Interviews

From internet boom origins to major blue chip clients – the story of Chillisauce

6 min read

02 September 2015

Former editor

Having founded Chillisauce, an events company specialising in group activities and corporate events in 2001 from a bedroom with three of his friends from university, James Baddiley takes the time to look back on progress to date and explains how he's scaled his multi-million pound enterprise.

Chillisauce now employs over 100 people, turned over £17m last year and works with blue chip clients such as PWC, Barclays, Coca Cola and Nike – but we wanted to find out more.

(1) What is your background and what were you doing before you set up the business?

I studied geology at university and began working in sales before becoming a contaminated land auditor. After doing that for a couple of years I decided I just couldn’t stand the thought of working for someone else for the rest of my life and I came to the decision that I had to start my own company.

(2) What was the inspiration behind the company?

When I was considering my options for a new business, it was during the time when the internet boom was reaching it’s peak. It was apparent that revolutions like this didn’t come along very often and I was determined to find an opportunity. I decided I wanted to sell events and services that would be interesting to market, so I chose unique and interesting activities and experiences, taught myself how to write front and back end code and created our first website.

(3) What did the events market look like back then?

Communication was mainly orchestrated through sending faxes, delivering print brochures, direct marketing and networking being the main tools of the trade. It was exciting to enter the market in a brand new way, offering unusual activities to wider audiences, leveraging emerging technology and revolutionising the industry.

(4) How have you gone about scaling the business?

When a business is growing fast, scaling it can be challenging. Technology has always been the hub of our business and over the years we have invested heavily in IT to help streamline our processes. We also give a lot of freedom to our managers to innovate and develop new ways of making their departments more efficient. By creating an intrapreneurial culture, it means that everyone is continuously invested in improving how the business operates in every aspect across all of our departments.

Read more about intrapreneurship:

(5) What have the biggest milestones been?

In date order:

  • Getting through our first year and not needing an overdraft 
  • Moving into Carnaby Street
  • Building world’s largest bra’ and placing it on the ITV building along the Thames
  • Management Grand Prix’ award for a product launch with Hyundai
  • Reaching 100 staff in 2013

(6) What do you think businesses are really looking for in away days?

Every brief we receive is different, although usually a business will be wanting a ROI. It may be more direct and measurable if the event is highly focused around improving a specific area of their business, or very indirect if it’s something like a company fun day that has been designed to improve staff morale.

(7) How do you think they add value to day-to-day operations?

It really depends on the context of the event and what the client wants to achieve, as we tailor each event to their specific objectives. A common problem that arises in many businesses as they expand is that departments become siloed and a lack of communication between teams can occur, resulting in departments duplicating work and many other general inefficiencies. To help break down those silos and create a more transparent business culture, our events inspire people to work together, encouraging relationships and resulting in a more positive impact towards employee satisfaction.

(8) Is it hard to keep innovating and stay ahead of the competition?

It is a constant, ongoing challenge to keep ahead of your competitors and stay at the forefront of your industry, particularly if your business is heavily focused around the internet and technology, where user habits are forever changing at a lightening pace. As people adapt more and become familiar to new technologies, communications and purchase habits, they develop higher expectations, so you find yourself in a never ending race.

(9) Where are you looking to take the business now?

Our focus for the future is heavily in the technology area and delivering improved methods of communicating our product to the customer, as well as developing innovative new experiences and possibly moving into a couple of different vertical markets.

(10) What one mistake do you look back on and wish you never made?

I would say having far too much faith in supposed “experts”. Ensure you do your background research on the particular individual and pay special attention to whether they offer fixed prices and claw-backs with delays in delivery. Unfortunately it’s an area where a lot of people can over promise and under deliver, especially if they lack common sense in relation to general business function.