Musiq Trader Ltd: Naimish Gohil

While working 14-hour days for someone else, Naimish Gohil realised that he should go it alone. He tells us about his new business

Name: Naimish Gohil Age: 24 Business: MusiqTrader Ltd (http://www.musiqtrader.co.uk) Type of business: Online Advertising Service for Musicians and Music Businesses Start date: Feb 2006

When did you first decide you wanted to start up your own business? Ever since I can remember, I have always wanted to run my own business. Once I left university I worked for a telecommunications company, regularly working 14 hour days on a project.

During this time it really made me think what I could achieve if I put this much time and effort into my own business. Soon after, I decided that starting up my own business was what I definitely wanted to do.

Tell us about your business MusiqTrader.co.uk is an online market place for budding musicians to buy and sell musical instruments from other like-minded musicians and local music shops.

It’s a niche market and we’ve developed an online advertising service that’s catered especially for musicians and one that will help independent music shops and businesses reach new out to new customers, who otherwise would be out of their scope, in terms of location.

Was it your first business idea and where did it come from? I’ve explored a few business ideas in the past but have never really followed them through. MusiqTrader has been the first venture I’ve really researched and worked on, on a full time basis with a 110% focus.

The idea of MusiqTrader came about when I was going through a phase where I wanted to play the guitar. I spent ages looking around for a second hand guitar. Through this digging around I spotted a gap for an online service for musicians to meet, buy and sell musical instruments via just one port of a call.

Was your decision to start a business inspired by any other companies or individuals? People like Simon Woodruff and the trio from Innocent Drinks, Janus Friis and Niklas Zennström, founders of Skype are great inspirations.

What inspires me is the growth and success that can be achieved through business within such a short space of time. You just can’t compare or reach this kind of progression working for someone else and that’s what really excites me about business and MusiqTrader.

What makes you think there’s a market for your business? According to the Music Industry Association, in the UK there are 28 million people that want to play a musical instrument. The government, the Arts Council and the music industry are investing and funding new initiatives and projects from all across the UK to promote playing music.

Likewise the amount spent on online advertising is increasing each year and the internet is becoming more and more specific, organised and sophisticated. People are searching for exactly what they need and looking for services that provide exactly that.

Our aim is to make MusiqTrader the central place online for musicians and music shops to buy and sell instruments.

Once you’d decided to start a business, what did you do first?I made Google my best friend and spent hours upon hours researching the market I was planning to enter. Before I decided to invest any kind of money I wanted to make sure there was a clear need for MusiqTrader within the marketplace.

What research did you do? I visited music schools and music shops across London to talk to people with a vested interest in music about MusiqTrader and the service I was proposing to offer.

I carried out a lot of primary research which included questionnaires and focus groups with musicians which allowed me to really establish what musicians needed through MusiqTrader and of what benefit it could potentially be.

What advice did you seek? I must have contacted every business support centre within the London area. To be honest, I found with most of these, the processes were just too bureaucratic. I’m a very enthusiastic person but when I was seeking advice from some of these support centres my energy levels were being drained.

The exception to this was the support I received from the Prince’s Trust. I have met people there that have taken a wholehearted interest in my business and are continuing to take a vivid interest even now. It really feels as if the people at the Trust genuinely want me to succeed.

What other help did you get?My family and the close circle of friends that I have were crucial in helping me get where I am so far. Without their support, I don’t know whether I would have had the confidence to have started up MusiqTrader. Having people you can trust and who offer their time for free is just priceless. Does the government need to provide more help to people trying to start a business? I’m not a 100% sure on that one. I think in London people are blessed with opportunities through so many different organisations.

Where I feel the government and these schemes could offer more, is by providing services where starts ups actually had access to professionals that can actually get involved more on a practical basis and do more of the support work.

Business is very much about the ‘doing’ aspect. I just feel right now that there are too many services that offer just advice, whereas all the ‘action’ is left to the individual.

Talk us through the process of writing your business plan. With my business plan, I knew that I wanted to keep it as concise and straight to the point as possible. I didn’t want a 200-page dossier that I was never going to look at. I wanted something that I could easily refer to.

My Prince’s Trust support manager was crucial with helping me with my business plan and ensuring that I developed a plan that was as sound as possible and one that was as easy to read as it was relevant to the matter in hand.

How useful has your business plan been and do you think you’ll stick to it as your business begins to grow? My business plan helps me to see some very important aspects of my business in simple terms. Things such as: What MusiqTrader is all about? Who are our customers? What are our unique selling points? What key benefits do we offer? Why do musicians and music shops need us? Where do we want to be in 12 months time?

Since going online, the business plan and the business has evolved, although the fundamental goal is still the same. We want MusiqTrader to be a household name for musicians, just as Autotrader is for cars.

How much did it cost to start the business? I’ve invested around £8,000 so far. This could have been a lot more but being from a technology background myself I have been able to utilise my technology skills and knowledge to their maximum.

How did you fund this? MusiqTrader has been funded through two main avenues, with those being personal savings and the loan provided by the Prince’s Trust. In order to get the loan, I had to present a business plan and pitch my idea to a panel at the Prince’s Trust, in a way, almost like it is done on the BBC’s Dragons Den.

Similarly, how are you funding your running costs until the business takes off? The business is currently turning over enough to cover running costs.

