Broke To 10 Million in my 20’s | Samuel Leeds Life Story
Property Investors founder Samuel Leeds went from being broke to having a £10m fortune in the space of a decade whilst still in his twenties. Here the 29-year-old entrepreneur describes his childhood – and how he became wealthy after an unpromising start in life which saw him relegated to the special needs desk at school.
First steps in business as a schoolboy
Ten years ago, Samuel Leeds was living on a council estate in Walsall, and driving old bangers which were always letting him down, costing him money he didn’t have.
These days Samuel has gone up in the world. The purple Ford KA which he once drove has long since been consigned to the wrecker’s yard. Instead he owns a luxury Range Rover with a six-figure price tag and lives in one of the most expensive parts of the UK. He is also the proud owner of an historic castle in the Midlands and is a prolific property investor.
And yet, the Property Investors chair insists he is ‘nothing special.’ By his own admission, he didn’t do well at school.
“When I was at school, I never really felt that understood, that people believed in me and thought I was going to do well.
“I remember there was a big desk at school. It was a kind of special needs desk. A guy who was quite a few years older than me sat on this desk. He had quite severe special needs and when he left the school, they put me on the desk.
“Even to this day I don’t know exactly why they put me on it. I don’t know if it was because they thought I had special needs or maybe because I had a real short attention span. I was always flicking glue and getting into trouble. Perhaps they wanted to keep an eye on me, but I just felt people generally didn’t get me.
“I didn’t think I was going to do well and go on and get a good job. I just thought I’m going to have to rely on something different, maybe my hands, and be a builder or something like that.”
His father was a gardener and his mother a mobile hairdresser. They split up when he was seven years old. It was a bad separation, says Samuel.
But then, when he was 12 his father became a magician and he thought that was ‘cool.’
It was this career change which led Samuel into business after his father invited him to work with him for the day on his market stall, where he sold tricks to passers-by. It was a moment of revelation for the young Samuel.
“I could see them giving him cash. At the time I’d never made any money. I thought I can do that.”
Soon he was buying tricks off his dad and selling them to his schoolmates at a profit. It was his first business, but his teachers didn’t like it.
“They thought I was selling drugs. They used to call my mom into school meetings and say I think your boy’s selling drugs and she’d be saying no, he’s selling magic tricks!”
At the same time, he was earning an income from lots of paper rounds and washing cars.
“I just wanted to make money because I knew I was going to fail in school, and I knew that I wasn’t going to walk into a highly paid job. I didn’t want to rely on anybody. I didn’t want to say to my mom, hey can I have some money for a car or for this and that.”
When his mother got remarried to an accountant, it took him on another route to making money through business. His stepfather Tim suggested he work as a plasterer because this was well paid. Samuel did some work experience as a plasterer and went on a crash course where he was taught how to plaster a house. He paid for the course out of his paper round money and his income from selling magic tricks.
He realised this could earn him £100 to £150 plus per day and advertised his services as a plasterer. His father, he recalls, was unimpressed because he wanted his son to work for him when he left school. By now his dad was doing well with magic shows.
Samuel agreed, but in the meantime set up a plastering business called Pelsall Plastering. His first job was to plaster a room for £500.
“I’m 15 years old and I’m plastering this room and the lady who’s the client keeps coming in and checking on me every few hours. I’m thinking I’m doing this all wrong. This isn’t working. Now she wants me to plaster the ceiling and I don’t know how to do that. They didn’t teach me that on the crash course!”
His solution was to place an advertisement for jobless plasterers to come and work for him for £70 a day. He invited one man to come for an interview, telling him he wanted to see what his plastering skills were like.
“It was a bit naughty. I said I want to watch you plaster this ceiling. The client was happy, and I said to Tom you got the job!”
After that Samuel got more jobs and made a few hundred pounds in profit from each one by farming out the work to plasterers, including Tom.
Samuel even made a success out of school, despite having been on the special needs desk. He left with B and C grades after putting in some hard work and joined his dad’s business.
