Mike Welch OBE is the CEO and Founder of Blackcircles.com
Welch founded Blackcircles.com – the world’s first ‘Click and Fit’ tyre retailer in 2001 after leaving Kwik Fit and incorporating the business in 2003.
Headquartered in Peebles, Blackcircles.com is the UK’s number one online tyre retailer with a 2,000 strong network of franchised garages around the country.
Blackcircles.com allows customers to buy tyres online and arrange to have them fitted at their choice of garage from the Blackcircles nationwide network – the “Click and Fit” formula – with over 90 per cent of the UK population within a 10-minute drive of a Blackcircles.com garage.
This end-to-end consumer offer, combined with an industry-topping customer satisfaction levels, have contributed to the disruptive Blackcircles becoming the fastest-growing player in UK tyre retail.
In May 2015, the business was acquired by Michelin in a deal that is expected to reach almost £100 million.
In partnership with Michelin, Mike and the Blackcircles team continue to focus on the future expectations of motorists and how to offer them a simple and efficient purchase process underpinned by best value.
Tyre Fitter to Industry Leading CEO:
Mike Welch was born and raised in Liverpool, leaving school at sixteen with a handful of GCSE’s, he was refused entry to college, so instead he found work as a tyre fitter in a city garage.
Although quickly promoted to tyre buyer, unfortunately the garage shutdown several months later, but not before Mike had discovered a talent for selling tyres.
At the advent of what was subsequently coined “e-commerce”, he set up a web address and started selling tyres online through the mail. Mike started off with a £500 Prince’s Trust grant, a PC and an 18th birthday gift of a fax machine from his parents. He helped to finance his new business through night shifts on the pet food aisle at his local Tesco.
At twenty years of age, Mike was approached by the market leaders Kwik-Fit about helping them move into the then new online arena. It was during a visit to their HQ he met Sir Tom Farmer who had a lasting impression on Mike.
After Sir Tom shared some compelling words of encouragement with Mike, he decided to sell his young web business and join Kwik-Fit to help pioneer their online efforts.
After working for Kwik Fit for a couple of years in Scotland then Detroit, following Ford’s $1 billion plus acquisition of the company, Mike made an entrepreneur’s leap with one month’s salary in his pocket, reincarnating his previous online tyre business model, but this time with the addition of a tyre fitting service, creating a network of independent garages having identified the underutilised nature of the many thousands of independent garages across the country.
Blackcircles remained self-funded through recessionary times, resisting outside investment and assembling a strong group of advisors and investors including former Kwik Fit Finance Director, Graeme Bissett, and Sir Terry Leahy.
Mike had contacted Sir Terry by letter to ask whether he had time to spare for a ‘cup of tea’ and to impart some pearls of retail wisdom that Mike could take back to his growing online tyre retail business. Sir Terry obliged a year or so later and the rest is history!
Mike was fostered and adopted as a child and is a longtime supporter of adoption and fostering charities in the UK personally, and Blackcircles has previously been the main corporate sponsor of National Adoption Week.
In 2015, Mike founded his own charity, The Welch Trust, to support families across the UK who live through adoption and fostering.
Mike received an OBE in the New Year Honours list at the end of 2015 for services to Adoption, Fostering and Business.
In 2015 Mike was conferred with an honorary Doctor of Enterprise by Edinburgh’s Napier University for his contributions to the business community and his support of students at Napier.
In February 2016, Mike acquired the IP assets of fashion brand and online retailer Atterley.com and has overseen its redevelopment as an online retail platform for the world’s best boutiques to trade their inventory through to customers across 23 countries worldwide – Atterley.com will relaunch in August 2016.
Mike has also established the Welch Group to manage property and small business investments and has taken up a number of advisory roles including alongside Sir Terry Leahy again at online interiors store Houseology.com.
As a keynote speaker, Mike’s speaking topics include:
- Young Enterprise
- Customer Service