Have you made any provisions for the business not being as prosperous as expected? We have an excellent range of technology skills within the team and due to demand for our unique web skills we have been able to offer bespoke web development and organic search engine optimisation services to generate additional revenue.

Therefore if MusiqTrader didn’t work out, we could channel our skills for the benefits of others, in essence.

When did you cease working for your last employer? September 2005. It has been the best thing I have ever done.

Are you working from home or from premises? At the moment MusiqTrader is run from an office in my home. Primarily MusiqTrader is an online advertising service and for that reason we don’t have the need for premises. We employ people and contractors but they have their own base. We ensure that we have open and consistent communication on a daily basis via email and Skype. It saves us money and keeps cost down. With continual growth, however, we do understand the need to move into larger premises in order to support our clients.

How many hours are you working at the moment? I regularly work between 12-14 hours a day, six days a week. To be honest, business can be very lonely but majority of the time I work on adrenaline and it doesn’t feel like work.

When you enjoy something you do so much, being tired just doesn’t come into it. While I am young I really want to work as hard as I can.

How are you managing your day and what steps have you taken to ensure you’re able to get everything done without MusiqTrader eating into your Social Life, for example? In the early days of MusiqTrader, I would skip and jump to different tasks and things during the day, never really sticking to a plan because something would always come up while juggling development issues with legal issues and so on. However, I now have a regular list of activities I carry out on a daily basis. This involves search engine optimisation, making my daily calls to clients, adding new pages, spending time monitoring our competitors and building links with new partners and music organisations online. I still manage to clock up 14 hours a day though!

What about staff, is it just you? We have a team of 8 people, who are working for the good of the business and do not at present take a salary. As the business is developing, some work full time while others just part time. I’m really grateful to all those involved. Finding good people to get on board is a challenge; finding exceptional people is almost impossible.

I believe start up businesses need exceptional people with defined skills set to carry out a specific job within the business. You also need people that are as enthusiastic as yourself about the business.

I have been lucky enough to find some exceptional people through friends and networking. These people are the backbone of MusiqTrader and have made it what it is today, and also what it could be, potentially, in the future.

Is the amount of red tape that comes with taking on an employee something that concerns you? There is, but I feel that this is just part of the business process and something that you have to deal with. I would recommend if one can afford it, to get some professional advice or service. It may cost a little but it will save you time and allow you to concentrate more on running and growing the business.

What marketing and advertising have you done so far? To be honest we have only spent in the region of about £600 since Feb 2006. 90% of our visitors have found MusiqTrader through the search engines, via word of mouth and press releases.

Where do you hope to be in 12 months time? We have a defined target which we want to reach. We want to increase our monthly visitors to at least 50,000 a month. We want MusiqTrader to be a central place for music shops from across the UK and hence in the process to increase our online community by 50%. I believe that this is well within our capabilities.

What are the main obstacles to growth? Online advertising and the use of technology within our field is still fairly new. We work in a market that is very traditional in terms of the current advertising and marketing methods used by musicians and music businesses and services out there. We’re working towards changing this.

How do you plan to overcome these? For us it’s about educating this market and building our relationships so that we can work alongside leading music organisations, trade unions and services that have a strong influence with large music communities from across the UK.

Tell us about your website. Our website is the single most important aspect and asset of our business. It brings in 95% of our revenue. I would like to think of it as more then just a website. It’s a bespoke online advertising service built in-house for the buying and selling music community.

Like all development it’s taken longer than we anticipated but this has been largely due to the fact that we’ve developed it with feedback from musicians at every stage. In the end this has proved to have been worth it from the number of people who have been visiting our site and the usage it has had in its short period online.

What are your main ambitions? To make a lot of money or to Enjoy what you do? First and foremost I want to be successful. I want MusiqTrader to be a household name for musicians. Hopefully the success we achieve will generate money.

We wouldn’t be a business if money wasn’t a fundamental part of the business. It is the life and blood of our existence. At the same time we want to ensure that we continue to provide our customers with a comprehensive service and one that is excellent value for money.

What have you found difficult about starting up and what do you wish you’d done differently? Getting the right kind of support from the right kind of people at the right time has been difficult and frustrating. I was attending all these seminars and enterprise meeting and just not getting enough from them.

At the start I was attending every free course running. Looking back, maybe this wasn’t such a great idea as I was getting to much advice from too many people.

Having one organisation that really wants to support and get involved in helping you is definitely much better than working with several different support services.

What skills and personal characteristics do you need to start your own business? I believe you need enthusiasm, energy and complete belief in yourself and in your business. You need skills to manage people, to get the best out of them. You mustn’t be afraid to work hard because there really are no short cuts.

Most importantly I believe you need to make sales, it’s the blood of the business and to support this you need to have a vision for how you see the company and where you want to take it in the next 6 months, 12 months and so on.

Taking the criticisms and knocks along the way is also fundamental, as it definitely makes you mentally stronger, and gives you the drive to overcome hurdles which you have come across.

So what advice would you give to anyone thinking of starting a business? Do your homework and make Google your new best friend! Don’t think you can do everything yourself because you can’t. Get advice and support as it’s out there. Most importantly really love what you do.

It will show in your business and the enthusiasm will rub off on your staff, right through to your customers! There really is no feeling like running your own business.

Thanks a lot and the very best of luck. Will you come back and tell us how you’re getting on in six months’ time? Of course, I would love to. The next six months will be very exciting for us because we’re launching a .com version and going multilingual so we’ll definitely keep you posted.

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