Some people feel that starting a business requires a huge investment, but some of the most successful businesses and entrepreneurs began their journey selling on market stalls in a small-town market.

Market stalls have provided the perfect start for many, through gaining skills and valuable experience in buying, selling and fighting competition.

Marks & Spencer (M&S)

Michael Marks, the co-founder of M&S, was born in the city of Slonim, in western Belarus. In around 1882, he emigrated to Leeds as a young man, not knowing any English and held no trade to his name. He began work at a company called Barran, that was known for employing Jewish refugees. Michael Marks later met Isaac Dewhurst in 1884, when he felt like he could set up by himself, who would supply Marks with goods to sell. Marks later saved enough money to invest in a market stall in Leeds market, he was known for one of his stands selling all their products for only a penny a piece.

In 1894, he decided to expand after his early success. He contacted Isaac Dewhurst with a business opportunity - he was not interested but referred him to Tom Spencer who was his cashier. Marks & Spencer both invested in the business and later opened stores in Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool and more. Their burst into a business empire was helped by the warehouse they built in 1897 in Manchester which would allow them to open up over thirty more stores across the country.

Over 100 years later, M&S now has a net worth of £2.6bn and is a UK high-street treasure.


In 1979, Bill and Jean Adderley chose to invest in trading with home textiles on a market stall, based at Leicester market. Bill worked as a manager at Woolworths but his dream was to be his own boss and this was the perfect way to fulfil it. The Adderley’s began looking for premises that could accommodate the extra business that they were bringing in over time. They opened their first store in Churchgate, Leicester in 1984, they then opened their superstore seven years later that would provide a whole host of brands to the public as well as their own products.

As of 2016, Dunelm operate over 150 stores, source over 26,000 products and employ almost 9,000 staff. This is a perfect case of a market stall to a market giant and how you can turn your knowledge and enthusiasm into something huge.


Poundland was founded in 1990 by Steven and Tracy Smith. Since its opening, it has become one of Britain’s most recognised stores.

It all began with Steven who, at fourteen, started working on his parent’s market stall. He noticed an opportunity from his experience of working on the stall, he saw that the products that were selling most were the items that were priced between 10p - £1. This was the first breaking point that would lead on to being the foundations of his business. By seventeen, Steven set up his first shop shortly after leaving school.

Steven and his wife Tracy later set up the first store in 1990, and on their first day they brought in £13,000 and turned over about £6m in its first year. Twelve years after opening up their first shop, in 2002, Steven sold Poundland for a staggering £50m, since then he has been voted Britain’s Best Boss and has given back to the community by mentoring entrepreneurs to help them grow their businesses.


Superdry is one of Britain’s most recognised clothing brands, with over 500 Superdry locations in nearly 50 different countries around the world.

It all started with two entrepreneurs Julian Dunkerton and James Holder. James was actually responsible for founding the classic skate wear brand Bench through his interest and work with design and screen printing. Julian began his journey in fashion through selling clothing on his stall at Cheltenham market.

When Julian and James met they showed many common interests and with the two showing strong abilities in different areas of fashion and business they became business partners after a trip to Tokyo was made, hence the Japanese twist on the branding of Superdry.

Over thirty years later, Superdry has collaborated on projects with the likes of Idris Elba and famous icons such as Kate Winslet and David Beckham wearing the brand. Superdry are also on their way to becoming a £1bn business by 2020 and there is certainly no stopping there.

Lord Alan Sugar

Lord Alan Sugar is undoubtedly one of the most experienced businessmen in the modern day, he is a perfect example of a ‘rags to riches’ story. He was brought up in a council estate situated in Hackney, London. You would also expect Lord Alan Sugar to be top of his class passing subjects with flying colours, but this was not the case. He, as a matter of fact, merely passed his 11-plus but this didn’t stop him.

The skills and traits that he developed from working on market stalls and selling aerials from the back of a van at a young age, gave him an idea of how to run and manage situations in a business. His example of this was when he had employed people who specialised in software and electronics of which he encouraged them to use their knowledge for commercial use.

According to research in 2016 Lord Sugar is estimated to be the 95th richest person in the UK with an approximate worth of £1.15bn.

If you’re interested in setting up your own market stall, explore our full range of high-quality market stalls.

Call us today on 01691 829 333 to discuss your options and which product would suit you best.