurs who also ambitions.
He said: “You don’t get wealthy overnight, you get it wrong several times. Don’t think you’re ever going to get tomorrow, you never know what’s round the corner in life.
“I think there’s two things; you’ve got to have ambition and hard work. If you want to finish at half five every night and go home to have your tea – that’s not enough.”