Bar Exchange Ltd: Simon Blezard
The Bar Exchange founder on setting up his hospitality industry online network
Company name: Bar Exchange Ltd
Founders: Simon Blezard
Staff Numbers: under 10
Date started: 13/6/2008
Tell us what your business doesBar Exchange is the first global networking platform aimed exclusively at the drinks and hospitality sector. It’s a place to find work, recruit and train staff and share knowledge.
Where did the idea for your business come from? After a couple of months in India, I had a conversation about online training for bar staff in a pub in London and realised no one had done this before.
How will you differentiate yourself from the competition? To date our biggest competitor is Gumtree and Bar X’s model if far more effective than classified advertising. Employers can see candidate photos, video and browse CVs online.
What were you doing before starting up? I spent 15 years running and managing international advertising and digital marketing companies
Have you always wanted to run your own business? Yes. This is not my first venture. However I have always started businesses for others and not myself.
What planning did you do before you started up?I tested the idea with industry experts, drinks brands etc and did a road-show around some ad agencies and tested the model with various VCs.
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How did you raise the money? Friends, family and fools. I rejected several potential investors.
How did you find suppliers? There are 140,000 licensed premises alone in the UK, so it was a question of picking up the phone.
What challenges have you faced how have you overcome them? Cashflow is always the key challenge. Be frugal and be aggressive.
Where is your business based? I started from home and have now moved to an office in London.
How have you promoted your business? Word of mouth; a student ambassador network; SEO, PPC, traditional media
What’s the impact on your home life been like?What home life?
What would you say the greatest difficulty has been in starting up?Not getting despondent
What was your first big breakthrough? Signing up our first major pub chain.
What would you do differently? Be more relaxed about how quickly we grow.
Where do you want to be in five years’ time? Running the same business on a global basis