Company: Buy Once Give Twice
Founders: Mia Woodford and Emma Leschallas
Age: 50 and 42
Staff Numbers: 4
Date started: April 2008
Tell us what your business does
Buy Once Give Twice is an online auction site. We felt there was a need for a trustworthy and enjoyable auction site which was rooted in philanthropy. The site works innovatively and pro-actively with over 200 charities to help raise more funds for them, as well as having some really lovely gifts and experiences that aren’t available on the high street for everyone to buy.
How did you know there was a market for it?
We knew there was a market because we had experienced the phenomenon ourselves. What we didn’t know is if we could persuade charities and donors to join in. We found that they do! Our USP – we are the only people, who manage premium auctions on an individual basis.
Have you always wanted to run your own business? What appealed most about being your own boss?
I’m a control freak!
What planning did you do before you started up?
We held discussions with 50 charities across the spectrum and meetings with donors/charity auction goers.
How did you find suppliers?
Word of mouth and recommendations. Supplier management comes down to honesty at all times
How have you promoted your business?
Through Search Engine Marketing and lot specific PR
How much do you charge?
We keep just 15% of the money raised towards our running costs. The other 85% goes to the donor’s charity. We don’t charge for placing a gift / experience online.
What has your growth been like?
We will be profitable next year. We’ve achieved what our business plan said we would, but we got there in a different way
What would you say the greatest difficulty has been in starting up?
The recession – not because people are spending less on our site – we have no yardstick to compare it to as we started mid-recession and we get people paying wonderful prices for things they really, really want (our Spice Girls auction is a prime example!) – but because suppliers are nervous and want payment upfront or prior due to us being so new. Also our bank would not even contemplate an overdraft which is not very helpful, but we managed to work through it all.
What was your first big breakthrough?
Meeting Stanley Fink who became an investor and hosting the Mel B sale for Clic Sargent
What would you do differently?
Don’t bother with a launch party; spend the money on SEO and PR instead. Expensive over-promising, under delivering PR agencies come under the list of things we wouldn’t spend money on again. However a lot specific pr through specialist agencies works brilliantly, as does good SEO/SEM.
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
Have 5 different people scrutinise your figures and make sure you really do want to work 16 hours a day, because you have to!
Where do you want to be in five years’ time? Do you have an exit plan?
Doing the same, but not working quite so hard. Yes we do have an exit plan but it changes frequently