Diary of a start-up week 1: entertainthekids.com
Welcome to this first weekly edition of my blog. I’ve been keeping a daily blog at www.entertainthekids.blogspot.com for a few weeks now, and Startups.co.uk have asked me to write a weekly round up, just for this site, so that potential entrepreneurs can be a ‘fly-on-the-wall’ as we develop our business.
You join us ten months into the process, with five months left until our launch. Why such a long process, I hear you thinking?
Well, we still have ‘day jobs’, family lives and other commitments, and we want to give ourselves the best chance of surviving the rocky road that most start-ups face in their first few years. So we’re taking our time, doing lots of research and planning, and using the most professional approach we can.
Who on earth are ‘we’? I’m Kirsty McGregor, aged 32, married to Gregg, with a 22-month-old son, Luke. I’m a qualified chartered accountant, and now work as a freelance presenter of training courses to other accountants. There is also Ross McGregor, my brother, aged 29, recently graduated as a mature student in ebusiness, with a previous background in design, marketing & retail.
So that you can catch up with all the events leading up to the present, I am going to summarise our business this week, then over the next few weeks explain how we have tackled the various areas (so far) of market research, PR, the technology, and finance.
Talking of finance, it’s worth stating that we are setting this company up on a shoestring! No venture capitalist funding for us, more’s the pity! We’ve put some of our own funds into it, and have just secured some (very) modest bank funding. But more of that later….
Our business is a website, www.entertainthekids.com. If you go to the page now you can register your email address, so we’ll contact you when we actually launch. The site is a ‘one-stop shop’ for stressed out parents & carers, looking for some inspiration.
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Here are our USPs:
- Quick to load & easy to use
- Clean, uncluttered (the company’s strapline is “…& now you can relax!”)
- No banner advertising or pop-ups, instead the business model is based on members paying a subscription
- Original content, not just a myriad of links to other sites
- Focused on traditional entertainment activities for children aged 0-11, not straying into other areas, such as advice, health or education
Having advised many start-up and small businesses myself, I had quite a strict list of what I wanted any business to be for me, in my circumstances. These were my requirements:
- The business shouldn’t be reliant upon my input as the limiting factor in the growth of the business. This is a personal thing, as I want to start and grow the business and then be able to get ‘time freedom’ as quickly as possible. It’s the whole point of being able to run my own business – flexibility for the family whilst being financially comfortable and secure.
- It either has to provide a product or service that is niche and high value, or have mass-market appeal with a low price
- The business needs to be scaleable, without any major scarce resource (e.g. fixed employee or machinery hours etc)
- To have overheads/fixed costs which are as low as possible, so that you can break-even on a fairly low turnover.
- The product should preferably not be a fashionable item or have laws or regulations that will change quickly (the reason I didn’t specialise in tax as an accountant!)
- Ideally the business should not have to deal with any stock issues, such as storage, delivery and suppliers – (i.e. it had to be a service!)
- Low start-up costs (unfortunately that also means low barriers to entry for competitors)
- So, that’s my idea of utopia!
My lightbulb moments came in early January 2005, both of them borne out of sheer frustration at trying to entertain my own baby, then only 12 months’ old.
After the initial idea popped into my head, I started researching the market (i.e. the internet) and found that what I wanted to do appeared to be fairly unique. Most of the ‘competition’ was more general sites, offering a whole range of things for parents, but no site appeared to specialise in just providing activity ideas.
We have amended the product slightly since those early days. For example, we thought about recommending books and toys, but then decided that we were straying away from our core focus area, and to provide personal opinions could alienate some members who didn’t agree with our tastes.
We also considered a chat room or message board, but again decided that it wasn’t for us. There are plenty of great ‘community’ sites that do this really well, and we didn’t want to compete with them. We knew what we wanted, and now we just had to see if it was viable!
So how did we do that? Well I’ll start to tell you more about that next week!