Leaving the world of magic to make serious money
Around the time that Samuel was working as a magician his stepfather realised that because there was no mortgage on his house it made sense to refinance it and invest in property. It was another key moment in Samuel’s life.
“I’m seeing Tim buying a few houses and I’m thinking, buying and selling a magic trick, you might make a few pounds. With plastering you can make a few hundred pounds. But if you buy and sell a house you could make tens of thousands of pounds. This might be a better way for me to get more money.”
After picking Tim’s brains and discovering what a mortgage was, his stepdad introduced him to a property trainer called Simon.
“I remember turning up and feeling so out of place and nervous because I’ve gone from being schooled, while not great academically, to being just about okay with my hands. But now I’m in a business networking event and wearing this little suit.
“When the networking was going on, it was so awkward for me, but I was hearing about property and I thought, oh my goodness, this is the way forward.”
It was the beginning of his property journey at the age of just 16. He enrolled on courses and read lots of books on the subject by experts such as Jim Rohn, an American entrepreneur who Samuel describes as a ‘fantastic mentor.
Sadly, he died before Samuel was able to meet him, but his work and other influential books, like Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki, introduced him to a whole new world of business.
It was an exciting world of opportunity opening up before him and he was excited about life. It was also the year he dedicated himself to his religion.
“My church invited me to do some work in Costa Blanca, Spain in a drug rehabilitation centre. I went along and did some work there. I ended up becoming very passionate about my faith and I gave my life to Jesus when I was 16 years old.
“That was another thing for me now. I not only wanted to make money, but I wanted to support some of the charities I was seeing.”
Samuel visited Zambia and was determined to ‘give and to grow’ but felt he needed a guiding hand and so went on more property courses to further his knowledge and skills.
My hardest but best decision – quitting working for my dad
Working for his dad was never going to make him rich, Samuel realised. Nevertheless, he felt torn. It was fun being a magician, but at the same time he knew he needed to dedicate himself to his own business.
“It was a really horrible decision to make because my dad had invested so much time in me and I didn’t want to let him down. I stayed up until 2am stressing about how to tell him. I thought about it for hours and hours, but I knew it was the right decision and I remember telling my dad I want to focus full time on property.
“I can’t say my dad was happy. He told me I had let him down and that I was a big disappointment to him. It was really tough but at least it meant I was now free to focus solely on myself, my education and my property business.”
Samuel gained an NVQ Level 2 in business at night school. He had hated being at school, but now loved studying because he was learning about finance and investments. Then he became a distributor for Utility Warehouse. The training and contacts which this gave him were invaluable. Everyone took him seriously, even though he was only 17. Suddenly, there was no hierarchy. It was just a case of what value you could bring to the table.
He also started managing people’s properties, initially for free to gain experience, and then later charging up to £150 a time to help landlords find tenants for their rooms. He would photograph the accommodation and then advertise it on spareroom.co.uk
His stepfather, who owned two house shares in Wolverhampton, also hired him to find tenants. On top of his fee, Samuel secured an admin charge of £90 from each tenant.
It was a massive boost to his income, but he knew he was never going to get rich by renting out people’s rooms or running his plastering business which he was now winding down.
The strategy every entrepreneur was pursuing at the time was buying cheap properties and then refinancing them and pulling all the money back out.
“The strategy was that you find a house. Let’s say you find one for £100,000. You negotiate a cash deal for £80,000 and take out a bridging loan. On the same day you buy the property, you get a mortgage on it up to its true value of £100,000.
“They’ll give you an £80,000 buy-to-let mortgage. You use that £80,000 to pay off the bridging loan and you’ll be left with a free house. You have not put any money in. You’ve got to pay the mortgage, but you put tenants in. They pay the mortgage, so you’ve got a house and you’ve got an income. That was the strategy.”
However, Samuel’s age proved to be a major stumbling block when a broker told him that he would have to wait till he was 21 to get a buy-to-let mortgage. He said it felt like a ‘stab in the chest.’
