Piribo Ltd: Edwin Bailey

With a history of starting up, Edwin Bailey tells us how his new online supplier of business information products is going.

Name: Edwin Bailey Age: 32 Business: Piribo Ltd (www.piribo.com) Type of business: Web-based supplier of business information products Start date: January 2004

Tell us about your business Piribo is the source for business information products concerning the biotech and pharmaceutical industries. Much like an online bookshop we represent publishers of niche reports and books and target a business and corporate audience through the website and targeted marketing. In many cases we hold a copy of the study on our web servers so paying customers can access it instantly in PDF format.

When did you first decide you wanting start your own business? I have always wanted to run my own business. I started Urch Publishing Ltd about 3 years ago which has been fairly successful. Before that I worked in major London-based trade publishing companies.

Was it your first business idea and what was your inspiration? I have had loads of business ideas, but I took the advice; ‘do something you know about’

Once you’d decided to start a business, what steps did you take first? There is a massive gap between dreaming up the idea in the bath or after a few pints, so the best place to start is by writing a business plan. This helped put my thoughts in order and led me to properly identify the major challenges involved in setting up.

What research did you do?I knew the market well as I was already working in it.

What advice did you seek? In the past I have had meetings with Business Links and a number of other government-backed bodies. As a rule I have found them no help at all as they mainly offer very simple advice – which is probably more useful for somebody who has absolutely no experience of business. I also have found that straightforward business to business companies are exempt from many government services as they do not meet “social” criteria.

Do you think the government needs to provide more help to people trying to start a business? The best thing the government should do is offer start-ups subsidised desk / office space – this could be easily run in conjunction with the private sector and the banks and would be ideal for digital companies.

Talk us through the process of writing your business planI read a couple of books and downloaded some examples from the internet. I had help from an accountant friend with putting the financials into a spreadsheet. I sent the business plan to friends and family prior for feedback and to spot those typos. I also paid my accountant to look through it which was very useful as they can see inconstancies in the financials.

How useful has your business plan been and do you think you’ll stick to it as your business begins to grow? I try to refer to the plan, in particular the budgets, to see how we are doing. This can provide some kind of benchmark. The plan is not set in stone, but it was well thought out so it is useful to remind oneself what ideas you originally had.

How are you funding your running costs until the business takes off? Costs have been kept very low by using the existing infrastructure of my other business.

Have you made any provisions for business not being as prosperous as expected? Please explain them Yes, by keeping the costs low and by working in partnership with similarly minded people I have reduced the financial risk considerably. This means we can invest when sales revenue comes in.

When did you decide to work for yourself? The big moment for me was being made redundant as part of a company cost cutting exercise. I was 28 years old and had climbed the corporate ladder fairly successfully. After some soul searching about what to do with my life – I realised that if I wanted to start a business this was my opportunity. After starting it took me a few months to stop reading the job ads and belive I was truly self employed.

Are you working from home or from premises? I started my first business from the back bedroom which was fine to start with but became lonely and as everybody knows it is easy to waste time at home! Now we are in offices in central London. It took ages to find the right kind of space at the right price – I finally saw an ad on a web-community notice board.

How are you managing your day? Having seen a good friend get very close to a mental breakdown through working too hard on a business I am wary about overdoing it. I tend to work a 8-10 hour day and try to have as much time as possible off at the weekend. I am also flexible with my hours which is one of the benefits of being self employed.

What about staff, is it just you? Staff costs are significant so to begin with we are using temporary staff to plug and gaps that are not filled by the team already in place.

Is the amount of red tape that comes with taking on an employee something that concerns you? Yes, everyday I read about laws and regulations, which are very daunting and will have no positive impact on the business.

What marketing and advertising have you done so far?Marketing to a global business audience is costly. We are using a range of email marketing, online adverts, PR and some offline direct mail. We have spend a considerable amount of time optimising the website for search engines and this is starting to reap benefits. This will be an ongoing process.

What are the main obstacles to growth and how do you plan to overcome these? Marketing and sales – we need to raise the profile of our business so we become a preferred destination for the target market.

Tell us about your web-site, how important is it to your business?Piribo is primarily a web business. I am working with an experienced agency called Redwire Design in London who have partnered with me. In addition to their excellent technical skills they have come up with lots of business worthy ideas and solutions that I hope will add value to the website and ultimately the business. We had a number of formal meetings from which we wrote a detailed plan, including priorities, timelines and programming requirements. This was essential to the development of the site which is fairly complicated. It also allowed us to deploy resources in an appropriate manner.

What are your main ambitions, to make a lot of money or enjoy what you do? A bit of all three. The money becomes more important, but ultimately having the freedom of making one’s own decisions is very rewarding.

What have you found difficult about starting up and what do you wish you’d done differently?As this was the second business I have started I could draw on a lot of past experience. I should have invested in a decent accounts system to start with. I think a short course in finance would have taught me a lot.

What skills and personal characteristics do you think you need to start your own business? A certain amount of arrogance and independence is useful. It can be lonely so you have to be inwardly confident. Try to remain grounded – your grand ideas will take time to build which is frustrating.

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