Rob Stone: Founder of Instaloft

Less than a decade ago, Rob was down on his luck, struggling to make ends meet, and selling off his DVD collection at car boot sales to put food on the table.

He’s now in charge of a £14 million empire which employs nearly 150 people, with a chain of six big depots across the UK.

It’s no surprise that his achievements have earned him the Scale-up Entrepreneur of the Year award for our region in the latest Great British Entrepreneur Awards.

Rob launched Instaloft as a one-man-band in October 2014, from a semi-detached house in Telford – armed with tools and materials he had begged and borrowed . . . but most of all, with a huge sense of determination too.

Rob says: “I founded Instaloft during a very challenging time in my life, where I didn’t have enough income to feed my family.

“Back then, if I had imagined walking away from such an inspiring ceremony as the Scale-up Entrepreneur of the Year, I wouldn’t have believed it. It is an absolute honour for me to win such an accolade, and I hope my story will inspire others who are starting out.

“This award isn’t just for me; it takes an amazing team to believe in me and to support me along the way so this award is for everyone at Instaloft who have helped to make this happen.”

The company now has its headquarters on the Hortonwood industrial estate in Telford, plus regional offices in Essex, Reading, Peterborough, Newport in south Wales, and Wakefield.


Instaloft is also a shareholder of LoftZone, after Rob acquired one third of the business to safeguard the future of the company.

“Back in 2014 I was literally sitting on my backside, unable to pay my bills – trying to feed my children, trying to support the family.

“I was out of work, my personal debt was spiralling, and I felt I had nothing going for me at all.

“To try to find ways of making money I was doing car boot sales and selling my DVD collection for £1 each, and anything else I could think of that might earn a bit.

“I was desperately looking for something to do, and would look through business books and magazines for possible opportunities, ideas and inspiration.

“I came across an advert for loft ladders, and I’d had experience working in the loft industry for some time, so I thought it was something I could potentially do.

“This was a franchise advert though, and I think the price was about £10,000 which I couldn’t afford. So instead, I started doing a bit of planning and liaising with a few suppliers.

“One of them was LoftZone, which is a raised floor system, and has become a cornerstone of the business.

“I told them I’d got orders, but I’d got no money, and somehow persuaded them to let me have enough to do this one job on the basis that I’d pay them back as soon as the customer paid me.

“I’m never really sure why they agreed to it, but they did. I promised them that if they helped me, I was confident I could become a big installer – which was quite a big promise at the time from a guy who had very little. But they must have seen something in me; a certain drive or a persistence to not get off the phone until they said yes!”

The LoftZone materials were only part of the jigsaw, though. Rob still needed to buy the basic tools he’d need to complete the job.

“I saw an advert on the telly for one of these companies which provides cards for people with bad credit, and thought it had got to be worth a shot. I phoned them up and they gave me a card with a £200 limit on it.

“So basically, I started my business with nothing more than a card which had a £200 limit, and a promise from one supplier to give me the kit I needed to complete part of the job.

“They supplied me with a couple of other leads as well, which I was really grateful for, and it all went from there. I went out there with a hand saw, a borrowed screwdriver and a few other basic tools, and just started doing it.”

Rob said he remembered those early days being really hard work, and a sharp learning curve. “I’d be there at 10pm some nights trying to figure out how everything worked properly.”

After two or three months of growth, a potentially disastrous accident ended up being a blessing in disguise for Rob, helping him to take the business to the next level.

While assessing a property for a quote one day, he fell backwards down a flight of stairs, spraining both wrists, and ended up having to wear plastic splints on both of his arms.

“I felt like I was back to square one, but I had a couple of guys by then who had been doing a few odd days for me, and decided I had no choice but to employ them to do the work.

“It seemed like huge costs at the time, but I knew I had no alternative. I had to take the plunge.”

Suddenly, while unable to carry out the manual side of the work, Rob found he had time to service the other part of the business – keeping on top of paperwork, marketing, and servicing quotes and enquiries.

He never looked back. Rob now tries to stay out of the day-to-day installation work, but admits he will occasionally ‘interrupt their thought proceses’ to throw some fresh ideas into the pot.

“I’m always thinking about how we can make things better. We’re constantly trialling new things – some work, some don’t – but I believe every business owner needs to do that, and be open minded.”

So what’s Rob’s advice to other entrepreneurs seeking to follow in his inspirational footsteps?

“Starting a business isn’t for the faint hearted. If you are looking for an easy life, it’s completely the wrong track.

“But if you really believe in it, and know you can do it, stop listening to your family and best mates, because they probably couldn’t do it.

“Don’t listen to other people. Get out there, give it a go, and if it starts to work and grow, find someone to help to do it all for you.”