The young businessman refused to let the grass grow under his feet and turned to his stepdad for help.
“I said Tim, if I can find a house and if I can work with you and do whatever you want, clean your shoes, rent your houses out, will you kindly let me put my first property in your name? You don’t have to put any money down, it’s just so that I can get on the ladder.
“Tim was really happy to do that. He was proud of me and excited to see me win, so I owe a massive shout out to Tim. No one gave me money, not Tim, my dad, my mom, nor my mentors. I used my paper round money to pay for their courses.
“What they did all give me was something far more precious than that – opportunities and belief.”
His first house was in the village of Bournville, home to the famous chocolate brand. Th e property was worth £120,000 and Samuel bought it for £100,000. He refinanced it the same day and pulled all the money out.
“To be honest I didn’t get how the finance worked. All I knew is I negotiated to buy it cheap and all these finance people and mentors were saying you can do it like that.
“I didn’t understand investments at the time, but I just knew the steps and trusted in the process. You know the light comes on when you press a switch, but you don’t always have to understand why.”
Recession changes everything
The 2009 global recession led to plummeting house prices and mortgage lenders going bust. Doom-laden business leaders were warning the days of property investing were over.
In spite of the general panic, however, Samuel’s mentors and wealthy contacts told him to keep going because there is ‘always money to be made in a slump.’
“Business tycoon Warren Buffett says when people are scared you should be greedy. I needed right now to go in hard and buy as many houses as I possibly could with all the strategies that I’d learned on these training courses. So, at 18 years old I went crazy.”
Samuel viewed a ‘ridiculous’ number of houses, went networking madly – and failed to land a single deal! His mother accompanied him on one trip to Blackpool to support him, but it was hard because of the recession. He also had no money and little experience.
In the meantime, his older brother Russell had gone into business as a magician and was making a success of himself. Samuel felt under pressure to do the same.
“I didn’t know what I was going to do, but what I did have was persistence and I did have people who believed in me.”
Deposit for second house comes from an unlikely source
At 19, Samuel negotiated £20,000 off the price of a house in Bloxwich which was on the market for £85,000. The problem was he had no money to buy it. He went networking to try to obtain the funding from an investor, but with no luck.
Eventually, it was his grandma who loaned him £15,000 for the deposit. She received 10 per cent interest every year. She was so happy with the agreement that after five years, when he tried to pay her back, she asked to extend it for another year.
“She said I’ve got another £15,000 because she was using the interest to go on her annual cruises and her savings weren’t dwindling, so she was pleased.
“In her mind, I was doing her a favour using my investment knowledge to invest her money. In my mind, I’ve got the knowledge, but I haven’t got money, so she’s doing me a favour. That’s called a win-win. That’s business.”
Using creative strategies to build up a property portfolio
One of the strategies Samuel Leeds learned about during his training was how to set up lease option agreements which enable investors to buy a house and then pay for it later.
Samuel took advantage of the crash in property prices to persuade owners to sell him their homes on his terms. Typically, he would offer the market value but with the option to purchase it in seven years’ time.
He found plenty of willing sellers who were scared they could find themselves in negative equity because of the precarious nature of the market if they didn’t act. The agreement was that he would pay their mortgage and take responsibility for the property. In return, he would be allowed to rent out the rooms.
“It was a strange feeling getting money from tenants. I thought how are they even taking me seriously as a landlord when I’m only 19? The thing is they don’t care how old you are. The marketplace doesn’t discriminate. They just care about whether your house is good, and I was providing good accommodation.”
At this point, Samuel vowed that when he became rich he would help others.
While he was in Zambia, he met a five-year-old boy who had just walked 12 kilometres with a heavy vessel on his head containing water for his village. This was the distance to the nearest supply of clean water. It brought home to Samuel that even though it felt as if he was quite poor growing up, wealth was relative.
The young entrepreneur took his lead from his mother and stepfather who were actively involved in helping members of their community.
