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Ch!tzo: Richard Gwatkin

Ch!tzo is an online lifestyle planner aiming to put the ‘social’ back into social media

Names of founders: Richard Gwatkin

Location: Birmingham

Date Launched: 28th November 2019

Number of employees: 12

Age of founders: 39

Website: https://www.chitzo.com/

Instagram: chitzolife

How do you keep the kids entertained during the half-term holidays? Founder Richard Gwatkin discusses how this common problem led to the launch of lifestyle planner Ch!tzo.  

Tell us what your business does:

Ch!tzo is a new lifestyle planner designed to satisfy every aspect of peoples’ social lives through a powerful search facility that lists social activities and events spanning the UK. 

Founded by entrepreneur and West Midlands-based business leader, Richard Gwatkin, Ch!tzo has been created to put the ‘social’ back into social media, after advances in technology have changed how people interact and engage with one another.

Where did the idea for your business come from?

The original idea for Ch!tzo came from a problem during half-term holidays, when we were trying to keep the kids entertained without needing to take out a second mortgage – whilst also really struggling to find something to do on demand.

When looking online, platforms like TripAdvisor showed you different pubs or venues but provided no information about events or activities taking place, whereas other platforms like Eventbrite only showed ticketed events. There was no digital solution – without excessive Googling – for people to find things to do at short notice. Enter Ch!tzo.

How did you know there was a market for it?

It was an idea that cultivated over a period of time – where we were being faced with the same sort of problems that Ch!tzo now resolves – before taking the steps to verify the validity of a business.

What were you doing before starting up?

For the past six and a half years I was a business consultant: the focus was very much on differentiation, innovation and optimisation of businesses both in the SME and Corporate space, across a variety of sectors. This, along with all my other experiences, has really come in use since starting Ch!tzo.

Have you always wanted to run your own business?

Yes and no. Of course, running your own business is desirable for any aspirational person out there, and among other things, it’s exciting, challenging and rewarding, so who wouldn’t? 

However, I am quite risk averse, so I needed to be sure there was a robust business model that sat behind Ch!tzo before deciding to proceed.

Within just a few months of starting Ch!tzo, I know I’ve done the right thing and thoroughly enjoy the challenge that comes with building and growing a startup business.

How did you raise the money?

The first round of funding came via private equity investment, where we have secured the support of multiple financial backers who believe in the success of the platform.

We are now assessing our financing model and looking at potential future rounds of investment to support our growth aspirations, both in the short and long-term.

What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?

Thankfully, I have a great team around me so I think they have helped reduce the significance of the challenges we have faced. However, I would say securing funding has been the most difficult thing.

I’m sure there will be many more challenges on the way, but I am in no doubt that we will be able to overcome them in the same way we did the funding – with a pragmatic, focused and flexible approach.

What was your first big breakthrough?

I don’t think there has been one big ‘breakthrough’ as such, but there has certainly been several things that have happened along the way that have helped us progress so far in such a short space of time. Every time this has happened, it has shown us that what we are doing is right, and that we are building a great business.

What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?

The same advice I usually give when doing business mentoring with school leavers and pretty much to anyone actually – it’s really simple: Be the best you can, always. 

Firstly, if you really try your best, you’ll almost always achieve something great and exceed expectations. But it’s very rare for people to be able to say “I really tried my best and there’s nothing more I could’ve done”.

There’s obviously many more points than this but when you try and be the best you can be with absolutely everything, it creates a permanent mentality of wanting to do things well. It also helps you to not rest on your laurels, and if you’re honest with yourself, you'll recognise where you could’ve done better. Since focusing on this philosophy, I’ve experienced great rewards on both a professional and personal level.

Where do you want to be in five years’ time?

I would like to be running Ch!tzo as an international operation. We believe that it has great benefits for everyday use, but it would also be such a powerful tool to have if you could use it when planning for, or even when on, a holiday – helping users find things to do abroad.

My main aspiration is to deliver this for our users – helping to put the ‘social’ back into social media, even when overseas.

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Scarlett Cook
Scarlett Cook

Scarlett writes for the automotive, energy, hosting and website sections of the site. In addition, she promotes the newest small businesses by managing the Just Started profiles, and has also contributed to Tech Donut. Scarlett is passionate about championing equality and sustainability in business.