Ovo Energy: Stephen Fitzpatrick
The co-founder of Ovo Energy on taking on the industry giants and shaking up the fuel market
Company name: Ovo Energy
Founder: Stephen Fitzpatrick and Kris Black
Based: Cirencester, Gloucestershire
Staff numbers: 28
Date started: 2 September 2009
Tell us what your business does:
Energy customers deserve a better deal, and we've built Ovo to deliver just that: excellent value, great service and simplified tariffs. We are the newest entrant into the UK energy market, supplying gas and electricity to domestic and commercial properties. As well as being one of the cheapest suppliers in the UK, we also offer the greenest standard dual fuel tariff in the market -so you can do your bit for the environment without paying a premium.
Where did the idea for your business come from?
We see the energy sector going the same way as telecoms- becoming a bigger part of everyday life, even more so over the next decade. We are all becoming more concerned about the environment we live in, and with the recent debate in the news over energy prices and the renewed environmental interests at Copenhagen, energy is becoming a hot topic. We saw a gap in the market and, fed up with the service we have received ourselves, saw it as the perfect opportunity to bring a fresh approach to energy supply in a mature industry.
Have you always wanted to run your own business?
Ovo is not actually the first company I've started- after leaving Edinburgh University I launched The Rental Guide Ltd, which became a successful property newspaper in Scotland. My parents also ran their own company, so being entrepreneurial and running a company has always been part of my background.
How have you promoted your business?
The key to Ovo was about simplifying the market- making energy easy to understand for our customers. We focused on tactical PR and developed our website, which was vital in reaching out to the public. We also had great media impact in the first few weeks, with many of our customers joining us through word of mouth, or after reading about Ovo in the news.
What about staff?
Ovo has grown rapidly right from the launch in September. One of the best things about running your own company is the jobs you can create, particularly in the current downturn with high unemployment. We've gone from just three of us to over 28 members of staff, and have really developed a great close-knit team. We're also involved with the government campaign ‘Backing Young Britain' and have hired five interns, with two already moving onto permanent positions. Such growth is exciting, and we are continuing to recruit into 2010.
What has your growth been like?
Through offering simple tariffs, great prices and customer service where we value every person we speak to, we've found that we have resonated with a huge amount of people over the past three months. We are determined to challenge the old image of the industry, and feel people have been waiting for this change. With the environment and energy costs at the forefront of people's minds, now is the best time to switch supplier and it's great that people have chosen Ovo. We have exceeded our growth forecast for the first quarter, which we hope to continue into 2010.
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
It's a bit of a cliché but researching the business essential. I do not believe that you have to have years of experience in your chosen field but you do have to know it inside out. Also, whilst necessity is a great motivator, I think having stable personal finances can make taking business risks a lot more manageable. Lastly, make sure you have a clear vision of a long term goal. Spend a lot of time planning and visualising success and make sure that it is a big enough goal to keep you excited. There will be many days when you think you want to throw in the towel and at those times you need to remember what got you started in the first place.
Where do you want to be in five years' time?
We have three ambitions for Ovo within five years: one, to be established as a real alternative to the larger energy suppliers with our fresh approach continuing to challenge the old ways of the industry. Two, we want to be one of the best employers in the UK, and be able to fulfil our commitment to our team. Finally, we hope to have invested in our own Ovo energy generation to continue the shift towards a renewable energy future.