"I always wanted to work for myself," says James Cameron, founder of e-tailer The Glow Company. "I spent a long time waiting for a big idea. It was only when my wife started painting glow-in-the-dark murals and talked about starting a cottage industry business that I decided to set up The Glow Company."
Cameron was working full time when he launched his startup. He would put in a full day’s work at the office then come home and work on the new business till the early morning. Using his bonus payments to fund the startup, "We went without a couple of holidays," he says, the young entrepreneur incorporated the firm in late 2003.
Cameron bought an off-the-shelf website from Actinic for £300 when he launched his startup. "That has been the underlying success of the business," he says. "It allowed the business to really take off. With Actinic, we can now use MOAT – the "Mother of all Templates" that we developed in house – to launch a new website any time.
"The next step was to look around for products that I wanted to sell and buy what I could when I could," he continues. "Aside from my mortgage, I’ve never owed anyone any money."
Cameron has never taken on investment to grow his firm, although he has had to remortgage his property several times. "We were a victim of our own success," he says. "We were growing 60 per cent, then 50 per cent. The recession slowed us down to 37 per cent last year and that was the only year I didn’t have to remortgage to free up cashflow."
As for the reason behind The Glow Company’s initial popularity: "We’re definitely the original glow-in-the-dark accessories company," he says. "Although I’m being copied heavily at the moment. But our headstart and huge range means that nobody comes close to us."
There are two sides to Cameron’s business: retail and wholesale. The retail side is run through Cameron’s website www.theglowcompany.co.uk and makes up 70 per cent of the firm’s £2.2m turnover. The other revenue stream comes from the wholesale business, which imports and distributes glow and flash novelties to major events like Bonfire night parties.
"I’ve also just entered the general gift market," says Cameron. "I bought the URL giftideas.co.uk for £24,500 last year just so I could push related products."
There are currently 1,600 product lines available across Cameron’s network of seven websites. "And we cross-market them all," he says. "When a customer purchases an item from one, they receive a discount code that gives them five per cent off orders from any of the sites."
And Cameron has just landed upon another huge growth driver. "We’re about to launch a range of promotional products," he says. "This will allow big companies to brand flashing or glow-in-the-dark products with their company logo. No-one else is specialising in this. We’ve already done small projects with the likes of Cancer Research and Britvic but once we focus properly on expanding the market, it could mean £4m of revenue for the company within two years."
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