Only15Quid.com: Ben Luck

Teenager Ben Luck has just started up his own website creation company

With the help of his former boss, teenager Ben Luck has started up Only15Quid.com while also holding down a full-time job. He tells Startups.co.uk how he’s getting on.

Name: Ben Luck Age: 19 Business: Only15quid.com Type of business: Website Provision Start date: 1st July 2004

When did you first decide you wanted to start your own business? I would like to say that it was a conscious decision with the whole thing planned out, but it wasn’t, far from it. I started making websites easier for people out of necessity as I was looking after too many for my friends. From there it just became obvious that there was a need for a non-technical way of creating sites. I have a full time job so Only15quid.com has been developed in free time.

Tell us about your business Only15quid.com makes it possible for everyone to have a website for the price of a birthday present with absolutely no requirement for any technical know-how; you just point and click and drag and drop and the changes you make are immediately live.

Was it your first business idea and where did it come from?No, it was not my first business idea, but it was the first one that got further than home use. On a number of occasions I have thought ‘oh that would be neat’ but never got round to doing anything about it.

Was your decision to start a business inspired by any other companies or individuals? A previous boss of mine Mark helped me with getting started. He gave me confidence that it was a good idea and that there would be a market for it – he also now helps me with the running of the business as I build up experience. It is definitely easier to make clear progress when you have someone you can bounce ideas off.

What makes you think there’s a market for your business? The market for the business was always staring me in the face i.e. if great websites were free and just happened remotely then everyone would have one wouldn’t they, from the grandchild to the grandparent, pets even. The only question in my mind was whether Only15quid.com would be the right product to address that market.

Once you’d decided to start a business, what did you do first? Like I said, it just happened without too much conscious thought. It was as I was developing the product that I started to think ‘this could be really good’. I happened to have a conversation with Mark and the structure of the business and a programme of advancement really followed from there.

What research did you do?I checked out all comparable products on the Internet, well all website building products available, and none of them were comparable to what I was developing, and those that were at all familiar were charging ridiculous amounts of money, mostly in the US.

What advice did you seek? Apart from my family and friends I did not speak to anyone about it, probably because I was too busy.

If I had a need for finance or premises then I guess I would have had to talk to someone else, but as it was it was just my own time that was needed and Mark was always at the other end of the computer to help with business questions leaving me to focus on the product itself as much as possible.

How useful has your business plan been and do you think you’ll stick to it as your business begins to grow? Only15quid.com has nearly gone off the end of the business plan already, which does tend to obsolete it somewhat. However, the plan did project forward in one sentence that it was possible for the business to grow exponentially and that at the beginning everything should be in place to make this possible, which we have done.

Have you made any provisions for business not being as prosperous as expected? Most certainly! I thought it was more likely that the business would be small scale and that would be fine. I am still surprised at how popular it is.

When did you stop working? I still have a full-time job and will continue to do so. Only15quid.com development is done in the evenings and weekends – the site runs itself administratively.

Are you working from home or from premises? Only15quid.com is a true Internet business in that I could be anywhere. The business is registered on the Isle of Wight as Mark lives there.

In the unlikely event that we need more people then they will also work from wherever suits them, I can’t imagine us ever needing an office, certainly if there were any processes that we could not automate then my tendency would be to outsource them so that the business sticks to what it is good at.

How many hours are you working at the moment? Before launching the site at the beginning of July I was working most evenings and part of the weekend. Now however I do a few hours here and there working on future options for the site such as the incredibly cheap on-line shop front which will come out in a few months time.

How are you managing your day and what steps have you taking to ensure you’re able to get everything done without working around the clock? Everything is more measured now that the business is up and running. A month is a very long time for an Internet business!

A couple of times in the pre-launch phase I worked late into the night but now things are more relaxed. I have a programme of developments that I discuss with Mark and he then helps me to stick to it so that I don’t end up with a backlog.

What about staff, is it just you? It’s just the two of us, which works really well. Of course I get lots of help from my family and friends but Mark and I have a very clear and easy going decision making process. If we need more staff in the future then I would expect them also to be friends working from home.

What marketing and advertising have you done so far? None, this is the first piece of publicity I have been asked to do – all sales have been by word of mouth as originally planned.

I guess you could say that Mark and I moving our e-mail addresses over to Only15quid.com ones was our marketing, but apart from that it has just been like a snowball rolling down a hill gathering momentum. When someone buys a site, others look at it, see the icon in the corner or ask the owner about it and so on.

Where do you hope to be in 12 months time? This is a tough question, as I cannot see where the business will be a month’s time let alone a year, who knows what effect this interview will have for example. All I can say is that if it carries on mushrooming as it is at the moment then it could do £500k by the end of year 1.

What are the main obstacles to growth? Fashion I guess, in the sense that it will either continue to appeal or something else will take over – but until every man and his dog has a website then it is likely to carry on appealing.

How do you plan to overcome these? There are no business barriers to overcome as far as I can see, apart from ensuring we don’t end up with any admin. There will be some technical challenges I am sure especially if response continues to be at the top end of the spectrum but I look forward to learning how to overcome these.

What are your main ambitions, to make a lot of money or enjoy what you do?

Enjoyment is the driver, by a factor of 10. It has been hard work but great fun and it continues to be enjoyable.

I am pleased to have found a solution for all my friends and it makes me smile that it may help loads of other people too. The fact that it may make some money is incidental and I will have to see how I react to that if and when it happens.

What skills and personal characteristics do you need to start your own business? I guess common sense helps, as it is very easy to get wrapped up in your own ideas. You definitely need a bit of stamina and a few extra tins of coffee!

Also, keeping it in perspective – if it doesn’t work then never mind, if I took it all too seriously I would probably be very ill by now.

So what advice would you give to anyone thinking of starting a business? Go for it, big time. Ultimately I just weighed up what I had to lose by going for it against how I would feel if I didn’t, and the rest is history as they say.

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