Advice

30 successful entrepreneurs reveal exactly how they gained their first 20 customers

108 min read

04 February 2019

Gaining initial customers is a common issue most new businesses face. RealBusiness surveyed over 30 established, successful entrepreneurs and business leaders, asking them how they gained their first 10-20 customers. We are confident reading their responses will help you greatly in securing your first few (or more) customers for your new enterprise.

What do new dog walking businesses, dry-cleaning companies and digital agencies all have in common? They all find attracting their first customers challenging.

With the explosion of both offline and online marketing and advertising techniques over the last two decades, the natural assumption would be that attracting and retaining new customers would be easier now than ever. But this is often far from the truth.

The new channels often bring with them added complexity for the new business owner. Which channel(s) do they choose? How much money do they allocate to each channel? Which is actually effective for their type of business?

To compound the issue, with every passing year the business landscape becomes more competitive and cut throat, regardless of the business type or industry. As the barriers to entry for starting most new ventures fall precipitously year on year, there are more companies than ever out there, many of them using every marketing and advertising channel at their disposal, desperately and aggressively vying for the same eyeballs.

The result? The modern consumer is bombarded with approximately 5,000 ad messages per day. Cutting through all of that with your offering, and on a budget, is, understandably, challenging.

But, gaining initial customers in 2019 without breaking the bank is possible, as this long form piece will demonstrate.

We reached out to over 30 businesses, across multiple industries, and asked them how they secured their first 10-20 customers.

The responses were illuminating and highlighted the fact that by being creative, experimental and persistent you can still attract high-value customers without spending a fortune.

NOTE: We recommend you use the contents table below to filter and navigate the responses. Clicking any of the table entries below will take you to that specific response in the article.

Contents Table

Mathew Porter, Co-owner and director – Kumo

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Briefly explain who Kumo are and what you do?

Kumo are a dedicated online marketing agency that provides search engine optimisation and pay per click services. These services are provided to service sector businesses and online retailers. Each client’s strategy is data-driven, ever evolving to maximise ROI and engagement with the target audience.

The company has been in operation since 2011, growing from a part-time pipe dream to a full-time business and employer. Multiple partnerships with industry providers including Google, Bing, PayPal, SagePay, BrightPearl and MailChimp.

How did you gain your first 10-20 customers?

During the business’s infancy, the business was a part-time pursuit that was being developed whilst our founder was still in full-time employment. Due to this, the initial client base consisted of 3 to 5 very small online marketing projects that were gained through referrals from friends. It was clear that the small client base and small referral network would not allow the business to scale and become sustainable that would allow the founder to leave full-time employment.

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Seb Dean, Owner – Imaginaire Digital

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Briefly explain who Imaginaire Digital are and what you do?

Imaginaire Digital is a web design and digital marketing agency that has been established for 5 years. We specialise in working with small/medium sized businesses to help them get found online.

How did you gain your first 10-20 customers?

When I first started the company, I did what most new entrepreneurs do and tried a bit of everything when it came to marketing, including leafleting, going to networking events and even dropping in on businesses in the local area.

Our best return came from a combined effort of sending direct mail to business owners with hand-written envelopes to explain how our services could benefit them specifically (we did this by focusing on specific industries) and then following up by phone with any businesses that didn’t respond.

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Ross Cutting, Owner – Jana Reinhardt Jewellery 

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Briefly explain who Jana ReinHardt Jewellery are and what you do?

Jana Reinhardt is a jewellery company that designs and makes fine jewellery and bespoke commissions. Established in 2006, our target market is women aged 25 – 45. We are unique in that despite being partnered with large online sites, like Not on the High Street, all our jewellery is still handmade by a small team of goldsmiths – we never machine manufacture.

How did you gain your first 10-20 customers?

Which marketing/sales techniques didn’t work:

Advertising in magazines never increased our customer base. It’s very expensive and hard to measure success.

Big large scale PR firms (again very expensive) also had very little impact on sales or customer numbers, just the prestige of getting into big-name publications.

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Darren Hockley, Managing Director – DeltaNet International

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Briefly explain who DeltaNet International are and what you do?

