Thank you to Teesside entrepreneurs Jack and Tom Atha for allowing us to put them under the spotlight …
Could you give us some background information on how you started in business?
In 2010, at the age of 19, we dropped out of University after both deciding that University life wasn’t for us. Fuelled by a dream for wanting to learn the property renovation business from scratch, we managed to get a job as labourers on a building project with some family friends who were builders, and willing to give two lads who didn’t even know what a Phillips screwdriver was a chance. We bought a battered old static caravan from eBay, and decided this will be our new home for a year on the building site, as we started or rollercoaster ride of learning the basics of the building trade, renovating four old farm buildings into holiday cottages in Stokesley.
Once that project was completed and thinking we had learned enough (we hadn’t) we got the opportunity to buy our first town house to renovate in Middlesbrough. We were very fortunate that we could borrow some family money to get started … and the journey began.
In 2011, We renovated the house in six months, which took twice as long as it should have, but we learnt so much diving in to the deep end, and rolling our sleeves up. The house was rented out very easily, and created a good investment yield. First house … Tick. Towards the end of 2011 we bought two more town houses in the same area, which we renovated, and they were rented out successfully for around six years until we sold them.
Those first three renovations led us to form what is now Atha Developments in 2012. We decided that we wanted to take advantage of what we thought was a huge gap in the Middlesbrough market which was high level student accommodation. We bought and renovated our first two student houses in Middlesbrough centre near to the university. The success of these two student houses built the foundations (building pun) of our strategy, as they confirmed to us that the student market is what we wanted to target for the future.
We have both always had a passion for property and renovation. Construction provides tangible results which is something we love. Turning something rundown and derelict into something visibly stunning, is so rewarding.
What do you feel is your biggest achievement?
This is a difficult question to answer because over the last twelve years or so we have completed lots of projects, and each one could be considered a big achievement for us.
So probably quite obviously our biggest achievement to date was the construction and completion of our most recent project called Dorman House, a new build development containing fifty-five apartments, purpose built for students. The reason this was our biggest achievement is because of the way the building was procured, and the challenges we faced during the project.
We decided for this project that we wanted to become the main contractor and be in full control of the project and construction process. This included everything from organising the finance and project budgeting, to running all on-site construction operations. We have completed similar schemes as a client, bringing in main contractors, however becoming the main contractor on a scheme of this size and complexity, was a huge step up for Atha Developments.
The scheme faced unprecedented challenges from the back end of covid, supply chain issues, labour shortages and a materials price crisis. Throughout all of the challenges and issues faced with the project, we managed to complete the project to a stage where all of our student tenants could move in. This was a massive achievement. Behind all of the working on site to 3:00 am in the morning, mental breakdowns and challenges faced, getting this project to a state where the students could move in was a miracle. We had a further three to four months finishing off areas including the communal rooms, cinemas and landscaping, which we managed to do without too much disruption to our residents.
We have a fantastic team around us, and without them it would not have been possible to complete Dorman House. So, a massive shout out to all involved, from the contractors on site, to our dream team behind the scenes, especially to our best friend and architect supremo, Sam Sedgewick from Sedgewick Studios. The project would not have been possible without Sam’s dedication and expertise.
Dorman House has had a 100% occupancy rate since opening in 2022, and financially, has been a hugely successful project for us, generating high ROCE and capital growth.
So, to go back to the question, the successful completion of Dorman House is by far our biggest achievement to date.
Is there anything you wish you had done differently?
Living in the static caravan was fine in the summer months, but we discovered that the big gas bottles for heating can freeze in the winter! We needed four duvets and three dressing gowns to sleep, and we’d wake up in the middle of the night to find the heating had gone off!
It was definitely a learning curve … but we wouldn’t have done it any differently. We’re proud to have started at the bottom, and with many ups and downs along the way, a lot of hard work, a lot of help, and a good team around us, we have worked our way to be where we are now.
Along the rest of our journey, there are things we should have done slightly different, for example, bringing in staff members a little sooner perhaps, and creating our dream team a little sooner to take more workload and pressure away from us, to allow us to focus on growing the business and not repairing toilet seats and managing our residents!
Who inspires you?
Very good question with a simple answer. Our family is our biggest inspiration. We have been so lucky to have had the opportunities we have had, and that comes down to the hard work and belief our family have in us. Our dad has built a successful business in Teesside and learning from his work ethic, determination and business acumen, has been a huge factor for our success in business so far.
Being twins and so close, we are also our biggest sources of inspiration. That might sound cheesy. However, when we look at each other and how the other twin overcomes challenges, works super hard, and continues to think positively to drive the business forward, it’s hard not to be inspired.
Are we allowed to ask? What’s next on the horizon in your business world?
We have a few exciting projects in the pipeline, including more residential and commercial schemes right here in Teesside. We have plans to start a residential housing development in Teesdale, all alongside working hard to build and grow an architectural practice with our best friend. Exciting times ahead!
How have #TeamWaltons helped you on your business journey?
Who? … only joking! We made the switch to Waltons a few years ago, and we have never looked back. Waltons provide our accountancy services, but so much more, including specialist property tax advice, business networking and consultancy, and any other advice we need for our crazy ideas. Waltons have provided us with connections that have helped take our business to the next level.
The big reason we love working with Waltons is that they are our kind of people. That may sound strange. However, when we meet and chat with the team, we just get each other from both a business sense and a personal sense. This gives us trust that Waltons are in our corner, and have our best interests at heart, and that for us is the most important thing.
Could we ask one more question please?
Please tell us it’s not only us, who struggle to tell you apart! Are you identical twins?
We are identical, however we are not giving you any clues on who’s who … that takes the fun out of it haha!
For more information contact:
Tom & Jack Atha
Atha Developments Ltd
Socials: Atha Property Twins