AMBAM London: Jessica Ellis and Tom Hankin

The social network's female founder tells us why focusing on one market and staying true to their business' mission is key to its success

Name: Jessica Ellis and Tom Hankin
Company name: AMBAM London
Location: Greater London
Date launched: 13/04/15
Website: www.ambam.london

Tell us what your business does:

AMBAM London is a fully functional social network, which is free to join and gives members exclusive rewards from cool London brands.

We are putting a new spin on the world of social media by being focused on just one city, connecting people through shared interests and giving members some really appealing free benefits.

Where did the idea for your business come from?

Tom and I were walking through the turnstiles at Waterloo station when we both said, “how cool would it be if there was a card that connected Londoners with each other, and gave them something back, a card which rewards Londoners just for living and working here.” The idea grew from there. After some thought, we felt a physical card wasn’t quite right, so we decided to create AMBAM as a social network with rewards.

How did you know there was a market for it?

I have lived in London for a long time and whilst it is impossible to know all the ins and outs of such a huge city I felt confident that there wasn’t a social network that exists for this purpose for consumers (particularly with the rewarding aspect). Also we offer a way for brands to connect personally with Londoners by creating a direct dialogue route for them, something which we think other client to customer routes haven’t mastered yet.

When Tom and I came up with the idea it seemed so obvious, we couldn’t believe it didn’t already exist.

What were you doing before starting up?

I worked in recruitment for over eight years and prior to that I worked in advertising and publishing. From May 2011 to the end of 2014, I was running a boutique recruitment agency in the West End. Tom was working in advertising.

Have you always wanted to run your own business?

Yes, I love everything about running a business. As brother and sister, Tom and I have spent many a night coming up with all kinds of ideas, some of which have been a little crazy. To finally come up with an idea that resonated so strongly with both of us and our peers is really exciting.

Creating a business that genuinely benefits its members by giving them a useful and fun experience, rather than hard selling a product or service, is something we’re very proud of.

How did you raise the money?

We used personal savings and investment from family and friends to make the idea a reality.

Describe your business model and how you make money:

In order to remain as an entirely free platform we have to rely solely on advertising to be commercially viable, but we will ensure this is non-intrusive and integrated in a way that puts AMBAM members first as this is the fundamental ideal of our business.

What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?

One of our biggest challenges has been trying to get brands to see the vision like we did before we actually launched, as there was nothing tangible to show them. We knew that without some really cool, edgy and unique brands that believed in rewarding Londoners we would struggle to set ourselves apart and avoid being seen as just another social network.

Thankfully, we are now in a place where we have some fantastic brand partners who very much support our ethos.

What was your first big breakthrough?

Our first big breakthrough was getting brands to say yes. As soon as we had brands coming on board we knew we were onto something special and in the last week alone we have had a whole host of additional brand partners come on board. It’s all very exciting!

What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?

Never lose sight of what you are trying to achieve.

Starting a business comes with risks, and you will get people around you, even those closest to you, questioning why you would put yourself through the financial and emotional pressure of starting a business. The fact is, if you have a smart idea and you believe in it, you will get to where you need to be. Never give up!

Where do you want to be in five years’ time?

In five years’ time we would like to have AMBAM networks in all of the major cities across the UK. The main thing for us is that we retain the vision we have for AMBAM now and for whatever kind of expansion may come in the future.

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