“We didn’t have a lot of money, but we were working with a lot of street kids in a really rough part of Walsall called Leamore. There were really deprived children living there and we used to do a lot of work for them alongside the church.
“We used to hire out a big conference centre, play sports with them and take them on trips. In the end we decided that we wanted to live amongst these folks who were not quite as privileged as those living just ten minutes down the road. That was why we moved to Eagleworks Drive in Leamore.”
Serious car crash leads to Samuel rethinking his life
By the age of 20, Samuel’s property business was flourishing. He even worked as an estate agent for three months to acquire contacts and experience. Life was good, but then came a reminder of the fragility of life. Samuel was involved in a serious car accident.
In his words, his legs were battered, the car window smashed into his face and his car was crushed like a Coke can.
“I remember thinking yes I want to make money, be rich and build my property portfolio but jeez life is so temperamental.”
For the next three years he attended a Bible college in Birmingham (England) three days a week, studying with the ‘fantastic’ Rev Dr Robert Pickles. The rest of the time was spent on placements, including a spell at an old people’s home. Samuel also went on mission trips to Africa. He climbed the highest mountain on the continent, Mount Kilimanjaro, raising money for a compassion charity.
During those three years he found his purpose in life and ‘matured in his faith.’
His income from his property portfolio covered his college fees, technically making him financially free.
Samuel Leeds’ book on faith is best-seller
As a student of theology, faith and ethics, Samuel was required to complete a dissertation. He chose biblical economics as his subject because he wanted to study money from the viewpoint of the Bible and whether it was regarded as ethical.
Samuel published his findings in a book entitled Do the Possible, Watch God Do the Impossible.
“Writing that book gave me a real release from a sense of being torn. I’d been torn between working for my dad and the excitement of wanting to be a successful property investor. I chose to be an investor.
“I had the same moral dilemma again when I was at Bible college. Do I want to be doing charity work and being a pauper a bit like a Mother Teresa figure, or do I want to just be really successful in business? Do I want to be a good Christian boy and live a humble life, or do I want to be wildly successful in property?
“When I was at Bible college, I realised that I could be successful in business while also helping people. I realised that, as long as you make money ethically and you hold it with open hands and a generous heart, actually making money is helping people. Having accommodation which is affordable is, for example, helping people.”
Do the Possible, Watch God Do the Impossible sold thousands of copies across the world and led to people asking Samuel to teach them about money. As a result, he set up Training Kings, a not-for-profit Christian business network, open to all faiths or none. Regular meetings were held at 13 training centres across England. A Training Kings conference was also held in Zambia.
Delegates were charged a small amount for their breakfasts, but that didn’t cover the cost of staging events and staying in hotels. Samuel says he didn’t mind because he felt like a man on a mission.
Gatecrashing a party to find the woman of my dreams
It was at an African wedding in the UK that Samuel met his future wife Amanda. His pastor from Ghana was marrying a Zimbabwean woman and had invited him to the ceremony.
As Samuel was singing loudly in typical fashion at the front of the church, he happened to glance behind him and spotted a ‘beautiful lady’ at the back.
“I remember thinking she lit the whole room up. She had big, beautiful eyes and a big smile.”
At the end of the service Samuel shot out of the church to find her, but to his disappointment she was nowhere in sight. Rather than giving up, he gatecrashed the after party which was being held in a community centre.
His hopes of being unnoticed were quickly dashed when he realised that he was the ‘only white dude’ in the room. The groom saw him and looked confused but invited him in to have some food anyway.
Standing at the buffet, he felt awkward. Then he saw the ‘amazing’ lady sitting with some people who looked like her family. She was tucked away in a corner and he knew he would have to squeeze by lots of guests to get to her. If he said hello to her and she just replied ‘hi,’ he would have to walk back past everyone and look an idiot.
“Looking back, I sensed it was a red diamond moment, a moment of decision that could change the course of my life.”
Samuel overcame his nerves and made his way over, causing a commotion as people were forced to move their chairs for him.
