Chris Madelin, 31, is a true entrepreneur. He is CEO of Magna Asset Management and together with his business partner, Oliver Mason they are building six luxury developments in Surrey and Hampshire, which are perfect for first time buyers. Chris has the most inspiring story – initially working as a labourer for £40 a day to now running Magna. He talks to Lynda Clark about how it all began, his plans and his vision for the future
FTB: Tell us how your story began
CM: When I was about nine years old my mother decided to send me to a Saturday drama school to learn new skillsets and become a great performer. I met a seven year-old boy called Oliver Mason there, who is now my business partner. We came from very different backgrounds as my parents were middle class and I went to a private school but Ollie came from a tough area and so our upbringings were very different. We really hit it off as friends but we were very bad actors! When it came to putting on a show the only thing we could do was to dress-up and play the cow. I was the head and Ollie was the tail and it’s been like that ever since – me at the front as CEO but Ollie always there as the backbone to the company.
FTB: What happened as you were growing up?
CM: When I became a teenager I started to rebel and eventually I was expelled from the private school I attended. I needed to do something and earn some money so I became a labourer and worked for about £40 a day. I worked for a ground works contractor and had to go down a deep, dark hole and shovel clay. It was hard work but I was learning a lot about building all the time. I then reconnected with Ollie, when we met at a local gym; we were friends throughout our teenager years but grew apart in different social circles because of our two years’ age gap. He was also labouring and we met by chance, as if it was meant to happen. I had met a self-made millionaire who owned bakeries and he became my mentor. I started to read lots of very relevant books like ‘Rich Dad, Poor Dad’ and ‘Think and Grow Rich’, and I knew my life was about to change as I had a clear vision of what I wanted. Ollie and I always had the same mind-set and eventually we decided to start our own business together.
FTB: What was the business?
CM: Ollie had been working for a landscaping company and so we were both accustomed to hard work and labouring for up to 16 hours a day. We decided to start a construction business and took on different projects like patios, drives and extensions. We started to get bigger and managed a team of 30 plus staff. Then in 2011 we were really let down by the owner of the new build mansion who we had built it for. It was a learning curve but we were determined to make the business work. We drew a map of the world to highlight where the real money was, but we could hardly pop over to Dubai for the evening. So we bought a couple of £2000 suits and drove to Mayfair in our battered old van as we saw the networking potential there. We would change into our suits and make ourselves look really smart and then go out and meet all sorts of High Net Worth individuals (brokers, fund managers, investors, etc.) – it was an excellent idea.
FTB: Is this when you started to make money?
CM: We decided we had to educate ourselves through personal and professional development and we began buying buy-to-let properties in Yorkshire and Surrey. I really needed more of a challenge though and was introduced to Lease Options and we ended up making £120,000 on a land trade deal and building contract. I read over 700 books and studied in my own time, as I wanted to be ready to take on the challenge that would change my life! I want to bring luxury homes to the general public, to first time buyers and also give a luxury aspect to the local community where I grew up.
FTB: What is Magna and what do you do?
CM: We created the Magna brand, which means GREAT based on the translation from Latin and the purple colour from the Monopoly board assigned to the royal and wealthy Mayfair. Since then we have currently got five projects on the go, with 175 homes across our developments in West Byfleet, Woking, Godalming, Maidenhead and Frimley and the difference between us and other developers is that we insist on a luxury specification. Basically, we want people to have a piece of Mayfair in Surrey, Hampshire and Berkshire. Everything is top of the range from real marble in the bathrooms to Neff and MIELE appliances in the kitchens and every apartment is pre wired for Sonos sound systems in the lounge, bedroom, bathroom and hallways to make a real impact and differentiate our sites from all the average ones.
FTB: What advice do you have for FTBs?
CM: Make sure you look in the right area and you get value for money. Weigh up if the value of a new build is as good as what you would pay for a conversion and make sure you get as much ‘bang for your buck’ as possible. Also, look at the location and make sure there are good transport links. Our development in Maidenhead will be on Crossrail so its potential for market growth is really positive.
FTB: What are your plans for the future?
CM: Magna is set to deliver a £41 million turnover by the end of 2017 and we have many more projects in the pipeline. We have just taken on the Governmental Help to Buy scheme which is great especially for first timers and I really want to make a difference – I want to give back, make an impact on the planet and create a positive change. Renting is good for the flexibility it brings, but for many, owning their first home is a dream and I want to make their dreams come true.