After landing in the UK a decade ago, Minda Jonuskis had just £100 to his name and a self-imposed deadline of only a month to find work, or face returning home to Lithuania.
While the ambitious entrepreneur admitted he has faced numerous challenges, including language barriers, fierce industry competition and securing business capital, he is today relishing his role as director of his Marden-based company, MJ Exhibitions.
He has seen the event stand design venture evolve from humble origins into a thriving enterprise with an annual turnover of £800,000.
As Mr Jonuskis, who lives in Southborough, revealed, there have been some rollercoaster moments that have seen him take on a string of short-term roles before deciding to develop his own business.
But since founding his venture in 2011 he has not looked back, with the company now employing eight people and planning expansion through creating an additional production base in Germany.
Among its key achievements has been gaining preferred supplier status for delivering bespoke stands to the NEC in Birmingham, which has significantly boosted the company’s profile.
Crucially, the business has also developed an advanced plastic production technique, enabling it to create a range of larger exhibition stands.
This has given the firm a vital cutting edge in a crowded specialist market.
Mr Jonuskis said: “I wouldn’t change a thing about what I have done with the business and I love living here. It feels like home to me now.
“I’ve made a lot of friends here and have been through quite a lot of short-term jobs until I found the proper role that I have achieved now.”
He explained it had taken a considerable leap of faith in setting up the company that he self-financed.
His determination has paid off as his venture has gained a range of clients from exhibitors at the ExCeL Classic Car show in London to property exhibition stands for the Dubai royal family.
The company’s motto of ‘You Dream it, we build It’ certainly demonstrates no shortage in ambition.
The 34 year old believes his formative experiences in Lithuania have stood him in good stead and in particular his military service.
He recalled: “I had joined the Lithuanian army at 20. I was young and ambitious and wanted to be the best. I went to sergeant’s school and on other courses to get the best qualifications possible. All these helped me to become a sergeant instructor quickly.
“But after three years I felt that I was getting blunt, and that I was not learning enough, which is what made me think about starting a business. Then a friend who had been in the UK said there were possibilities here for me.”
Gaining a class 2 commercial driving licence in Lithuania enabled him to pick up his first crucial pieces of employment in the UK in 2005, working for delivery companies including UPS.
By his own admission, he took an unusual approach to learning English by borrowing children’s books from a friend he met working on a building site, and subsequently took language GCSEs at West Kent College. This made him feel more integrated into British culture.
Having his family around, including his wife Rasa as a project manager for the business, plus their two young sons, has proved another important factor in settling into UK life.
He added: “My favourite part of the work is meeting people, as well as designing products. “Though we are involved in sales, I always say that we are not sales people. We are there to advise companies on how they can promote themselves best at exhibitions and events.
“I would like the business to be a multi-million-pound company, as I think you have to aim for these things – if not, why would you be doing it?”