DeltaNet International was founded in 1999 and today provides online learning services to more than 750 organisations across the globe. We specialise in the development of engaging compliance and health and safety eLearning courses designed to mitigate risks and improve employee performance. Our in-house developers use a mixture of interactive video and 2D/3D animation to bring important legislation and best working practices to life.

How did you gain your first 10-20 customers?

When the company was first formed – before we had a single customer – the board had already signed us up to attend an industry trade show: World of Learning Conference and Exhibition (WOLCE). For a start-up with a limited budget, spending upwards of £4,000 on exhibition materials and space was very high risk, but one that thankfully paid off. We signed up our first customer at the show in a contract worth £20,000! We find trade shows and exhibitions are still a very worthwhile investment to this day and regularly attend several both overseas and in the UK.

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Yvonne Lam & Noreen Khan, Founders – MY BAKER

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Briefly explain who My Baker are and what you do?

Noreen (29 yrs old) and Yvonne (36yrs old) both worked at Deutsche Bank although hadn’t met until they discovered their love of cake and found each other on Instagram. The two business soulmates sat down, talked through their business plans and in 2017, MY BAKER was born. With 100 bakers and over 1000 cakes sold, MY BAKER has established itself as the ‘go to’ platform for personalised baked goods, with delivery in as little as 24 hours and always within 3 days. Their model is based on Airbnb and Uber and they are aiming to go global in 5 years’ time. Some of their bakers are making £10,000 a month through the platform.

How did you gain your first 10-20 customers?

Which marketing/sales techniques didn’t work 

Facebook paid ads were great for brand awareness and getting people to talk about our business but this didn’t lead to order conversions for us.

Which marketing/sales techniques did work 

Google Adwords has been fantastic as we are capturing a large proportion of people who are ready to purchase. We have worked with an SEO agency to determine popular search terms and from that, we have put money into keywords on Google paid search.

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Cas Paton, Founder – OnBuy.com

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Briefly explain who OnBuy are and what you do?

OnBuy.com is the UK’s fastest growing online marketplace, operatingas thee UK’s alternative to Amazon. OnBuy.com offers a variety of products from reputable sellers across hundreds of categories. The company was launched in 2016 by entrepreneur, Cas Paton.

How did you gain your first 10-20 customers? 

OnBuy.com gained its first 20 sales through online advertising, shared between paid search and comparison websites. Paid search was the fastest route to market that we could achieve and we managed this in the first few hours of our website going live (with only a couple of live sellers). All other forms of marketing took much longer to result in sales, so paid search has always been the fastest way for us to get new listings to market. We now have over 18m paid search ads, and 30% of our sales are still made through paid search.

Marc Trup, Founder & CEO – ArthurOnline

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Briefly explain who ArthurOnline are and what you do?

Arthur Online is a cloud-based platform that enables property managers to respond instantly and solve problems fast from anywhere in the world, be it with tenants, contractors, property owners or letting agents. Since launching in 2015, it has helped thousands of property managers like Marc run their portfolios in the cheapest, most efficient way possible by using the full potential of new technology and cloud computing.

How did you gain your first 10-20 customers? 

In a start-up, nothing happens automatically. You make it happen. This is something I quickly realized at the beginning of Arthur Online’s customer development journey. Every business is different, so it’s important to try out different methods and see what works for your business and what doesn’t.

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James Crawford, Founder – PRAgencyOne

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Briefly explain who PRAgencyOne are and what you do?

PR Agency One is an award-winning PR and digital agency. The agency’s Communications team provides consumer and business-to-business PR, thought leadership, digital PR / SEO PR, internal communications and event management.

The Digital team provides web design and development, content production, social media, search engine optimisation, paid search, and app development, and the Reputation team provides consultancy on brand development as well as tools that measure and track an organisation’s reputation and benchmark against that of competitors.

How did you gain your first 10-20 customers? 

When PR Agency One was founded, I had a lot of convincing to do to prove the value of my measurement offering – having previously had it flat out rejected by my own employer.

In an industry that had traditionally worked off the incredibly outdated AVE (advertising value equivalent), I had to approach businesses cold, convince them that the way they were currently measuring the value of their PR was wrong, and then tell them that they should be using my somewhat untested (at that stage) method instead.

