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Polly Gowers OBE: “We’re passionate about innovation”

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Name:

Polly Gowers OBE

Role and company:

Polly Gowers OBE is the CEO and founder of Everyclick ltd, the technology company behind Give as you Live. Give as you Live is continuously signing up leading retailers to donate a percentage of every online purchase to the shoppers’ favourite charity.

Company turnover (and most recent ebitda/most relevant profitability metric): 

To date, Give as you Live technology has raised over £2.8m for UK charities.

Employee numbers:

Everyclick ltd employs a team of 18 in the UK, five in China and a retail product data management team in India.

Growth forecast for the next three years:

Our 2013 figures show that we will raise over £1.7m for charity in the next financial year.

Everyclick is seeing a continued growth in the number of Give as you Live shoppers, running at 20 per cent to 50 per cent per month. What is even more pleasing is that, although Give as you Live is acquiring shoppers rapidly, of those shoppers, there are more that have made more than five transactions than those that have made only one. This demonstrates Give as you Live technology can deliver regular users that are driven to give to UK charities, through regular online shopper activity.

To date, over £4.4m has been spent with Give as you Live retailers since we launched the product in 2010. To put that figure into the context of growth, over £3.44m of that amount has been spent in the last eight months.

In under 50 words, what makes your business distinctive in its marketplace:

We’re passionate about innovation and the power of the internet to do good. Give as you Live technology is unique and works to seamlessly redirect existing revenue to charity without asking shoppers to change their online behaviour or dig deeper into their pockets.

What’s the big vision for your business?

My vision is to provide charities with a new source of regular giving. Through innovative technology we have created a way to maintain an increasing flow of funds to charity by tapping into the British public’s spending. This turns online shopping activity into donation revenue for charities.

Charities are still struggling to attract the same contributions as before the economic downturn. Give as you Live is connected to all of the UK’s 220,000 registered UK charities, giving all UK charities, big or small, a much-needed boost and access to new funds through our relationship with thousands of retail brands.

Current level of international business, and future aspirations: 

As of yet, Give as you Live is making its mark in the UK. However, we are currently planning for entry in the US.

Biggest career setback and what you learned from it:

Before I started my professional career I was offered a place at medical school, which I turned down in favour of pursuing my love for equestrian sports.

At the time my family were horrified. I was relaxed, as I was doing what I loved. The lesson here is do what you like as that makes it easy to do well at it.

I have moved on from my equestrian career and my lack of a degree has not prevented me from building Everyclick. I’m a workaholic – but that is because I love my job.

And when you’re an entrepreneur it’s easy to say yes to anyone with cash. I have learnt that when picking investors, an entrepreneur must think not just about the money, but also about what you can get in terms of advice, support and connections before making a decision.

What makes you mad in business today?

My two biggest frustrations in business are people who do not follow the plan or people who say “no”. Anything is possible if you’re dedicated and passionate enough. The world saw this with the London Olympics. There were so many sceptics, but the team behind it showed dedication and passion and did the nation proud.

What will be the biggest change in your market in the next three years?

Mobile retail is a huge growth area and we are noticing a continued increase in mobile shopper numbers. Currently, the Give as you Live team is focused on delivering a mobile version of the platform and developing a mobile App. The priority is to continue to meet shoppers’ needs and to evolve the platform to maintain pace with internet browser developments as well as the proliferation of mobile devices into society.

Can businesses in your sector/industry access the finance they need to grow? If not, what can be done to improve things?

I’ve been lucky enough to secure great financial backing from a range of investors. The money is there for startups who want it and show their commitment, dedication and passion for a project. That said, it’s not all about finance; I see investment being as much about money as it is about a sharing of common goals. If you share these goals with your investors you are more likely to reach them.

How would others describe your leadership style?

I built Everyclick from the ground up, starting the company in my garden shed, so I’d like to think people would say that I am a hands-on CEO. I know that a company is only as successful as its team and it is my job to make sure that my team is inspired and motivated to work, as well as being rewarded well for it.

However, it isn’t just about great people. Making a great company is much like baking a cake; you need a great recipe, the correct ingredients, combine them together at the right time and bake, leaving your creation to rise for long enough.

It’s important to realise that as a CEO you are not always the best person at everything. The key is to build a team of specialists around you and to rely on them to know more than you and advise you on their areas of strength. With that, empowering your team and giving clear targets ensures that everyone moves in the same direction.

I view my CEO role as being a master baker – but importantly, I’m passionate about writing the recipe.

Your biggest personal extravagance?

As a mother, the biggest personal extravagance is a full-time nanny and school costs for my daughter, Claudia. As I get pulled into various tasks at times I can’t always control, I rest easy at the thought that she is well cared for.

You’ve got two minutes with the prime minister. Tell him how best to set the UK’s independent, entrepreneurial businesses free to prosper:

The prime minister needs to recognise that great entrepreneurs and business people have children. Making childcare tax deductible will free up an army of eager individuals who are desperate to get back to work, but find it difficult for financial reasons.

In the same vein, we have moved on from childcare being a women’s affair. The government needs to recognise that the need for maternity leave should go both ways; there should be equal time off for both mothers and fathers.

The government also needs to look at how its schools are teaching business to the next generation. Prescriptive teaching from a blackboard and textbook do not reflect modern-day business and business studies should be seen as a creative subject.

Building a business needs skills and imagination. Sometimes there can be so much focus on the skills that the creativity, flair and excitement of building your own empire get left out completely. Children like dreams – dare them to dream and show them they can achieve it.

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