Italyabroad.com: Andrea D’Ercole
After developing the idea for several years, Andrea D’Ercole finally ditched his corporate job to run Italyabroad.com. Here he talks to Startups.co.uk about how he’s getting on. Name: Andrea D’Ercole Age: 29 Business: Italyabroad.com Type of business: Providing quality information, services and authentic products to people passionate about Italy.
When did you first decide you wanted to start out on your own?
I have been working on this idea for the last two years with a friend. The initial idea was to create a newsletter for people living abroad who were passionate about Italy. It was my second job. From 8 to 5 I was working for a blue chip and from 6 to 2 am I was working on Italyabroad.com.
In October last year those hours were not enough anymore and I decided to take the leap of faith and concentrate on Italyabroad.com. I work all the hours God sends and to be honest I have never enjoyed working so much. Everyday is a new challenge and the amount of things I learn each day is incredible. Was your decision to start a business inspired by any other companies or individuals?
No, it was my idea and I had been working on it for many years. I seen how others ran their websites and thought I had better get things running sooner than later.
Tell us about your business
I started by researching about Italy on the web and I found a number of web-sites providing some information about Italy but it was not consistent. Moreover, many of them were made by people who did not know about Italy, so were providing wrong information to their users.
They were promoting their products and services by using the Italian brand name, even though their product had very little to do with Italy. I had the idea of putting many areas of Italy such as properties, travel, restaurants and Italian products all on one site, no other web-site is providing their users the same amount of information than Italyabrod.com.
The main difference is that we do things from an Italian point of view. This allows people who use the service get to see what the real Italy is like. This ensures that only the true and authentic Italy is promoted to people and not some false stereotyped image. Users can find on Italyabroad.com information about Authentic Italian restaurants in the UK, Italian authentic recipes, holiday destinations, authentic Italian products unique in their gender and the best Italian properties uncovered….
Was it your first business idea and where did it come from?
Italyabroad.com was not my first idea and it came from the continuous enquires I was receiving from colleagues and friends about Italy and Italian products. People are now aware that word Italian does not always mean authentic Italian and need direction in discovering the true products and services that Italy has to offer.
What makes you think there’s a market for your business?
First and foremost, it’s market demand. The amount of emails and questions I get regarding Italy is crazy. I get requests from people all over the world. Italy is a wonderful country, the Italian food is appreciated all over the globe, most people know that most of the information available is not reliable so they look for sources that are easily accessible and dependable, and what better than a web-site with all the information in one place. Once you’d decided to start a business, how did you go about it?
I tried to get as much as I could from all government agencies but unfortunately I did not get what I was hoping for. There are too many agencies, with no links between them, which as a consequence the information they provide is often out of date and useless. Although I did not get much support I must thank a few people working in those agencies who put me on the right path.
What research did you do?
I researched on my own because I found many problems getting the right information from the right web-site as there were so many. It was not easy but I found my own way.
Does the Government need to provide more help to people starting a business?
Well in terms of financial assistance all you ever get when enquiring is that theirs nothing left.
How useful has your business plan been?
The business plan is essential. It tells you and anyone else about your business idea, what the market place is like, how you plan to promote the business, what prices and services to employ, how to sustain the business, what the financial aspects will look like (e.g. cash flow, P&L).
How much did the business cost to start-up?
In terms of money, something like a thousand pounds. I had people on board who believed in the project and I didn’t have to pay them. They now work for me.
How are you funding the business?
The plan is to fund as much as I can by myself. I have used my own Funds so far and have a prudent P&L and cash flow.
When did you stop working?
It was in November 2003, so it’s a very young business.
Are you enjoying self-employment?
I see it as by far the most enjoyable and challenging experience of my life. Sometime I wake up in the morning and I am afraid of that uncertainty but by the time I finish my shower it is gone. The best thing about it is that you are fully responsible for what you do.
Where do you work?
Initially I am working from home – for my type of business; this is by far the best way to start. I have a separate office out of the mainstream of the house but I am looking for a separate office space. Having an office inside the house means you’ll never stop working…
How many staff do you have?
There are four of us at present but I am receiving feedback from other colleagues and friends and I want to thank all of them.
Is the amount of red tape something that concerns you?
There are so many things to consider that it is difficult to know where to turn.
What marketing and advertising have you prepared?
Marketing on newspapers and on the internet.
What have you found difficult about starting up?
It’s probably now really, because I’m starting to get regular customers. Now I’m up and running and have finally got customers, the reality has hit me!
Where do you hope to be in 12 months time?The Italyabroad.com aim is simple: become the first quality brand for Italy and Italian products abroad.
What are the main obstacles to growth?
My only limit at the minute is the monetary resources to develop Italyabraod.com as I want it. What you see now is not even 70% of what I want Italyabroad.com to be.
What are your ambitions?
Enjoy what I do, and obviously get a living out of it.
What skills and personal characteristics do you need to start your own business?
Determination, self-belief, passion, skills… you need to be able to do everything, especially at the beginning to keep the costs down.
And what advice would you give to anyone thinking of starting a business?
Have faith and belief in what you are doing this is essential. If you believe it can work other people will too. The road is not easy but the rewards at the end are worth it.