Name: Renu Kapila
Type of business: Auction, buy and sell trading website. It’s the first Asian shopping portal website.
Start date: February 2006
When did you first decide you wanted to start your own business?
It was an idea that came when I was helping plan a friends wedding and we were trying to buy and organise traditional items such as wares and decorative items.
After calculating costs and time spent searching for such items and their use for just the one day, it made me think that other people in the same situation could benefit from these items. The idea came that we should either recycle the items or sell them on to other people who could benefit from them.
Tell us about your business
It’s an e-Bay type business targeted at the Asian market to buy and sell items from Saris to furniture. The website also concentrates and promotes Asian businesses – new and existing – to open their own shop online and start selling directly to the public to help increase their profits.
Was it your first business idea and where did it come from?
It was indeed my first business idea. I’ve wanted to start my own company since I was doing a business and IT degree at Manchester Metropolitan University Business School. Think I’ve got a few more ideas to come!
Was your decision to start a business inspired by any other companies or individuals?
It was an idea that I thought I would pursue. I have the drive and passion to succeed so that is what is pushing me towards my goal. Sir Alan Sugar is my role model and I take a lot from his book and programme!
What makes you think there’s a market for your business?
Research conducted, user feedback and looking at the success of Ebay – I am using a segment of that and targeting it at the Asian market to help build a portal for all.
Once you’d decided to start a business, what did you do first?
Plan, plan and plan. I decided how the site would look, so a lot of designing and working with my developer testing and building the site.
What research did you do?
Focus group research, questionnaires asking the public about the idea and, if it was implemented, would they use it. The site was developed and trialled. It was then taken offline to work on the feedback and improvements were made based on that.
What advice did you seek?
I approached Business Link who have helped me. There isn’t a lot of government funding available as yet, but once this is available to me Business Link are going to help me as much as they can, which is great.
What other help did you get?
I am networking everyday and come across loads of great people so anyone and everyone I speak to tries to offer some support.
Does the government need to provide more help to people trying to start a business?
I think more help and financial support should be available as it’s hard to start your own business without any finance.
Talk us through the process of writing your business plan.
Business Link provided me with a template to use. I also have friends who own their own businesses who have kindly helped me advance and improve the plan.
How useful has your business plan been and do you think you’ll stick to it as your business begins to grow?
It’s important to have a plan otherwise you have no focus. I do add and change a few things but it’s an evolving business so there will be a few things I won’t stick too. I will, however, time manage my targets to so that they are met long term.
How did you fund this?
Entirely my own savings.
Have you made any provisions for business not being as prosperous as expected?
No, I’m confident we’ll succeed.
When did you stop working?
I am still working at the moment. I work for a big software company (Amcat call centre solutions based in Manchester). I will leave my job when the time is right.
Are you working from home or from premises?
As it’s a website business most of my work can be done at home from my laptop.
How many hours are you working at the moment?
Literally as many as possible!
How are you managing your day and what steps have you taking to ensure you’re able to get everything done without working around the clock?
Time management – careful commitments and cutting down my social life – but it’s worth it in the long run.
What about staff, is it just you?
At the moment, it’s me and my administrator. We’ll consider employees as we grow.
What marketing and advertising have you done so far?
PR – newspapers, radio, sponsors of shows, wedding fairs and student nights.
Where do you hope to be in 12 months time?
A successful growing business – being a portal site that everyone uses.
What are the main obstacles to growth?
A successful managed marketing campaign.
How do you plan to overcome these?
Remain focused on my goals, set targets and stick to them using my business plan.
Tell us about your website
I originally outsourced the site abroad. However, due to communication problems I had someone here design it which has worked better for me. A lot of hard work is involved as you have a concept that you want the site to look and appear and others may interpret that differently. A lot of testing and feedback has been carried out.
What are your main ambitions, to make a lot of money or enjoy what you do?
For it to grow, gain maximum hits and for everyone to know about the website.
What have you found difficult about starting up and what do you wish you’d done differently?
I did lose time and money on initially creating the site abroad but that was soon rectified. You learn from your mistakes and everything is a lesson to be learnt.
What skills and personal characteristics do you need to start your own business?
Passion for the idea and keeping working hard at it.
So what advice would you give to anyone thinking of starting a business?
Go for your idea – there’s no harm is pursuing your goals.
Thanks a lot and the very best of luck. Will you come back and tell us how you’re getting on in six months’ time?