“When I got to the table, I said hey and she looks and everyone at the table looks at me like who on earth is this dude. I don’t know what I was thinking.”
To save his blushes, Samuel pretended to be a magician and performed some tricks with coins. Then he confessed he was not really a magician but a friend of the groom. He sat next to the woman, who had so impressed him, and they chatted for a long time.
It turned out she was born and brought up in Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe, and was now living in Leeds. It gave him the perfect chat-up line.
“I said my surname is Leeds. That’s crazy. If ever I’m in the area maybe I could take you out for some dinner and she said sure.”
They had dinner a few weeks later and Samuel fell madly in love. When he later proposed to Amanda, he felt he needed to tell her about his million-pound property portfolio. However, instead of revealing his wealth, he told her he was £1m in debt.
“This was actually true, but it was mortgage debt. What I didn’t say was I also had a lot of equity and I was making a good amount of passive income. I suppose I wanted to test her response.
“She just said OK, I’ll see if I can get some overtime. She was working as a quantity surveyor at the time. My heart just melted. I told her the full story then of how I was financially free and didn’t have to work, and neither would she. She wasn’t even that excited!”
Charity work in Africa is a double blessing
They got married the following year and Samuel was kept busy with his charity work in Africa and running Training Kings. In total, he has visited nine countries in Africa, working in orphanages and schools and helping to bring water, food and clothing to villagers. On one trip, he invited one of the few teachers at his school, who had believed in him, to join his small team. Together they travelled to a village about 40 minutes’ drive from Solwezi in Zambia, where Samuel had met the five-year-old boy carrying the water on his head.
They provided a borehole in the village so that the local population could obtain clean drinking water.
“I was getting really addicted to all these projects because when you go out to be a blessing to someone by providing them with basic necessities, you end up being more blessed yourself.”
It drove Samuel’s ambition to expand his business and make more money for his charity work.
Deal sourcing gives Samuel fast cash to grow his business
Samuel wanted to register his charity so that he could receive donations, but he knew it was going to take time and money to do that. He needed to find a way of getting ‘fast cash,’ and so he hit on the idea of sourcing lucrative investments and selling them to investors for a fee.
Success followed quickly. Through his company, Buy Low Rent High Limited, he sold more than 200 deals, moving his team from his living room to an office in the process. His customers were often the people who attended Training Kings. He also gave talks as his reputation spread. Soon he had investors queuing up for his deals and the business mushroomed.
By the age of 25, Samuel was a cash millionaire, using his income to build his portfolio, fund his charity projects and his networking group.
Property Investors Crash Course launches alongside Training Kings
At Training Kings, Samuel was teaching people about business and finance and how to do it ethically as a Christian. Some of them went on to set up charities and social enterprises.
This led to demand for Samuel to offer property training. He established a one-day course called the Property Investors Crash Course. There was a £250 charge to cover the cost of putting on the event and food and accommodation.
In January 2017, the Property Investors Crash Course became free and was held over two days, with an option to sign up for more paid-for training on a programme which Samuel created called the Deal Finding Extravaganza. Twenty-two people registered including one man who flew in from Spain. Many of them went on to secure deals themselves, crediting Samuel for helping them to become successful.
Since then thousands of people have attended the crash course. Many have gone on to become full-time property investors with their own companies.
Coming out of retirement at the age of 26
Samuel also provides free advice on how to make money in the housing market through his daily YouTube videos. However, this is not always appreciated. For every 100 people he helps, Samuel estimates there is one hater who accuses him of somehow trying to exploit people or being a fraud or a heavy-handed salesman. He blames his loud personality which, he says, might seem ‘salesy.’
Following the birth of his first child, Ruby Joy Leeds, in October 2017, he took the decision to retire with the support of his wife Amanda.
“I was trying to help people and giving people content and free information, but some people were just hating on me. It was only the odd one, but to be honest it still got to me. I thought do I really want to do this? I didn’t want to keep putting my head above the parapet only for someone to come and try to chop it off. I had a nice property portfolio giving me a good income. I thought maybe I’ll package and sell one or two deals a month and do some charity shows working for my brother. I just wanted to live life and have a fun, easy retirement.”
