Mysteries in Time: Peter Walliker and Samantha Metcalf
Already on the receiving end of praise from Theo Paphitis, this subscription service can look forward to a bright future...by looking back at the past!
Tell us what your business does:
Mysteries in Time is an educational subscription box designed to bring history to life for 7 to 11 year olds.
Each month, subscribers receive a time machine postal box packed with high-quality, fun activities, all linked to a different period in history. Central to the concept is an illustrated story, written exclusively for Mysteries in Time, which follows two characters as they go back in time to solve a mystery.
Through a combination of fiction, non-fiction, crafts and fun puzzles, children will gain a solid understanding of a different historical time each month, while being inspired to love history!
Where did the idea for your business come from?
After both taking a career break to travel, we were keen to combine our different strengths to create and develop our own business. My background was in accountancy, and coupled with Metcalf's career as a primary school teacher, it led us to the decision that an education-based business was the ideal path to go down.
We were aware of the growing subscription box market, so we spent months researching those on offer for children. We soon realised that there was no history-based subscription box on the UK market and started to establish the concept of Mysteries in Time. It seemed obvious to us that this was a gap that fitted with our skill set.
How did you know there was a market for it?
There is already an established market for children’s subscription boxes in the UK. However, these tend to be more craft-based and aimed at younger children. There are no subscriptions based around history, a subject which we feel has endless possibilities.
We tested our idea by setting up a landing page to see if we could gather interest and we soon received a number of sign-ups. We also received feedback from people with children who tested the boxes and enjoyed the experience, which gave us some validation that it could work.
What were you doing before starting up?
Metcalf: I was a primary school teacher in an inner-city London primary school. I love teaching, but my career break made me realise how stressful the teaching profession has become. I was ready for a change and I am excited that I can combine my experience in education with this venture
Walliker: I was an accountant in a private equity firm in London. It was a great place to work. I gained a great deal of experience and learnt a lot, but, after seven years, I was ready for a new challenge.
Have you always wanted to run your own business?
Walliker: Yes. I have always had an aspiration to start my own business. The timing was perfect, because we were both at a point in our careers where we wanted a change in direction.
How did you raise the money?
We are self-funded at the moment.
Describe your business model and how you make money:
It is a typical subscription model, in which the customer signs up to receive the product on a monthly basis, with the option to cancel their subscription at any time.
What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?
Developing the product and learning how to promote it. It has certainly been a steep learning curve! We believe that you can learn to do most things and if something is a bit much then there are plenty of skilled people you can call on for help and advice. We have been impressed by the supportive network on social media.
What was your first big breakthrough?
We were thrilled to be selected as one of the winners of Theo Paphitis’ weekly Twitter campaign “Small Business Sunday” on 18th July 2016.
As a result of this win, we gained invaluable coverage as Theo retweeted our business to his 500,000 Twitter followers. The weekly initiative, set up by Theo in 2010, now has 1,700 #SBS winners and supports small businesses in the UK.
It gives real validation to our business idea, and has given us further confidence and energy to push the business to the next level. Since winning, we have seen a large increase in our Twitter following and have experienced a great support network amongst previous winners. We have already made some local contacts and are excited to see where this coverage takes us from here.
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
Gain some early validation that there is a market for your product and then go for it. It is a long, hard process and the biggest obstacle in trying to get a new venture off the ground is your own self-doubt.
Don’t be put off by a few people being negative or lacking enthusiasm for your idea; some people just won’t get it! Focus on your target market. And be confident!
Where do you want to be in five years' time?
In five years’ time, we hope to have established Mysteries in Time as a recognisable brand within the subscription box and education markets. We want to grow our subscriber base and further develop a fun and unique resource for children to enjoy learning about history.
We have many ideas about how to develop the brand, for example extending our product offering by creating a version for younger children. In addition to inspiring a love of history, we hope to have built a reputation for having a quality product.