AN entrepreneur who started a business from his parents' spare room has celebrated his company's 20th anniversary this week.

Simon Lancaster's business journey started with a dream in September 2001 and has now become reality, with SJL Insurance supporting nearly 25,000 customers worldwide.

Looking back, he said: "I’d never considered starting my own business until I was unemployed at the age of 23, having been made redundant and struggling to find a job at a company that appealed to me.

"I had a light bulb moment when I thought I could set something up myself that was better than the companies that I was being presented with."

Eventually securing a £500 grant from his local chamber of commerce, Mr Lancaster said many people scoffed at his business plan before he started.

He added: "The grant enabled me to get a PC, desk and chair to go in Mum and Dad's spare bedroom and I was away.

"As part of obtaining the grant I had to go on a one-week business start-up course and we had to take turns in outlining our business plan.

"Most were modest but admirable sole trader ideas such as cake baking, gardening etc.

"When it got to my turn, I sat there wearing my flip flops and told them I wanted to build an international insurance brokerage, employing over 50 people and turning over millions of pounds - they all laughed.

"I started work the next Monday with literally a blank sheet of paper and a blank PC screen.

"I faced challenge after challenge, and knock back after knock back but with perseverance things slowly began to work. The rest, as they say, is history."

Having started his business on the same day as England's famous 5-1 victory over Germany in Munich, September 1, 2001, the company has blossomed, now supporting clients worldwide.

Mr Lancaster added: "I want to thank all of our growing number of amazing customers of which there are now nearly 25,000 around the world.

"I’d like to thank my senior management team of Rob McKechnie and Karl Evans and all of our phenomenal staff, it’s an honour to work aside you all and without you we wouldn’t have the incredible business that we have today.

"I’m looking forward to the next 20 years being bigger and better."