Startups Awards Hall of Fame: Chemist Direct

Chemist Direct founder Mitesh Soma shares his recollections of winning at the Startups Awards and reveals how it led to great successes

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  • Ian Wallis

It was 2008 when Mitesh Soma's online pharmacy Chemists Direct became the Startups Awards' Retailer of the Year. 

With just a year of trading under its belt at the time, the business grew fast, and a year after winning the award the founders of Skype Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis invested £3m. 

After hitting a £15.5m turnover by 2012 followed by a major investment, Soma exited to launch new e-commerce focused business ecomfactor. He shares his story here:

What’s happened in the last six years since you entered the Startups Awards?

The Startups Awards win was a defining moment for me personally and for the business. It provided me with a sense of recognition for the efforts and risks I had taken.

Being an entrepreneur can be very lonely, especially in the early days when you’re working 24/7 without much to show for it. Very often you can feel as though you’re not making any progress. With winning the award it made all the effort worth it.

The Startup Awards resulted in an amazing level of interest in the business and provided us with very valuable credibility, with both customers and suppliers. The Startup Awards itself was a very enjoyable event where my wife and I were able to network with like-minded entrepreneurs, meet useful contacts and drink too much wine!

Since winning the Startups Awards we went on to win a number of other awards including The CBI National Business Awards, BT Essence of the Entrepreneur, BT Best Male Entrepreneur, Insider 42 Entrepreneur, Young Guns, etc.  The business grew to over £15m revenue with over 100 staff.

I decided to exit Chemist Direct in June 2013 prior to a $10m investment from Atomico, DMG Media and Lepe Partners to pursue other interests and have exciting plans for the future.

What’s been the single biggest highlight for the business since winning?

Growing the business to a point of profitability with over 100 employees across the world. 

What are you hoping to achieve in the next year or so?

I decided to take some time off after leaving Chemist Direct to travel and spend time with my young family. I am now involved in investments, mentoring and consulting. I have exciting plans for 2015.

What did winning at the Startups Awards mean to you?

Winning the Startups Awards meant a great deal for me personally and for my team. The sense of endorsement from fellow entrepreneurs who had considered thousands of applications made me feel that we had selected an idea which had real potential to disrupt a big industry.

This encouraged me and my team, many of whom had taken risks themselves to join a fledgling start-up. Our early traction and plans were validated by winning the awards and it felt as though we had arrived!

Why would you recommend entering awards like this?

Absolutely, the Startups Awards can lead to an enormous amount of publicity, help endorse your business and provide you with contacts that you cant find elsewhere and money cannot buy.

Ian Wallis

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