The Omyx Club: Edward Johnson
The serial entrepreneur, and A-levels drop-out, talks about his new lifestyle club for discerning gay men "who want something different"
Tell us what your business does:
The Omyx Club is a lifestyle club for professional or retired gay men who want something different from the current gay scene in London.
Offering a wide range of services for men looking for a more sophisticated space to socialise, date, network, travel and more, The Omyx Club will operate online through a dedicated website with a mobile app planned for later in the year, and will offer a variety of stylish social events in London.
When you register an account you can mark out your profile to tell other members what you’re looking to use your Omyx Club membership for – whether it’s romance, socialising, professional networking, travel, the concierge, events or indeed all of the above! This gives other members the ability to instantly see who else is looking to use our members club to explore professional opportunities.
Where did the idea for your business come from?
The Omyx Club was born to address the growing feeling amongst my own friends and colleagues that many websites and apps aimed at gay men fail to acknowledge and address the social, cultural, and romantic aspects of life.
As a gay man myself, while a night out in a gay bar once in a while can be fun, it generally isn’t the sort of environment I would use to meet new like-minded friends or to find romance.
How did you know there was a market for it?
The market research we conducted whilst constructing The Omyx Club further reinforced my view, as well as that of my friends and colleagues – highlighting that the regular gay scene was “unappealing” to most. It was really useful to conduct this research, as it helped us develop something specifically for the audience we had in mind.
What were you doing before starting up?
I actually dropped out of school mid-way through my A Levels, having been offered a job by the CEO of an advertising agency. I ‘tweeted’ the CEO asking for a job, which admittedly was rather a long-shot. But then, if you don’t ask, you don’t get.
We then made arrangements to meet and three days later he made me a job offer I couldn’t refuse. I don’t think he knew I was 17 at the time!
I have also worked in a number of agency and client-side digital marketing roles, managing display advertising and email marketing campaigns for the likes of John Lewis, B&Q, easyJet, LEGO, Canon, eBay, HSBC and Zoopla.
In June 2016, I left my position at Zoopla in order to pursue the Omyx Club development full-time, having secured investment for the business just two months earlier.
Have you always wanted to run your own business?
Absolutely. But it’s been a lot harder than I first thought it would be! I’ve run smaller start-ups before, such as SuitLink, although that became a non-profit project rather than anything else.
I’ve never had a company with investors that’s been a real business. It’s something I’ve always wanted though and I do really love it.
How did you raise the money?
The Omyx Club has been lucky enough to receive backing from a number of high profile investors including John Dauth, an Australian diplomat and the first openly gay Australian high commissioner.
It’s been fantastic to have such a supportive network of investors behind the business, and they completely share our vision for the concept.
Describe your business model and how you make money:
Our business model is made up of several different revenue streams including membership subscriptions, event ticket sales, travel commission and sponsorship partnerships; with further plans to add to these.
What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?
Probably the biggest challenge is finding the time to get everything done. It’s always easy to work out a plan of action but actually, when push comes to shove, there are things you don’t factor in and because there are so many new things to take into consideration too, it’s a constant learning curve.
I’m very lucky that I’ve got investors who’ve been through it all before and they’ve been a huge help. It’s even the little things which can become big challenges when you’re not sure about the legal jargon in shareholders’ agreements or the process required with accountants.
We’ve got brilliant lawyers and accountants, both of whom are very supportive and experienced with start-up companies; so that helps!
What was your first big breakthrough?
Undoubtedly it was securing our first investment. Having funds put into a business when it’s just a concept and nothing more is a challenge but I was incredibly lucky to have been introduced to a friend a couple of years ago who became our first investor. He brought on board another of our investors and together we found a few more!
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
Be certain that it’s what you want. Being an entrepreneur is by no means a quick-win or get-rich-quick scheme. I used to think I’d love every moment of it but the truth is that it’s not all enjoyable! I’m pretty exhausted, rather stressed and fairly terrified too at the moment.
Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t have it any other way, but it is a lot harder than everyone first imagines. People who say it’s easy haven’t done it.
Where do you want to be in five years' time?
I’d love to be running a globally reaching Omyx Club, with some brilliant colleagues, investors and members worldwide too.