Spices of India: Bill Stevenson

How Bill Stevenson combined IT with a passion for Indian food

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Company name: Spices of India
Founder: Bill Stevenson
Age: 42
Based: Wimborne, Dorset
Staff Numbers: Myself and my wife
Date started: Jan 2006

Bill Stevenson combined his knowledge of the IT industry with a passion for Indian food to set up his online shop. He reveals the ups and downs of his first year.

Tell us what your business does
Spices of India is an ‘online only’ Indian groceries shop, www.spicesofindia.co.uk. It specialises in all types of Indian food and associated products.

Where did the idea for your business come from?
The idea came from my IT background, my passion for cooking (and eating) Indian food and a business concept of selling ‘widgets to the masses’. Historically, as an IT consultant, I would work for a handful of clients on thousand pound contracts. With this business model I wanted to sell to thousands of customers for smaller sums of money.

What planning did you do before you started?
I did some basic market research but because the intended marketplace was not particularly well-formed – most of it was on ‘gut-feel’. The business plan was fairly lucid and has evolved over the past year.

How did you raise the money?
I invested tens of thousands of my, and my wife’s savings. Primarily to purchase stock but also for marketing activities and business premises fees. The cost of the website development is now well over £100,000.

How did you find suppliers?
Finding suppliers is very difficult, and the more products I stock the harder it becomes to find yet newer/different products/supplies. I plan to eventually import directly from India.

Where is your business based?
I started out at home then moved into my first commercial premises after about 6 months. I’m moving to larger premises in March 2007.

How have you promoted your business?
My conclusion after spending £20,000 on advertising in the last year is to concentrate on good organic search engine rankings alone with good reputable links from industry leading companies/websites. Using the Actinic ecommerce software helps as it uses static HTML pages which are search-engine friendly. i.e. all the text on every page in the site, including product names and descriptions, is visible to the search engines.

What has your growth been like?
Growth has been reasonable. In year one – I covered all my costs, didn’t pay myself or my wife but I expect to take a small salary in year 2. By year 3 we hope to be purely managing the business and have both salary and time out!

What’s the impact on your home life been like?
Hell! Neither of us has a social life at the moment and the kids don’t get as much time as they should. But at least when we’re working at home we do see the kids.

What would you do differently?
In say 2 years time, I would expect to look back and, with the benefit of hindsight, say I should have gone with my gut feel and employed 2 additional people from the outset!

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