Spending hours behind the steering wheel of a car while working for her former employer gave Rachel Davidson both the time and the inspiration to think up a new business idea. Realising that the world of audio books needed shaking up, she launched her own business, and hopes to be hearing the sweet sound of success in the near future.
Name: Rachel Davidson
Business: AudioBooks4Hire.com Ltd
Type of business: On-line library for audiobooks on CD, providing a wide range of titles and genres to our UK membership
Start date: June 2005
When did you first decide you wanted to start your own business?
It was something I’d been mulling over doing for a while as a general re-think of my ‘life-strategy’. I had the true epiphany moment after a hard day and night at working for a US based IT business consulting firm. Driving back home in the early hours of the next morning I realised that working this hard for a distant American paymaster just didn’t make much sense and that I might as well work that hard for myself and get the rewards more directly. It was clear to me that continuing to clamber up the slippery corporate career ladder was not what I wanted to do – and especially so when I factored in wanting to have a family. Whilst setting up the business I fell pregnant – this and the subsequent arrival of a baby daughter have continued to keep me focussed on why I wanted to be my own boss and why the business has to succeed.
Tell us about your business
It’s an online library for audiobooks on CD, providing a wide range of titles and genres to a UK only membership. Our customers love to listen to audiobooks during their spare, ‘hands-tied, brain-bored’ moments, but find purchasing the books too expensive and wasteful, and don’t find it convenient to use their local public library’s audiobook rental service.
Was it your first business idea and where did it come from?
It was the first business idea that I’d had that really did seem to ‘have legs’. I had to do a lot of driving around the country in my salaried job and could easily spend more than 3 hours per day on the road at least – much more on other days. This time was effectively ‘dead’ time – I’d catch up with phone calls on the hands-free and work my way through the CD changer selection in the car. Pleasant as this was, however, I wanted a more productive and interesting way of spending the time and wanted to listen to a book. But audiobooks can easily cost £10 – and I was getting through these books in just three or four car journeys. Membership at the local library wasn’t an option either - it was very hard to get to a library to pick the books up and then guarantee that I’d be able to get the audiobook back to them on time to avoid the inevitable penalties. My most avid consumption of audiobooks was when I was able to borrow a work colleague’s collection – with him delivering the books to me at work and then being able to simply return them to him a couple of days later. I thought, 'if only there was a service that could post these books to me at work or home for a small fee – then all I’d have to do is get it back in the post to them when I’d finished'. Having been unable to find any other companies who provided a service such as this in the UK it started to become clear to me that there was a potential market-need out there
Was your decision to start a business inspired by any other companies or individuals?
My father’s experience in setting up his own company and having a much more enjoyable time working for himself rather than the corporate career he’d pursued for 25 years was very influential on me. It made it clear to me that there were other ways to earn a living than just working for a big company.
What makes you think there’s a market for your business?
Initially, the fact that I was so keen to find somebody who did this service. I reasoned that if I wanted this service then surely other people did too. But gut-instinct alone wasn’t good enough so I did research the whole audiobook and rental market. The USA marketplace, in particular, gives me confidence in the future of the UK market. The audiobook rental market in the States is huge and sustains tens of companies doing exactly what I do, but covering the North American marketplace.
Once you’d decided to start a business, what did you do first?
I started playing around with figures to see if a viable and profitable business was possible. I tried out lots of different pricing models to see which ones were the best and what numbers could potentially result. Having done this rough sketch modelling and reassured myself that the economics of such a service where positive I then set about doing more research.
What research did you do?
I researched a lot. I looked into the practical aspects of setting up a company, the laws governing patents to see if they could apply to my idea (they don’t by the way!). I researched all aspects of audiobooks, from the publishing perspective right the way through to the consumerism of audiobooks. I also conducted a paper-based questionnaire asking about general views of audiobooks and then in particular about the rental of them. As I’ve said, the USA audiobook marketplace provided a great deal of research rich-pickings and optimism. I also researched the UK competition (both direct and indirect) and used these to assess what I did and didn’t want to do with my company. All in all I spent about 9 months gathering data and figures.