However, after four months his wife noticed he was unhappy and encouraged him to return to selling deals and holding the Property Investors Crash Course.
“I realised that I wasn’t meant for retirement. I was getting itchy feet. I had so much pent up energy. I even did a charity cage fight because I wanted to let some steam off.”
Going into business with my brother and ‘thinking big’
Samuel returned to his company with a renewed zest to scale it up and register his charity. However, he knew that he needed someone to help him do that. His brother Russell was running an entertainment agency called Slightly Unusual which was providing more than 200 shows a month. He seemed the perfect business partner and after some persuasion he agreed to team up.
“Russell took his business acumen and his big thinking and combined it with my knowledge of property and my ability to make a lot of money in property. We bought together and we scaled the business.”
A major triumph was the purchase of Samuel’s castle, Ribbesford House, a Grade II listed building in Worcestershire. Russell found the dilapidated building was up for sale. It is now being restored and has a gross development value of £6.35m.
It was his brother’s big thinking which also led them to finding larger venues for the Property Investors Crash Course. They booked a conference room at an Ibis Hotel in London which could accommodate 1,200 people and filled it. The next week they booked it again, with Russell’s encouragement, and the event was sold out once more. This became the new norm, where previously they had only been attracting around 200 people.
Samuel began winning awards and they sought advice from high-profile mentors to plan their next steps in growing the business.
By now Samuel was also receiving calls from celebrities who he used to watch on TV as a child. They were calling him to talk to him about property and the possibility of doing deals together.
“At this point I’m 27 and I’m pinching myself. I just can’t believe it!”
Relocating Property Investors to central London
In the summer of 2019, Samuel Leeds and his brother Russell took the bold decision to move the offices of Property Investors from Hilton Hall, near Wolverhampton, to premises in central London’s fashionable Marylebone district.
“It was one of our directors who first said he thought we should move. I looked at Russell and Russell looked at me and said, we’ve already spoken, and I agree. I said, what you mean more central to the city of Wolverhampton?
“Russell said we should probably move to London. I’m a Black Country boy. I’m born and bred in Walsall. I can’t imagine living in London, so I said I’ll go and look at some houses for rent and some offices and see how I feel.”
It made sense as Samuel was travelling frequently to London and so the transfer to the capital came about. He settled in leafy Beaconsfield, with a direct train link to Marylebone and now he and Amanda have another child, Luke Samuel Leeds. Before the birth, Amanda revealed that it would be a boy in front of a 1,000-plus audience at a Property Investors’ crash course.
Amanda’s brother, Ben Machekayanga, who is a chartered surveyor, joined Property Investors as a partner and also relocated to the area.
It has proved to be an excellent move. In 2019, the company and its associated businesses made a net profit of £2m on a turnover just shy of £10m.
“It’s not just about how much money you make, though. It’s also about what that money can do and how far you can help people,” says Samuel.
His longstanding desire to register his charity has finally come about too. The Samuel Leeds Foundation now has a Charity Commission registered number. The foundation operates throughout England, Wales, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia, providing grants to relieve poverty. One of the first projects is to build a school in Uganda.
Samuel’s net worth stands at over £10m. He says he never intended to become a multi-millionaire. His ambition was to be financially free to give himself more time to do the things that matter to him. He is on a mission to achieve several goals. One is to put financial education onto the school curriculum. He has already been successful in achieving that in Africa after talks with senior education and government officials.
“I want people to realise that if they’re not good in school or if they don’t like their job, there is another way. For me that was property and it has transformed my life.
A message of thanks
“I want to publicly thank every single person who has stood with me and helped me, including my family, customers and staff. I’m so excited about the next few years, so watch this space for an update on my YouTube channel. I love documenting my journey. Thank you folks again.
“Remember if I can do it, so can you!”
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