With just under a week to go until Small Business Saturday – the initiative designed to support, inspire and promote small businesses – Vonage continues its series of interviews with business owners set to take part in this year’s UK event on Saturday 6th December.
Aimed at having a lasting impact on small businesses through encouraging consumers to ‘shop local’ and support small businesses in their community, Small Business Saturday will bring together a diverse range of businesses, each with an owner with a unique business story to tell.
Previously we’ve spoken to Nicky Pasquier, founder of Virtuoso Assistant, Bill Quinn, founder of FlexableIT and this week the spotlight falls on Llion Pughe and Gareth Mahoney, founders of Best of Wales, a booking service website for self-catering cottages in Wales started in 2009.
- STARTING OUT
How did you start out? What was your industry background? Did you identify an opportunity or take a punt?
We have just celebrated our fifth birthday as a company. We had some experience through family members being in the self-catering holiday industry, but our real experience was with E-marketing, setting up websites and optimising websites to maximise commercial opportunities. As the two founders, we had worked together in the past and we had a good mix of IT and marketing knowledge. Shortly after launching the company, we also ventured into buying our own self-catering property in Cardiff city centre, which we of course let through Best of Wales.
Before establishing the business we could see an opportunity was there due to the high rates of commission being charged by other agents and the low rate of satisfaction of property owners using those agents. Also, many other agencies were companies from outside Wales or large multi-national firms, so we positioned ourselves as a Welsh firm offering a fully bilingual service, providing local and national knowledge for our customers.
- YOUR ROLE
How has your role changed over time? What were your primary responsibilities during the first month/quarter/year?
In a small business your role as owner is a vast one as you are involved in all aspects of running it. At the start our roles included research and development, website design and build, and sourcing a booking system to ensure the structure and system was properly in place. As we progressed as a business our roles have expanded to cover all aspects of marketing, finance, administration and sales.
As you grow as a company and employ more staff, your roles changes again. However, as the owner, you are still very much involved in all aspects of the business.
What was the most difficult aspect of setting up the business? With hindsight, what aspects would you do differently?
Without a doubt the hardest part was cold calling and trying to get new properties to join us before we launched. We now have over 260 properties on the books but to begin with it was a real challenge convincing property owners to sign up to our service. We made a decision that we needed at least 30 properties to launch but without a visible presence online it proved really hard work and time-consuming getting to this number.
Once we did hit the 30 mark we were able to launch. Now the properties tend to come to us rather than us having to approach them, which is just the way we like it!
Did you attend any expert / networking events to further your expertise and contacts? Is this an on-going process?
We attended various events and networking opportunities right from the start, and still do to this day. The types of events we attend include industry events hosted by Visit Wales – the official Wales tourism website – and Go Wales training, a careers website for Welsh graduates. This is an ongoing process to meet new contacts and ensure that people are aware of us as a company.
Over the years we have also joined local business networks and trade associations, which have benefitted us as a company. When you’re trying to establish yourself in the online arena it’s important to get your face known in the real world too, so that your industry gets to know the people behind the business.