Interactive Plus: Jonathan Ambrose

A self-confessed computer games fan, Jonathan Ambrose has started up his own online games store

Ever since he got his first console, Jonathan Ambrose was determined to be involved in the games software industry. In starting up Interactive Plus, he did just that. Here he tells Startups.co.uk how he did it. 

Startup profiles go straight to the hub of the action by speaking to entrepreneurs who have literally just started up. We find out what made them decide to start their own business, how they got it off the ground, the obstacles they’ve overcome and the barriers they still face. We’ll look at their hopes and aspirations for the future, and then, in six months time, we’ll go back and find out how they’re getting on.

Name: Jonathan Ambrose Age: 29 Business: Interactive Plus Type of business: Games & Software Etailer Start date: 01/07/03

When did you first decide you wanting start your own business? When I got my first PSOne console I was so thrilled at this games concept, I wanted to be a part of the software industry.

Tell us about your businessInteractive-Plus is a UK online retail store specialising in Playstation 2, Xbox, Game Cube, GBA, PC Software, Nokia N-gage, Clothing and Gadgets. It also offers free postage and free magazines with every order more than £39.99.

Was it your first business idea and where did it come from? Kind of. When I was at University I started a Playstation 2 games only business so I could use it as a final year project on starting a dot com business. It was going quite well until I was being hit with fraud/chargebacks which began to seriously affect the cash flow. I stopped that business and began to rethink the whole scheme.

Was your decision to start a business inspired by any other companies or individuals? After looking around at different games and software sites I realised that no-one provided the latest games titles AND PC software at pocket friendly prices.

What makes you think there’s a market for your business? With the gradual popularity increase of console games and the hardware which double up as DVD players there is a huge interactive entertainment market. Plus, the PC is becoming more of a standard feature in the home and with the increasing uptake of Broadband access this indicates that the general public is embracing this kind of technology as the norm.

Once you’d decided to start a business, what did you do first? Investigated on how to write a business plan and researching the idea further. At first the business was just going to offer Playstation console games but then further research indicated that there was a strong demand for PC software that covers all interests i.e. reference, educational, business etc…

What research did you do? Checking out competitor’s sites and used sites which monitor their traffic and market reports. Also, by asking friends, family & associates about their software wants & needs. Naming of the business took absolutely ages as I wanted something that stood out & incorporated the fact that we interact with games and software and that the business offered other kind of products, hence www.Interactive-Plus.com was born.

What advice did you seek? I approached the HBDA (Haringey Business Development Agency) who gave me structured and sound advice about starting and running a business. I later heard about the TGEC (Tottenham Green Enterprise Centre) who were starting a ‘Hotdesking’ Scheme for new local businesses. Luckily I was the first person to sign up for it.

What other help did you get? Surfing business advice websites, visiting the City Business Library and talking to other small business owners.

Does the government need to provide more help to people trying to start a business?Definitely yes. They should provide more Enterprise Centres and access to start-up grants so that people can operate in a commercial environment and have direct easy financial assistance.

Talk us through the process of writing your business plan. Writing a business plan is only half the battle. It took about 6 weeks and about 10 drafts before it was completed. I received a lot of assistance from the business support team at the Tottenham Green Enterprise Centre who gave me a business plan template and commercial guidance.

How useful has your business plan been and do you think you’ll stick to it as your business begins to grow? The business plan is like how a compass is to a navigator. The plan shows where the business is going and indicates what works and doesn’t work. Having a business plan is essential!

How much did it cost to start the business? About £1500 but ‘my’ time is priceless.

How did you fund this? I used some of my own funds and received some financial assistance from the Credit Union.

Similarly, how are you funding your running costs until the business takes off? Working full time.

Have you made any provisions for business not being as prosperous as expected? By keeping aware of the media and market coverage of the video game and PC software industry will make it better to make better decisions in reaction to any significant changes that may arise.

Are you working from home or from premises? Due to the power of the internet, I mainly work from home but when I feel like a change of environment I sometimes work from my business address.

If you’ve already got premises, are you glad you made that decision? The Tottenham Green Enterprise Centre (TGEC) is approximately 15 minutes walk from my home and suits my needs 101 per cent. I have full access to an administrator and office facilities.

How many hours are you working at the moment? 20+

How are you managing your day and what steps have you taking to ensure you’re able to get everything done without working around the clock? Try to spend a maximum of 6 hours per day and have enough time for my partner, friends and myself.

What about staff, is it just you? Just me, me, me at the moment. I will take someone else on in the future only when Interactive Plus is generating sufficient revenue.

What marketing and advertising have you done so far? Word of mouth and links to other games and shopping sites.

Where do you hope to be in 12 months time? To be a trusted and recognised brand and have some fun while making money. I also plan to sponsor a few local ‘fun’ events later this year.

What are the main obstacles to growth? Stiff competition, gaining trust from new customers to part with their hard earned cash on a new ecommerce site and lack of experience.

How do you plan to overcome these? By providing consistent high levels of customer service, prompt delivery, offering competitive prices, expanding on the range of products and developing innovative services.

Tell us about your website. The project took between 3-4 months from concept to completion. I admit there were moments when I thought that it would never get completed as it was sometimes the case of ‘1 step forward – 2 steps backwards’, thankfully I remained positive about the whole thing. We used some open source software for the shopping cart as I couldn’t find any reasonably priced ecommerce packages that fitted my budget and needs.

I used 2 organisations to complete the look of Interactive-plus.com. One did the backend and the other did the colour scheme and logo. As I do not have a store the site is completely essential. I don’t wish I’d done any one particular thing differently as I have learned from my past mistakes and they have taught me valuable lessons.

What are your main ambitions, to make a lot of money or enjoy what you do? Both! I want to provide a service that youngsters and their parents can appreciate as there are products that benefit the 2 age groups as well as everyone who uses and regularly purchases software.

What have you found difficult about starting up and what do you wish you’d done differently? Not having huge amounts of money at my disposal and not having the guts to start this kind of business 5 years ago.

What skills and personal characteristics do you need to start your own business? Patience, faith, dedication and be a jack of all trades but a master of none!

So what advice would you give to anyone thinking of starting a business? Do it, Do it, DO IT!

Thanks a lot and the very best of luck. Will you come back and tell us how you’re getting on in six months’ time? Oh yes!

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