Better Chemist: Al-Karim Versi
The co-founder on embracing challenges and letting entrepreneurial passion shine through
Tell us what your business does:
Better Chemist is an online pharmacy registered with the General Pharmaceutical Council. We currently provide services such as processing NHS and private prescriptions, providing a discreet online doctor’s consultancy – treating symptoms including hair loss and impotence, and the sale of pharmacy and non-pharmacy products.
Where did the idea for your business come from?
The idea surfaced from discussions with my co-founder (who is a pharmacist) on how we offer services to a wider customer base and enter new markets, both in and out of the UK, who need such services. While online pharmacies are not a new concept, the idea was to have a business that can enter an established market and add value to it. New companies are flexible and should be able to move rapidly to meet customers’ changing needs. For example, we will shortly be introducing ‘lifestyle diagnostics’ which will offer a full section of home, as well as professional, lab test services.
What were you doing before starting up?
Prior to launching BetterChemist.com, I spent time in China and built an electric vehicle called the “A-Kar”. This was designed to be used as a passenger carrier and delivery vehicle. However, due to difficulties in raising finance for the production line, I decided that it would be wiser to get into another venture. Luckily this opportunity arose.
What planning did you do before you started up?
For about three solid months I was locked in intensive research, so that regulatory procedures and requirements are reflected in the website.
How have you promoted your business?
The most effective way so far has been through social media, because it is free and covers a wide audience. We are also networking with individuals and businesses directly to see where we can offer our services, or in some cases, how we can provide an improved service for them. Our next step will be attending public events and promoting specific products for that target audience.
What has your growth been like?
For a recently launched business, growth has been encouraging. We are seeing new customers join us daily. We will shortly be introducing many new services and promotions to benefit our customers and help increase our growth.
What would you say the greatest difficulty has been in starting up?
This would probably be constantly testing the site and having to upload and price 10,000 or so products. A good way is to see difficulties as challenges to get through.
What was your first big breakthrough?
There were two: the site going live and having our logo and website placed on a shop front, giving the web brand a high street presence. It is a great moment when you see your vision turning into reality.
What would you do differently?
Since the electric vehicle venture and moving on to Better Chemist, I have learned that partnership is good – especially when you both have different strengths and can sound out some great ideas. Also, opening up and talking to people about your ideas and views, not shielding them away.
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
Keep trying. Set a realistic goal, put your head down and aim for it. If one venture does not work, do not be afraid to try something totally different to what you know. It is the entrepreneurial passion you have that should drive you to get to your goal, not necessarily the type of business.
Where do you want to be in five years’ time?
I would like Better Chemist to become a well-established brand name – a company that is bringing great benefits and value to its customers.