How office search led to starting a workspace provider

Pier Paolo Mucelli couldn't find an office in London to suit his needs, now he runs a business selling them.

Pier Paolo Mucelli arrived in Britian with qualifications coming out of his ears and speaking five different languages. But he couldn’t find offices in London to suit him. Instead of settling for second best, he went into the business supplying them. Pier tells Startups.co.uk all about it. Name: Pier Paolo Mucelli Age: 38 Business name: eOffice Business type: Serviced and virtual office provider Number of employees: 5 Where did the idea for your business come from? The idea for eOffice came from my own personal experience when I was looking for office space in London for my former company where I was marketing director. I encountered difficulties in finding suitable office space due to our unwillingness to commit to a long term lease, and because we hadn’t got three year’s UK trading history.

During my travels, I noticed the different standards in office environments, in particular in terms of technology. Technology has had a critical impact on the way business is done and office space is managed. The office is changing from a physical place where you receive and store your information to an environment where you exchange ideas with colleagues and meet clients, suppliers and partners.

What academics qualifications have you got? I was born in Venice in 1965. I studied Management at Universita di Venezia and the University of Warwick and obtained a Master at the Ecole Superieure de Commerce, Toulouse. I speak English, Italian, French, Spanish and Portuguese. I have lived six years in the Far East, ½ year in Brazil and all around Europe.

What made you take the plunge and startup your own business? The idea about eOffice came from my eagerness to have great office for myself, in a designer environment and with great technology. While looking for flexible offices in Chelsea, London, I found an empty office space with a large office openplan floor plate.

I had the vision to establish an innovative office environment available to individuals and small businesses wanting the set up a business in central London and wanting to have a ready made office solution, with the possibility of networking with like minded individuals.

I had the luxury to study the market over one year. During that period I attended and continuously visited seminars and exhibitions around Europe relating to property, workspace, furniture, Interior design, facilities, technology and internet.

So when did you launch? On 2nd April 2002, around the 28 months after the first idea and 12 months after working full time on the project.

How much did it cost to startup your business? We have invested around £1 million.

Where did you get the funding from? The company was launched on the back of my own private capital. I sold my flat in London to raise money for the business but was mostly assisted by my family funds.

What makes you think there’s a market for your business? eOffice is about flexibility for individuals and small businesses. We offer a wide range of office options, from “virtual offices” where clients get a business address and a dedicated answering service to fully equipped workstations with high speed internet connection to rent on a full time or temporary basis.

Our environment is contemporary and based on openplan which self employed and start-ups companies particularly appreciate. The benefit being more stimulation to come to work and more networking opportunities.

How important is the internet to your business? Our website – www.eoffice.co.uk – is a critical element to our business and so is our digital marketing strategy. A good position with search engines will give you many leads and prospects. We are now investing to develop a community portal and utilities (live booking) on line.

How many hours a week do you work now? I used to work about 50 hours a week, now it’s closer to 60.

What has been your main business problem? When it came to starting out in business, having no track record in the UK and virtually no asset backing, I found banks in Britain were unwilling to take me seriously.

Likewise, securing the first lease was a big marketing job which was exceptional, since in most business sectors those who have a product/service must market pro-actively not the other way around (ref Landlords).

Was there ever a time when you thought you were close to failing? No.

Where do you see your business in a year’s time? After one year we have more than 200 members and our turnover is approaching £1 million for 2003.

What are your main obstacles to growth? eOffice’s main challenge now involves financing the business’s expansion. We are keen to take advantage of the softening property market. When we look around London we see lots of empty spaces in key locations and we see his as a gateway to growth. Is there anything you would do differently today? Not much.

What skills and personal characteristics do you need to start your own business? You have to be very focused, committed and never give up!

What is your top tip to anyone wanting to startup his or her own business? Have a business model that differentiate your idea from the competition with clear competitive advantages, understand your market/clients and adapt your offer to their demand.

Are your main ambitions financial (to make a lot of money) or lifestyle based (to enjoy what you do)? I guess, like most entrepreneurs, the ambition is to create, develop and grow the business, be established in the market place and keep introducing innovations.

Would you start another business? Certainly, but only after eOffice is well established

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