Both teachers in Warwick, Heaton and Jeremiah wanted to combine their backgrounds – furniture design and software development respectively. Initially they investigated the household market but found it saturated and not particularly lucrative. Then they hit upon the idea of corporate logos inlaid in office furniture.
The pair tried a variety of marketing approaches including product cards, adverts in retail magazines, the yellow pages and designer handbooks. But they were not reaching their target market. While the marketing generated interest, it tended to be members of the public “phoning up for a bedside table worth £20”, said Jeremiah.
They decided to take a more proactive approach. They made up a hit list of the blue chip companies in their area – such as Jaguar and British Airways – and started to work out how they could reach them. The approach had to be daring.
The annual round of multinational companies exhibiting at Birmingham's National Exhibition Centre gave Jeremiah an idea. Having worked at the Centre in the past, he knew that while taking things out of the exhibition centre would attract attention – they would not be challenged for bringing goods in. They managed to get hold of a copy of the exhibition schedule and produced tables for ten exhibitors. The tables were smuggled in at the start of the day.
“The approach was a bit naughty but got an excellent response,” said Jeremiah. “The show started at 9am and we were receiving calls from companies at 8.45am to say thanks.” Heaton and Jeremiah extended their 'knocking on doors technique' to companies not at the exhibition, making tables to leave in reception areas.We were showing them a product they didn't know they wanted until they got it,” said Lyndon.
It was a big but calculated risk. They drew up a prototype budget and with their hit list focused only on companies that could provide them with big contracts. The product was sold through persistence. “We had such a unique product that unless we got in peoples' faces it didn't really work,” said Lyndon.
They now have a full order book and work is booked for two months in advance. The business now survives on word of mouth – the best form of marketing!