Castnow: Basem Sirees
Castnow is an ecommerce platform that allows businesses to start selling online, easily and quickly
Name of founder: Basem Sirees
Age of founder: 41
Location: Weybridge, Surrey
Date launched: 1 September 2020
Number of employees: 6
Which university, if any, did you attend? University of London Birkbeck College
Drawing upon a career as a business analyst in IT departments, founder Basem Sirees created Castnow, a technology company that’s focused on making the process for small businesses to open online stores as easy as possible. Sirees explains the process of launching Castnow, as well as the plans for its future…
What does your business do?
Our company Castnow ecommerce platform is a UK-based SaaS (Software as a Service) platform that offers merchants e-stores to sell online. This proved to be really helpful for retailers who closed their doors during the lockdown and wanted to have online sales to stay afloat.
We help small merchants and sole entrepreneurs set up online stores in a few clicks, and without the need for development experience. Our main mission is to help small businesses and merchants.
Where did the idea for your business come from?
Our idea came from the need to have a UK-based platform that helps retailers and merchants go online with a few clicks and start accepting payments straightaway.
Currently, we have competitors who are global players but they are not good at supporting small businesses and sole entrepreneurs in the UK. We are based near UK national businesses and we can be contacted easily to talk to them and understand their problems.
The majority of merchants do not have any IT or development experience so there is a need for a platform that offers readymade online shops to merchants to start doing business straightaway.
How did you know there was a market for it?
The general trend was always heading in favour of ecommerce but the pandemic supercharged that trend and made it a priority and a necessity for survival.
We always saw that more and more ecommerce platforms are emerging, such as eBay, Amazon and Wish. But this made the market fragmented, so we saw the need for one platform that offers merchants an online shop but also connects them to sell on all other platforms from one central place.
What were you doing before launching your business?
I had a long career as a business analyst in IT departments in investment banks. My work experience on IT projects gave me an insight into how to build an IT based company.
Have you always dreamed of starting a business?
Yes, definitely. The prospect of starting a business has always been my goal. Starting a business has its advantages and disadvantages but it is certainly a very demanding experience.
How did you finance your business?
I used my personal funds and received a grant from Elmbridge start-up fund to finance the initial software release.
Explain your business model and how you make money.
Our business model starts with the merchant. We understand the merchant's problem and offer them solutions suited to their situations. Some merchants are startups but others are already established and need more sophisticated online shops.
We then offer the merchant the right online shop and work with them to understand their marketplace and know where their customers are, such as their geographic location; their preferences. We then offer them a complete marketing plan to make them a successful shop online. It is a win-win situation for us and for the merchant.
What are the main challenges you have faced? And how did you overcome them?
Our main challenge was with being found on the search engines. Our competitors had an advantage over us whilst we were struggling to be found by anybody.
We hired search engine optimisation experts to help us get found online by prospective customers.
Our main challenge is still being known to the public and this is why we are in touch with you.
What has your experience been of starting a business during a pandemic?
It has taught us how to be lean and adapt to circumstances quickly. We also learned that stressful times are times that we can draw lessons from.
Describe your first breakthrough.
Our breakthrough was when we started seeing our brand being known and getting clients. This is when we knew that we were in business.
How has Brexit impacted your business? Do you think it will in the future?
Brexit has impacted our small business clients very much because they find it difficult to export to the EU.
Additionally, our platform needed to know how to calculate the right charges for an EU customer. This will need us to make changes on our side to accommodate this change.
What advice would you give to other aspiring business owners?
I know setting up a business is hard but it is worth your time, and regardless of the outcome, you will learn valuable lessons.
What is one resolution you have for your business this year?
Expand and get successful and known more in the market.
How do you see your business developing in the next three years?
Getting into more markets, especially the US market and China.
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