‘I’m not ashamed of where I grew up’

Martin Montague at his home in Swanmore   Picture: Sarah Standing (170555-6583)
Martin Montague at his home in Swanmore Picture: Sarah Standing (170555-6583)

KIERAN HOWARD: There needs to be a uni degree course in parenting

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There aren’t many people who have a rags-to-riches story quite like Martin Montague.

From growing up on a deprived council estate and working as a toilet cleaner, the 43-year-old has totally turned his life around and is now an extremely successful businessman with a fleet of Ferraris.

But how did the millionaire get to the position he is now in after moving out of a council estate in Purbrook?

To help inspire others, Martin has written a book called The Reservation (£17.99, Splendid Media), recalling his time growing up and the journey he has been on.

‘There are so many untold stories of poverty, desperation and a willingness for change. When I was growing up as a child, I was desperate to try and break free somehow,’ he says.

‘You walk around and see so many people with great opportunities and you wonder what you can do to help yourself in life.

‘A lot of people grow up like I did on council estates in single parent families on benefits. I have a lot of stories to tell. An awful lot happened in my childhood.

‘It’s a defining moment when you manage to move away and stand on your own two feet.’

Martin was born in 1973. He lived in Leigh Park until he was 11, when he moved with his mum and two older brothers to Purbrook.

Living in a poor family, Martin and his brothers had basic food because that was all his mum could afford. The house was often cold during the winter because they couldn’t afford the heating bills.

Martin managed to get a place at Oaklands Catholic School in Waterlooville, as his mum wanted him to have a good education.

‘It led to a bit more bullying on the estate,’ he says.

‘I used to get called a Bible-basher.

‘To try and avoid the bullying, I went truant a lot.

‘One of my teachers told me that my life would amount to nothing. Little did he know that 20 years later I would be running a large company.’

But as a teenager, Martin did find himself socialising with boys his age who were troublemakers, often committing vandalism and, later on, drinking alcohol and taking drugs.

‘One summer, myself and four friends ran away and we burnt a house down by accident,’ Martin says.

‘We were in a derelict house and a camping stove turned over and set fire to the insulation.

‘We were always trying to not get into trouble with the police.’

When Martin left school he was still surrounded by an environment full of crime and drugs and he knew he needed to do something.

He got a job in a factory at the age of 16. But he hated it and was desperate to find a way out.

‘I decided that I didn’t want to live the rest of my life that way,’ he adds.

‘The clock ticked very slowly. It was awful work. I was desperate to better myself. I got a job as a toilet cleaner, which was better than the factory.’

But shortly after that, Martin managed to get himself a job as a car salesman and later on as an estate agent when the car sales firm went bust.

‘Academically, I never got a GCSE at school. So on paper I was never an achiever. But I saw sales as a really good opportunity to use my communication skills and my personality and other assets that I had.

‘I just wanted an opportunity and working as a car salesman was my first proper job.

‘After that I was determined I was going to be an estate agent, where I worked for three years. Then I got a job in finance dealing with high net worth clients across the whole of the south.

‘Everyone then got made redundant, but I was just starting my own business at that time.

‘I was lying in the bath one day and I thought “what could I do that’s easy to sell and doesn’t cost any money to buy?” Then the phone rang. That’s when I thought about ringtones.

‘In the first year, I didn’t make a penny.

Then one month I made £4 and then £100 and then £1,000.’

Martin runs the company with his brother and since then he has gone from strength to strength, opening up many new companies including a dating site.

‘I never thought my journey then would take me to where it is today,’ says Martin as he reflects on his life.

Married to Kathryn, the couple now live in a stunning house on the outskirts of the idyllic village of Swanmore.

‘I met Kathryn initially when we were at school,’ he says.

‘She lived on the council estate. too.

‘I’ve married her twice - once in 1998 and then we renewed our vows about four years ago when we pushed the boat out.’

Life is now very different from Martin’s upbringing on a run-down council estate.

As well as living in a beautiful home, he owns five Ferraris and has a Lamborghini on order.

‘I can relate to a lot of people that I see. I try and help anyone wanting to start a business.

‘Now you really do appreciate the things you get in life.

‘I have had nothing and I have had money - and it’s a lot easier having money.

‘Life is great now - yet I still feel like a failure. My expectations are so high. I would like to own the biggest free dating site on the planet.

‘Putting people together and making people happy is a really good thing.

‘It’s great if you can make a living from your hobby, from doing something that you are passionate about and that you love.

‘I love coming up with an idea and seeing it work from scratch.

‘I have done lots of things that haven’t worked. I have taken lots of risks and lost lots of money.

‘I do go back to Purbrook - sometimes just to feel nostalgic.

‘A lot of people would be ashamed of their childhood but I’m not. I’m not ashamed of what happened to me and I’m not ashamed of where I grew up.’

DATING WEBSITE

Martin hopes he can change the face of online dating through his firm Faces.com.

The website matches members with potential new partners in real-time, updating and refining results based on users’ habits.

Faces.com, which is free, allows members to have complete control over exactly what they want to see.

Martin explains: ‘We’ve made the site itself completely free which is very different from other dating platforms, which often have monthly charges and long contracts.

‘We really wanted to make the best dating site on the planet – and making it free is a huge part of that.

‘Everyone needs some love in their lives.

‘We at Faces.com are using the latest technology to match people up and help more and more people to meet the love of their lives.’