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Mike King, co-founder – Eleven Hundred Agency 

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Briefly explain who Eleven Hundred Agency are and what you do?

Formed in 2018, Eleven Hundred Agency is a new boutique business to business PR and content creation agency, based at The Business Design Centre in Islington, London. It focuses on working with technology and professional services companies with a particular emphasis on innovative, fast growth firms. It Is the brainchild of Claire Ayles and Mike King, who have been working together and leading award-winning B2B Agency teams since before the millennium bug was a thing.

How did you gain your first 10-20 customers? 

By far the most fruitful source of new business for us is recommendations. Before we started Eleven Hundred Agency, myself and my fellow co-founder Claire Ayles spent 20 odd years building a similar PR business that we sold to a large American firm so we’ve been around in our industry for a while which really helps.

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Nikolay Piriankov, Founder and CEO – Taylor & Hart

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Briefly explain who Taylor & Hart are and what you do?

Taylor & Hart is a luxury London-based jewellery brand specialising in bespoke engagement rings. The company was founded by Nikolay Piriankov in 2013; during this time, he was planning on proposing to his girlfriend and wanted something more special than what could be bought straight off-the-shelf.

After contacting an old school friend who worked in the diamond industry, Nikolay custom-designed the ring of her dreams using elements of their relationship and soon realised there was a niche in the market for this service at an affordable price-point.

Today, the brand is moving the jewellery shopping experience into the 21st century by merging the best elements of online shopping with a traditional jeweller’s personal-service offering. Customers are able to express individuality through custom jewellery design, whilst being assisted by friendly experts who are able to assist both online and in-person.

How did you gain your first 10-20 customers? 

Which marketing techniques worked, and which didn’t?

One of the first marketing techniques used was to collaborate with bloggers to create content on Taylor & Hart and their ability to create bespoke engagement rings. Taylor & Hart used guerrilla tactics to form relationships, making contact through phone calls and emails to the desired bloggers. The content created by those who took part linked back to the website and assisted in building SEO, resulting in the company being organically pushed to the first page of Google.

 

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Ed Foy, Founder – PRESS London

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Briefly explain who PRESS London are and what you do?

PRESS London are a renowned health food brand, known for delivering the finest cold-pressed juices, juice cleanses, soups, snacks and supplements.  Founded in 2014, PRESS now works with over 450 independent stockists and has opened in three bricks-and-mortar locations, including world-renowned department store Selfridges. Selling to 100,000 customers a month, last year alone PRESS sold over 1,000,000 cold-press juices.

How did you gain your first 10-20 customers? 

We opened our first little shop in an old clawfoot bathtub in Old Street tube station. Not only was it cheap to buy, paint and brand the bathtub, it also looked unique and fun, and customers felt interested to come and see what the bathtub was all about.

British consumers don’t like interacting with sales staff, unlike the US (where I have spent much of my career). As a result, anything you can do to lower the intensity of the moment where the customer first enters your store, café, or walks up to a stall, helps them feel more comfortable. The bathtub made it fun to look at and acted as a talking point, before the customer felt any pressure to purchase, or we felt the need to start selling.

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Alan & Juliet Barratt, Co-Founders – Grenade

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Briefly explain who Grenade are and what you do?

Grenade® is a high-growth active nutrition and healthy snacking brand. Its full range of high protein, low sugar offerings including shakes, spreads, brownies, bars, capsules and powders, lead the way in great tasting, healthy snacking products.

Founded in 2006 by husband and wife Alan, they spent the following four years perfecting recipes in the kitchen. The brand survived the recession and launched in 2010 and were left shortly after with just £27 in the company bank account. Grenade grew at an accelerated rate and in 2017 a majority share was sold to Lion Capital, valuing the business at £72m.

Grenade was subsequently named one of the UK’s fastest growing companies, including features in The Sunday Times’ Fast Track Top 100 in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017. Grenade now has over 60 staff, and retails in more than 80 countries around the world.

How did you gain your first 10-20 customers? 

They gained some of their first big customers by driving 16-tonne army tank to the Birmingham NEC for a fitness expo. It was one of their first trade shows and the tank helped to catch people’s attention and get them talking – even though at the time they couldn’t even afford a booth at the event.

