Pressat: Matt Lobas
The young entrepreneur on testing an idea and the importance of outside input
Tell us what your business does:
Pressat provides a simple platform where businesses can distribute news to media outlets, by combining the power of social and traditional media.
Where did the idea for your business come from?
Many businesses can’t afford to use a PR company – especially in the current recession.
We came up with a way for firms to spread their news to the media in a way which is, not only cost-effective, but also very simple.
How did you know there was a market for it?
We are aware of other companies offering similar services, but we believe that we not only undercut their prices, but also offer a wider range of features and add-ons.
Have you always wanted to run your own business?
Running my own business has not always been a dream, but with the current unemployment problems in the UK, it seemed like the perfect opportunity.
What planning did you do before you started up?
Our main research was finding out what our competitors were doing and how we could do it better. We tested out their services and measured the impact.
We also asked business owners what they would expect from a press release distribution service, what add-ons they’d like and if they have any gripes with current services.
Building a website for your business idea is easier than you might think. Our online tool ranks the top website builders that offer free trials.
How did you raise the money?
Pressat is self-funded. I come from a digital background so was able to develop the platform without too many third party overheads.
What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?
Our main challenges came with testing the platform. It’s easy to miss bugs and mistakes when you have been creating something for months.
It’s not until you start promoting that you become aware of problems – which can put people off using the service (if not detected early enough). As we’ve come to learn, you can never be in beta for too long.
Where is your business based?
We are based in a grade two listed mill, which is also home to other creative start-up businesses.
This has given us the opportunity to share ideas and inspiration with a range of like-minded people.
How have you promoted your business?
We have been promoting Pressat to media contacts and bloggers who cover sector-specific news. We also work with business groups in the UK, who are able to offer our services to their members.
How much do you charge?
We have a simple pricing structure in place which is cheaper than our competitors. However, we don’t actually offer any freemium services, as we have noticed with other companies that the free offer attracts a large amount of spam submissions, which would bring the editorial value of our platform down.
We pride ourselves on providing a quality-based system.
What about staff – how many do you have?
We haven’t taken on any staff as of yet but we plan to take on an apprentice.
At the moment we outsource bits of work, such as blogging.
What’s the impact on your home life been like?
Business doesn’t just stop when you leave the office. It’s a 24/7 job trying to get things off the ground.
To say I’ve been exhausted (and a little grumpy) would be an understatement.
What has your growth been like?
We’ve seen steady growth and turnover has already outweighed the initial start-up costs, which is great.
We haven’t really updated our business plan but we are on track with our initial aims and objectives.
What would you say the greatest difficulty has been in starting up?
One of the biggest problems we have found is trying not to rush things. No matter how much you test something, users will be users and some problems will always occur.
What was your first big breakthrough?
We have had some nice coverage from big websites, which has helped us collect registrations and increase our visibility.
What would you do differently?
I would probably invest more time in testing the system, rather than rushing the first beta launch. We should have got a fresh pair of eyes to look over everything.
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
Don’t underestimate the value of collecting business contacts. Share your contact details with everyone you meet and add them to your social networks, such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
Where do you want to be in five years’ time?
Within five years I hope we’ll become an established public relations platform and give the current UK players a run for their money.
An exit plan is the last thing on my mind. We are sticking with our idea for the foreseeable future.