Just Started – Gary Styles: Zellar

More than three quarters of SMEs want to be greener, but don’t know where to start. Enter Zellar, a digital platform that’s making sustainability easier than ever for small business owners.

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Written and reviewed by:
Helena Young

Name of founder: Gary Styles
Age of the founder: 47
Location: London
Date launched: September 2021
Number of employees:14

What does your business do?

Zellar is the world’s first community platform making sustainability simple, accessible and affordable for small businesses across the UK. It’s a one-stop-shop that brings together everything businesses need to become Net Zero and more in one platform starting from just £125 per year.

Where did the idea for your business come from?

I’m a father of five children and I worry about their future in the face of the climate crisis, so I wanted to do something that would make a real difference. Small and medium-sized enterprises make up 99.9% of all businesses in the UK and employ 60% of the workforce, so I wanted to create a platform that would help them to reduce their environmental impact.

We can’t solve the climate issues without these businesses so I developed Zellar to lead the way and help thousands of SMEs around the country accelerate their sustainability journey and reach Net Zero by 2030. While the government target is 2050, I believe we can – and should – meet this goal much faster.

How did you know there was a market for it?

From our research, we found that the majority of UK SMEs want to become more sustainable but 78% don’t know where to start. Larger companies often have dedicated sustainability departments but this type of resource isn’t usually available to small businesses. The range of consultants, brokers and apps they have to rely on are often expensive, time consuming and not as effective as they could be. We knew SMEs were in need of an affordable, easy and effective pathway to help them reach Net Zero.

What were you doing before launching your business?

After building up experience as an equities trader, in 1998 I moved into the energy retail market as co-founder of Online Direct; a company providing software and back office services to energy suppliers, comparison sites and brokers – generating £3bn of energy transactions. In 2013, I became a co-founder of Broker Online Exchange, which is now the largest retail energy network in North America.

Have you always dreamed of starting a business?

I’m not sure it’s necessarily something I’d always dreamed of – I don’t really see myself as an entrepreneur – but I am motivated by solving challenges and the way I’ve done this in my career has been through founding and scaling successful businesses.

How did you finance your business?

I believe climate change is the biggest issue of our generation. I’m so passionate about trying to find a solution that I put £2 million of my own funds towards developing the platform.

Explain your business model and how you make money.

Subscription to the Zellar platform is available from £125 per year.

What are the main challenges you have faced? And how did you overcome them?

Climate change is complex and finding the right business model has been a big challenge. I had to create something that gives clear value to all stakeholders, business owners, consumers, suppliers, etc. I overcame this by spending lots of time in front of a digital whiteboard and talking to customers. Finding the right people with the right skills and building the right culture is a challenge that all start-ups will experience.

What has your experience been of starting a business during a pandemic?

Overall, it’s actually been positive. There are challenges, of course, related to building and running a business remotely but our team has worked so hard to get the platform up and running and out in the public. The need for business sustainability solutions is so great that we needed to act, whatever obstacles (and pandemic-related issues) were thrown our way.

Describe your first breakthrough.

Unlocking Scope2 emission data for small business owners. They no longer need to rely on energy suppliers for this data and are able to benchmark themselves against similar businesses regardless of who supplies their energy

How has Brexit impacted your business? Do you think it will in the future?

We’re a software business and I see no direct impact of Brexit. This might change as we look to expand into Europe and guess we’ll tackle it like any other challenge.

What advice would you give to other aspiring business owners?

I genuinely think all businesses should consider their environmental impact. Taking actions to become more sustainable can actually save businesses money by saving energy and attracting new customers etc. I believe that businesses that aren’t choosing to go green now won’t be in business in a few years.

What is one resolution you have for your business this year?

We’ve been so pleased to see so many SMEs sign up to the platform since our launch in September but our main goal this year is to reach as many small businesses as possible and help them take the first steps to reducing their environmental impact.

How do you see your business developing in the next three years?

Initially, Zellar aims to help six thousand UK small businesses become more sustainable. We also have plans to expand internationally in future.

If you’re a business owner with a startup that’s less than six months old, apply now to feature as one of our Just Started business profiles.

Written by:
Helena Young
Helena is Lead Writer at Startups. As resident people and premises expert, she's an authority on topics such as business energy, office and coworking spaces, and project management software. With a background in PR and marketing, Helena also manages the Startups 100 Index and is passionate about giving early-stage startups a platform to boost their brands. From interviewing Wetherspoon's boss Tim Martin to spotting data-led working from home trends, her insight has been featured by major trade publications including the ICAEW, and news outlets like the BBC, ITV News, Daily Express, and HuffPost UK.

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