As word continued to spread, Grenade grew and grew, and its customers became natural brand ambassadors. Even now, almost a decade later, people still ask them about the tank!

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James Woodall, Co-founder & CTO – IntoWare

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Briefly explain who IntoWare are and what you do?

Intoware is a human process improvement platform that solves workflow problems for business, no matter the industry. It has created software that allows large organisations with maintenance and logistics needs – to digitise processes and workflows onto mobiles, tablets and wearables. It’s the Minority Report for Ind 4.0.

How did you gain your first 10-20 customers? 

Being open, curious, available and with no ‘agenda’ are the key facets of how we secured our first customers. Our earliest conversations with prospective customers informed us that digitising workflow was a big issue but that there were lots of ‘unknowns’. We knew we had a product to address this – but it wasn’t as polished as we would like so we took the decision that it would be in the best long-term interest of the company to not drive through the sale. We did not want to be remembered as ‘the wrong decision’.

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Nimesh Shah, Head of Marketing – Feel Good Contacts

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Briefly explain who Feel Good Contacts are and what you do?

Feel Good Contacts is one of the UK’s largest online retailers of contact lenses, eye care products and designer sunglasses. With many years of experience in the business, we have built a reputation of being the most reliable and cost competitive retailer in our sector.

We offer a Price Match Guarantee against all leading industry competitors and rival them on delivery service, customer satisfaction and believe in rewarding our customers. We also put Haribos in every order which always makes our customers smile.

How did you gain your first 10-20 customers? 

Like most business, we started with who we knew needed our products and relied heavily on word of mouth, positioning ourselves as exceptionally different to the current competition.

While the internet has given our business the power to reach customers around the world, most people still trust the word of family and friends above all else and are more likely to make a purchasing decision based on a trustworthy recommendation.

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Lana Elie, Founder – Floom

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Briefly explain who Floom are and what you do?

Floom is an online floristry website that offers quality and beautiful bouquets from a curated selection of local independent florists, delivered same-day; a go-to place where you can find bouquets you are actually proud to send. We have built the software to simplify the process of finding and purchasing from the best florists for the customers, and want the florists to take centre stage.

How did you gain your first 10-20 customers? 

I sent personal emails to business contacts (particularly PAs & EAs) I had throughout London, clearly explaining the service and why it would change the way they order flowers.

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Daniel Long, Founder & MD – Clearabee

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Briefly explain who Clearabee are and what you do?

Clearabee is an on-demand waste management business providing same day rubbish removal services to domestic and commercial customers across the UK. We do everything from getting rid of bulky junk and food waste for major supermarkets to entire house clearances for domestic customers.

We founded the company in 2013 because we recognised an opportunity to improve on the traditional ‘man and van’ junk removal model by introducing a more professional, responsible and technology savvy approach at scale nationwide.

Now we employ 250 people, operate a fleet of more than 100 vehicles, and complete thousands of junk clearance and rubbish removal jobs every week.

How did you gain your first 10-20 customers? 

When we first started the business, we tried various methods, including local magazines and newspaper advertising. We found that Google AdWords was particularly effective for winning simple, ad hoc jobs with domestic and small business customers. Most of our early work came directly from that route and we could directly attribute it to specific sales.

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Lee Biggins, Founder and CEO – CV-Library

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Briefly explain who CV-Library are and what you do?

CV-Library is one of the UK’s leading job boards, boasting the largest independent CV database of over 13 million CVs, and expanding by 198,000 new CVs every month. We work with tens of thousands of employers, offering the most competitive range of packages with comprehensive recruitment solutions for businesses of any size.

How did you gain your first 10-20 customers?

When I set up CV-Library back in 2000, I didn’t have a huge amount of funds to run an expensive marketing campaign. Instead, I roped in my family and friends to help get the business off the ground by putting out flyers on every car parked outside of Fleet railway station, which is right by our current head office. Unfortunately, this wasn’t particularly successful and I was forced to scale up our marketing efforts by paying for adverts on Google and other search engines.

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James Lintern, Co-founder – RotaCloud

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Briefly explain who RotaCloud are and what you do?

