As part of our commitment to helping small businesses succeed, Vonage is sponsoring the inaugural Duke of York Entrepreneur of the Year award at the 13th annual National Business Awards. This award celebrates the potential that exists within leaders of the UK’s most promising start-ups.
Ahead of the ceremony taking place at London’s Grosvenor Square, Park Lane on the 11th of November 2014, we caught up with the five finalists to learn more about their business story and entrepreneurial spirit.
This week we caught up with Alistair Smit, Managing Director of Magic Thermodynamic Box, a niche renewable energy company specialising in the manufacture and distribution of quality renewable energy products to businesses across Europe. Founded by entrepreneurs who wanted to focus on cutting edge British renewable energy manufacturing, their products include domestic hot water and central heating management systems.
- STARTING OUT
How did you start out? What was your industry background? Did you identify an opportunity or take a punt?
I started working in the banking industry in the City of London and after progressing within the company I fancied a different challenge. Due to the continuous rise in energy bills and renewable energy technology improving I wanted to take advantage of the demand for solar energy and joined a renewable energy company. Due to government incentives that were available this made solar electricity the most popular renewable energy product on the market. Working for this company gave me the insight to setting up my own renewable energy business. The government then reduced the feeding tariff which made me realise that I did not want to be working within a business where sales were affected by the designs of the government. I then formed The Magic Thermodynamic Box Company.
- YOUR ROLE
How has your role changed over time? What were your primary responsibilities during the first month/quarter/year?
When I first developed the company I had a very small team of three people meaning that at the beginning there was less delegation and more work for myself to get stuck into. Being an entrepreneur is about taking leadership and when you first set up this is exactly what you have to do. I was in charge of marketing, sales and researching development. The staff that worked for me had to be micro-managed, which was very effective, and in less than a year the number of people working at the company had tripled. This gave me the opportunity to develop the business much quicker which can be seen by the number of distributors we have. The Magic Thermodynamic Box Company is now an award winning company with a family of products which are now sold to 15 countries around the world.
What was the most difficult aspect of setting up the business? With hindsight, what aspects would you do differently?
The Magic Thermodynamic Box Company brought products to market that not everyone had heard of. This meant that we had to educate the market on what they were and how they worked. Certain people would challenge the product but after educating them their opinion soon changed. When the business was first established, one of the products was manufactured in Spain by a company under license, which proved to be an unreliable relationship. This was soon changed to a manufacturer in the UK, they were again chosen to manufacture the product under license, although these were now made by engineers of a high standard less than 30 miles away from our head office. To overcome challenges I ensure that all products are regularly tested by accredited test labs to ensure they are of a high standard when being brought to market.
Did you attend any expert / networking events to further your expertise and contacts? Is this an on-going process?
Before setting up the business I did market research by visiting renewable energy exhibitions to look at potential products and ideas. I am also a member of the Essex Chambers of Commerce, which includes invites to numerous networking events with different business owners across Essex.