Firetext: Dan Parker
Tell us what your business doesWe bring the power of text messaging to small businesses and groups across the UK. Businesses from restaurants to event companies can send promotions, updates, news and reminders straight to a consumer’s mobile phone as well as receive bookings, queries and feedback via text straight to the office email or mobile.
Where did the idea for your business come from? The original idea ‘seed’ came from James’ girlfriend, who wondered why there weren’t any facilities available to help organise her sports teams via SMS. We developed the system primarily for that purpose, but realised that as we added features the scope of the project grew more and more.
How did you know there was a market for it? We have emails every week from users of our beta text services, asking if they could use the service in their businesses to communicate with their customers. The web application we put together was obviously working.
We realised large businesses have been using text for a while, but we wanted to offer something to small, local businesses too and at packages suitable for their budgets.
We essentially provide the step into text marketing by offering relatively small packages, allowing small businesses to start their text campaigns with little investment. We even include a localised text number so they can look professional and receive texts straight to the office. After all, not everyone feels comfortable picking up the phone.
What were you doing before starting up? We both studied at the University of York together and graduated in 2005. I was working for my family’s business until recently, so they are behind us all the way.
Have you always wanted to run your own business? Without a doubt! Both our parents run and manage their own businesses – so it’s in our genes. It has always been something that we have strived towards since graduating from university. We always thought video streaming would be quite big, but were partying too hard to do much about it. That’s the great thing about being your own boss. We work exceptionally hard to be the best at what we do, however we do make sure we find time to enjoy ourselves too.
What planning did you do before you started up? I think we were after reassurance that starting a business was the right thing to do and we soon realised we had support from everywhere. We gained some experience in the market place and gathered thoughts, ideas and suggestions. But we found the best way to research was getting out and talking to other businesses. Three business plans were put together because it kept changing depending on who we were speaking to. Our families are heavily involved with their own businesses, so getting advice from all of them has been incredible.
How did you raise the money? The company is completely self-funded – but we recognise that if we are to achieve consistent double-digit growth over the next five years then we will need extra investment eventually.
How did you find suppliers? Suppliers are just a phone call away! You’ve just got to make lots of them to find the best ones.
What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them? None as of yet – ask us in a year’s time.
Where is your business based? Currently the business is run from an office attached to the side of the house. It has enough room for about 2 people and a Jack Russell named Molly, which is perfect at the moment. We have the passion and drive to work all the hours possible, but this can get difficult. Sometimes, you just have to turn off and give in to the television. The pressure of final testing and launching was tough, but now we can breathe again, confident we know we have a fantastic product.
How have you promoted your business? Talk talk talk! We’ve spoken to many people and businesses. Even though they may not be our target, they might know someone that is. We did very little advertising with one of our trial projects, ScubaText, and that has attracted over 3000 divers. We believe by concentrating on providing a great service, people will talk about it. Recommendations has to be the most powerful promotional tool we have come across.
How much do you charge? Our packages start from £14 + VAT per month, and for this you get a dedicated long number with unlimited keywords, 200 SMS, unlimited contacts and unlimited groups. We offer a free demo that includes 10 SMS so you can ‘try before you buy’.
What has your growth been like? What is your turnover? Watch this space – update in 18 months (when we plan to be profitable).
What’s the impact on your home life been like? It has been tough. It’s all about prioritisation – and at the moment, this new business is the priority. As the business starts to grow, then we can catch up on things like DIY around the home!
What would you say the greatest difficulty has been in starting up? Piecing together all the bits of the puzzle into a usable and workable format.
What was your first big breakthrough? Obtaining the capability to receive SMS via landline telephone numbers and effectively including it in our packages at no extra cost.
What would you do differently?Get an accountant sooner.
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs? Write down what you are good at, write down what is required for you business idea to be successful, and then find other people to help fill any gaps. They are called business partners – you can’t always do everything yourself.
Where do you want to be in five years’ time? In 5 years time we want to be at the top of a French Alp, with a glass of champagne, in our ski gear celebrating the start of a New Year.