RotaCloud is an online rota-planning tool for businesses. It was founded in 2013 by a group of three friends, and is used by more than 2,000 companies with between 2–2000 employees

How the business gained their first 10-20 customers?

We started RotaCloud without any kind of outside investment, so were very strapped for cash in the beginning. However, in many ways, this worked to our advantage, as we had to be a little more creative and resourceful when it came to our marketing.

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Martin Port, CEO and founder – BigChange

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Briefly explain who BigChange are and what you do?

Launched in 2013 and based in Leeds, UK, BigChange provides a range of mobile workforce management technologies that are trusted by over 20,000 mobile workers and back office personnel at more than 800 organisations. BigChange employs 100 people and signed over £16m worth of new contracts in 2018.

BigChange’s five-in-one system combines CRM, job scheduling, a mobile app, vehicle tracking, and an on-demand booking app. It eliminates paper record keeping and automates manual processes undertaken by back office and mobile workers. JobWatch can be used to simultaneously manage both in-house and sub-contracted operations through a single system.

How the business gained their first 10-20 customers?

When we launched BigChange there was just three of us working from a small office at a University enterprise incubator. Between us, we had to do absolutely everything and didn’t even have a marketing budget.

To acquire our first customers, I relied on the many business contacts I had built up over my previous business career. It helps that I had worked in the mobile workforce technology sector for many years so we worked hard to rekindle those relationships from the past.

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Suzie Cregan, Co-founder Jimmy’s Iced Coffee 

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Briefly explain who Jimmy’s Iced Coffee are and what you do?

Jimmy’s Iced Coffee is a family-owned beverage company making awesome iced coffee on the south coast.

My brother Jim had his ‘lightbulb moment’ after he became hooked on the drink during a trip to Australia and returned to the UK to find supermarket shelves lacking in a thirst-quenching equivalent.

Following a few rounds of taste tests in the back of the café I owned at the time, Jimmy’s Iced Coffee was born.

Eight years on, we’re stocked in over 4,000 stores nationwide and selling one carton of Jimmy’s Iced Coffee every four seconds.

How the business gained their first 10-20 customers?

We gained our first customer, Selfridges, by simply calling the main switchboard and miraculously getting through to the buyer! Woohoo! Let me tell you life’s not always as easy as that.

Jim and I have not got any trained sales background, we would give away our last penny to be honest. We were pretty innocent during buyers’ meetings which I think they took pity on.

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Victoria Hart, Managing Director – The DCB Group

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Briefly explain who The DCB Group are and what you do?

The DCB Group is a family of companies made up of print management company Print Search, creative and design agency Caspa and print on demand company Aspen. Using our collective knowledge and experience, our team is able to integrate a brand across multiple channels to enhance customer experience.

How the business gained their first 10-20 customers?

Marketing techniques that were trialled at the start but did not prove to be fruitful in creating business leads and ultimately new customers were attending trade shows, E-Shots and Telesales via marketing companies.

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Merlie Calvert, Founder  – Farill.io

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Briefly explain who Farillo are and what you do?

Farillio is changing the way small businesses do law – it’s now simple, quick and affordable. Our platform brings together the resources, guidance and experts that SMEs need to empower their businesses.

How the business gained their first 10-20 customers?

Test test test –To gain our first customers, we tested and tested and tested – and we still do! We chose to build within a cowork community of committed, dynamic entrepreneurs and freelancers. We’re super close to our target audience every single day and have a willing group of guinea pigs; like us, they actively use Farillio, and their feedback helps refine our offer as our customer base grows.

Be your own customer – We ARE our audience. We created Farillio to solve a problem we’d faced ourselves – access to fast, simple law. We curate all that into guidance that empowers people – just like us – to run their businesses more simply, happily and cost-effectively.

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Richard Hayes, Founder – Mojo Mortgages.

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Briefly explain who Mojo Mortgages are and what you do?

Mojo Mortgages, is a free online mortgage broker. It uses cutting-edge tech and expert in-house advisers to make getting a mortgage feel less like the 1980s and more like the 21st Century.

That means no taking time off work for appointments in a stuffy broker’s office, no waiting on hold for updates, no piles of paperwork and, most importantly, no fees.

