Published On: Tue, Jun 18th, 2024

A home for unwanted doors and windows

The founder of upcycling company Green Doors describes how his business is battling a wasteful industry and how dyslexia and ADHD have proven to be superpowers

We walk past skips every day. Debris from home renovations, office refurbishments and building sites fills up these big bins and most of it goes straight to landfill. For Joseph Holman, founder and CEO of Green Doors, this is not just a waste but also a major business opportunity and chance to make a difference.

Holman started his upcycling business when he pulled a set of French doors out of a skip while training as a plumber. A decade on, he has over 30 employees and operates out of a 50,000 square foot warehouse filled with thousands of spruced up doors and windows.

“Last year, we rescued over 3,000 items and turned over nearly £2m. Not bad for a company that literally grew out of a skip,” Holman says. “Also, so far, we have not had any investment and have grown by reinvesting our profits back into the business. It’s a big issue we are fighting, with about one third of waste globally coming from the construction industry.

“More than 10 billion doors are produced every year. Some don’t even make it out of the factory as they’ve been made to slightly the wrong specification. Although a small amount of these are recycled, nothing is better than reusing.

“A lot of these doors are replacements but their lives are cut short due to aesthetics. That’s where we come in.”

Holman began in business early. Aged just 12 and using his dad’s eBay account, he invested his birthday and pocket money into a bulk order of magnetic ‘stick and ball’ games, which he then sold on individually.

“I ended up netting a profit of around £2,000 in just six weeks and, from then on, I was hooked on buying and selling anything I could.”

Diagnosed with ADHD and dyslexia at the age of seven, Holman struggled at school. Meanwhile, his parents didn’t see selling on eBay as a career choice. 

Holman decided to try his hand at plumbing. “I was on a £700 apprenticeship wage but making £3,000 to £4,000 a month selling second-hand boiler parts from jobs on eBay.”

It was while working as a plumber in 2014 that Holman was inspired to set up Green Doors. “Walking past a skip, I noticed a set of modern, white PVC-U French doors. I dug them out, loaded them onto my mate’s plumbing van, cleaned them up and advertised them on eBay. They sold the next day for hundreds of pounds.”

Holman spent days scouring skips for more doors but soon found a “mountain destined for landfill” outside a door and window company. He bought the lot from the owner. With this stock secured, Holman packed up his plumbing career and founded his company with a plan to disrupt a wasteful industry.

“Friends and family thought I was delusional and urged me to stick with plumbing, but I knew I could make a difference,” he recalls.

Holman found the first few years tough, making a business from reselling doors and windows was harder than he expected.

“To say it’s been a rollercoaster is a bit of an understatement, it feels like we are building the theme park. I was stressed, depressed and on the verge of giving up daily and although profitable, still no one could see my vision,” he says. 

“For the last ten years, I’ve paid myself near minimum wage for the hours I’ve worked and we reinvest all profits back into the company to help scale up operations and rescue more stock. We are on a mission to ensure all doors get a second life. We believe it makes sense both economically and environmentally.”

Holman now attributes his business abilities to his neurodiversity. “Looking back, all my childhood I assumed I wouldn’t get anywhere due to my disabilities.  Now, I know these ‘superpowers’, as Sir Richard Branson would say, are what have got me to where I am today. They have given me the ability to see the bigger picture, think differently and take risks.”

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