The identical twins’ business Atha Developments is about to take on 40-bed Middlesbrough student scheme
Identical twins Jack and Tom Atha spent months as labourers, living in a caravan on a building site to learn the property renovation business from scratch.

Five years on, the 24-year-old brothers’ property firm Atha Developments has become the biggest supplier of luxury student accommodation for Teesside University

Projects in the pipeline include a luxury family home development outside of Darlington and a 40-bed student scheme in Middlesbrough.

And the pair has just relocated to Business Central in Darlington with ambitions of growing their business further.

At 19, they lived on-site during the renovation of four holiday cottages at a Stokesley farm after both deciding university life wasn’t for them.

“Our parents weren’t that keen on having us back home,” says Jack, “so we thought ‘okay let’s live on-site.

“We bought an eBay static caravan job and kitted it out. That’s when I discovered that the big gas bottles for heating can freeze.

“You needed four duvets and three dressing gowns to sleep in during the winter, then we’d wake up in the middle of the night to find the heating had gone off.

“It was definitely a learning curve – but good fun in the summer.”

And Business Central, in Darlington’s Central Park Enterprise Zone, is the perfect premises for taking the next step he claims.

“The size of the office space is perfect and it’s a lovely brand new building in which to meet our clients,” added Jack.

The pair, whose father is successful Teesside solicitor Charles Atha, bought their first house from a family friend after they moved into care.

They renovated it and got a good return.

“Fortunately, dad could afford to lend us a bit of money after that,” says Jack.

A few more renovations led to them breaking into the student market, which is “a lot more lucrative but also a lot more work”, he added.

“We’ve started to look for bigger developments now.

“We have both always had a passion for this business, I love property and renovation – it’s very tangible, you can see something that’s rundown and derelict and five months later it can be gorgeous.

“Yes it’s about the money, but it’s also being self-employed and being your own boss.”

And they’ve also swapped the caravan for more plush surroundings; a house-share with an old uni friend in a rental house, within the grounds of luxury golf and hotel venue Rockliffe Hall.

“It was within budget, so we went for it – I definitely wouldn’t like to go back to living in that caravan.”