Customers can compare thousands of deals from across the entire market in under a minute, then get a personalised mortgage recommendation and a Mortgage in Principle in 15 minutes – all from a phone or computer, whenever they have time. What’s more, Mojo handles the entire mortgage application – making all the necessary phone calls and arrangements for customers until their mortgage is in place.

How the business gained their first 10-20 customers?

Mojo already had a very large addressable market once it launched so acquiring small numbers of clients was never an issue – we also had a sizeable amount of seed capital which meant we were able to assign a decent level of budget to the acquisition. So, the first 10/20 customers were less of a “marketing” challenge and more of a “product” challenge.

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Ricky Kothari, Founder – T Sticks

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Briefly explain who T Sticks are and what you do?

The humble tea bag has been around forever. Most people encounter them every single day and it would never occur to them that the design could be drastically improved.

Ricky Kothari however, was frustrated by the way that it’s nigh-on impossible to use a tea bag without a teaspoon, and even then it’s tricky to avoid drippage. So Kothari came up with the idea for a teabag that is also effectively its own spoon – also known as the ‘T-Stick’. The product consists of a foil tube encasing loose tea leaves that infuses when dunked in hot water.

Due to its straw-like shape, it effectively acts as container and strainer, all in one. The product outstrips the traditional tea bag for convenience too, as it’s much easier to use when you’re on the go.

How the business gained their first 10-20 customers?

In 2015 Kim and I packed our bags no clothes just prototypes and samples of tea full in a suitcase.  Paid for an exhibition stand in Shangai and presented the products to the Chinese and got an overwhelming response. Within two weeks of the exhibitions, we secured our first 10 clients in ASIA!

Back home we presented to some lovely hotels and a hotel called us in the old England football teams home The Grove Hotel in Watford! To this day we supply the 5* golf London Country estate.

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Massimo Buster Minale, Creative Director and Founder – Buster + Punch

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Briefly explain who Buster + Punch are and what you do?

Buster + Punch is a London-born home fashion label. We started life making custom motorbikes in an East London garage and now we work with solid metals to transform ordinary home fittings into extraordinary details.

To date we have reinvented everything from the light bulb to the light switch and the door handle to the cupboard knob. We started life in 2012 and now sell globally to 75 countries with a focus on the UK and North America.

Our target market is split equally between B2C and B2B and we have created the world’s first ‘horizontal’ functional home fittings range aimed at the fashion savvy.

How the business gained their first 10-20 customers?

With “The Rockstar Bar”Buster + Punch were launched straight into the public consciousness, thanks to articles in prestigious magazines like Vogue, Elle Décor and Rolling Stone. The piece was completely different to anything the interiors market had seen before, so it was a risk, but the public were crying out for more edgy interior products.

Some of our first customers were rock stars, fashion designers and film stars, who further promoted the product on their social channels. The ball kept rolling from there!

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Tim Holt, Owner – Plastic Card Services (PCS)

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Briefly explain who Plastic Card Services are and what you do?

Now entering its 25th year of trading, Plastic Card Services (PCS) has a proven track record of continued growth and an enviable reputation as one of the UK’s leading manufacturers of plastic cards and associated services with typical products including loyalty, gift, membership and hotel key cards.

Based in Macclesfield, Cheshire, the 30,000 square foot manufacturing campus has the capacity to manufacture and process 160 million cards per year, and comprises of 2 separate production facilities (one lithographic and the other digital), both of which house state-of-the-art card production and finishing equipment, a bureau to facilitate personalisation, mailing and fulfilment, a secure warehouse, as well as the companies offices to handle the administration side of the business.

How the business gained their first 10-20 customers?

When the business first started back in 1993, the sales and marketing techniques used were very different from today!

By far the most successful was the telephone, however, the call itself was the culmination of the work preparing to make it, therefore we had to research who was using our product and who were not.  This effectively gave two opportunities for sales, one for existing users and one for potential sales within the same sector. The rest was enthusiasm, tenacity, good luck, poor service from incumbent suppliers and of course hard work.

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Amanda Walls, Sales & Digital Marketing Director & Founder – CedarWood Digital

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Briefly explain who CedarWood Digital are and what you do?

Cedarwood Digital is a digital marketing agency based in Manchester. We specialise in paid search (PPC), SEO and digital strategy.

After spending over a decade leading digital marketing divisions in competitive agencies, I founded Cedarwood Digital in 2016. The agency was born out of the idea to create an honest, transparent & personal approach to digital marketing by working closely with clients to enhance their digital potential.

I like to think of my agency as an external digital marketing team for my clients, rather than the typical client-agency relationship. I speak to our clients daily and Cedarwood is closely aligned to our clients goals, so we’re heavily invested in their success.As a result, I’ve worked with many of Cedarwood’s clients for 5+ years. Clients include Hayes Garden World, Patient Claim Line and Elmwood brand consultancy.

How the business gained their first 10-20 customers?

Which marketing/sales techniques didn’t work? 

When I first began working in the industry, outbound sales calls were a common tactic to secure new business wins. This essentially involved cold-calling business to offer them a free review of their website or digital presence.

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Networking is still a crucial part of our sales strategy. However, we’ve scaled up this technique and I’ve partnered with several leading training groups to offer a variety of digital marketing programmes on a larger scale. Agency partnerships have also been useful in generating leads and we have work-share relationships with agencies in London which are mutually beneficial to complete multi-channel client briefs.

Frazer Fearnhead – The House Crowd

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Briefly explain who The House Crowd are and what you do?

The House Crowd is a secured peer to peer lending platform that enables investors to lend directly to home buyers and property developers. Investors can earn up to 10% p.a. depending on their choice of loan, with a minimum investment of just £1,000.

The company originated in 2012 as the world’s first property crowdfunding platform, and since 2017 has been FCA-authorised to offer peer to peer lending services. The House Crowd’s mission is to help investors of all ages, financial backgrounds, and levels of experience to build a better financial future for themselves through investments that deliver reliable and consistent returns.

How did you gain your first 10-20 customers? 

We were the first company in the world to do what we were doing, so getting the branding right was key. We needed to not only let people know what we offered as a company, but to educate them on what property crowdfunding actually involved. We created a brand that stood out from the traditional ‘blues and greys’ used by investment companies, and it got us noticed. We started attracting those who liked our anti-corporate attitude and irreverent sense of humour!

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Simon Hill, CEO & Founder – Wazoku

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Briefly explain who Wazoku are and what you do?

Wazoku’s idea management platform is a global home for all ideas, giving a voice and role to everyone in the innovation process. We enable organisations to engage and collaborate with their workforce, ecosystem, customers and the world – to generate new ideas as part of a wider innovation strategy.

Wazoku was founded in 2011, and is used by organisations such as Waitrose, HSBC and UK central government to help them embed innovation as a core, strategic, everyday capability and change the world one idea at a time.

How did you gain your first 10-20 customers? 

Idea management is much more established now, as organisations prioritise innovation and seek out the best tools to capture that innovation. But that wasn’t the case in 2011. We were early adopters of test and learn marketing, and so our first hire wasn’t a developer, it was a digital marketing expert.

We tested landing pages to see what would resonate and explore if there was any demand. In those days search results for what we do were very low, so we had to be creative and look for ways to build the market without having much PPC budget.

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John Attridge, CEO – BBX

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Briefly explain who BBX are and what you do?

Established in April 1993, BBX is the largest business community of its type in the world. BBX is a community of like-minded individuals who do business together on a preferred supplier basis to gain more customers, increase revenue and offset cash costs. BBX work alongside businesses to guarantee them sales locally, nationally and internationally that translates into effective working relationships.

Every customer of BBX is monetising their spare capacity, for example, unsold stock, empty spaces or unfilled diary time. That means that all of the profits generated go straight to the bottom-line of the business with no extra overheads or infrastructure costs.

How did you gain your first 10-20 customers? 

We gained our first customers by offering added value. As we wanted to go national, we offered the first 365 that joined the community a “Grandfather” offer where they got a gold package worth £1497 for just £1. This also gave them recognition as a “founding customer” with a unique trading card so that when they buy and sell the other party always knew they were a founding customer.

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