Supercar Experiences: Nik Hardwick

Nik Hardwick has set up Supercar Experiences, a business that allows customers to hire and drive top-of-the-range cars

Getting help from contacts he gained through previous roles, Nik Hardwick has set up Supercar Experiences, a business that allows customers to hire and drive top-of-the-range cars. He tells Startups.co.uk how he’s getting on.

Name: Nik Hardwick Age: 32 Business: Supercar Experiences Ltd Type of business: Desirable car driving and hire Start date: March 2004

When did you first decide you wanting start your own business? I have always known I wanted to run my own business, it was just a question of timing, the right idea and a market opportunity

Tell us about your business Our business model is the same as Red Letter Days, but just specialising in on the road driving experiences. The second part of the business is a bricks and mortar supercar hire business.

We are the only company in the UK to offer customers the ability to buy online a hire of a supercar in an Amazon.com-type quality functionality.

Was it your first business idea and where did it come from? My first business idea was to set up a web design business in 1998. From that we had clients in the gift experience market, which from learning their businesses, I saw the opportunity for Supercar Experiences

What makes you think there’s a market for your business? Growth in the gift experience market, growth in the supercar hire business and no one doing this properly online

Once you’d decided to start a business, what did you do first? Get finance for the business and the Ferrari we bought. Without the car, it wouldn’t have proceeded.

What research did you do? On the internet – all my competitors are online. I already knew enough about the market and had the contacts.

Does the government need to provide more help to people trying to start a business? Yes without a doubt. My issues already are vat and tax, reduce those for startups could be a good start

Talk us through the process of writing your business plan. I have written so many in my previous job as an Account Director (in the web design and ad agency), that this comes like second nature. I like to keep the plan short and actionable, otherwise it just collects dust on the shelf.

How useful has your business plan been and do you think you’ll stick to it as your business begins to grow? It is already outdated in six months, so it is about managing change in the short term and steering the company in the right direction in the medium to long term

How much did it cost to start the business? About £30,000.

When did you stop working? In April I left my paid employment, although I still work as a freelance consultant three to four days a month for them.

In the early days the transition was OK, as I was so busy getting the site built. The website went live about three weeks ago, and since then it all seems like an anti-climax.

I guess I struggle with lack of structure now and with no one to tell me what to do or praise me on good work, you have to work harder at motivating yourself.

In terms of leaving work, it was the best day of my life.

Are you working from home or from premises? I have an office at home. Reason was cost and convenience. I don’t feel as professional working from home as I did working in an office.

The big picture is to find offices which can work as a showroom for the supercars.

How many hours are you working at the moment? Too many, about 50 hours a week.

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? Write lists, lists are key. Also trying to get out of bed earlier, but then I was always in late into nine to five work.

What about staff, is it just you? No staff as yet. I utilise friends with specialist skills such web design, database work and emails.

I would like to take on an office manager type person who can manage the site, customers, office, and sales, as well as get my life in order

Where do you hope to be in 12 months time? Retired on a beach ideally. Seriously, a couple more cars, one permanent member of staff and a turnover of over £250,000.

What are the main obstacles to growth? Lack of money, increased competition and marketplace downturn

How do you plan to overcome these? By being the best company in the UK doing this, and the most well known.

Tell us about your website. The site is the business. Used friend who is a web designer. I wanted it to be Amazon quality, no other site is even close at present.

I was usually on the agency side when designing sites, so as a client it was weird, I didn’t realise how much work has to go in from a client’s perspective.

I wish we could have produced it quicker, it took nine months to build.

What are your main ambitions, to make a lot of money or enjoy what you do? Got to be happy, wealthy and be healthy. If you don’t know the difference, read Rich Dad Poor Dad, that book is what really inspired me to get off my arse and do something with my life.

What have you found difficult about starting up and what do you wish you’d done differently? Just starting a new learning curve running a business – I hate not knowing things. I trusted people too much when it came to money

So what advice would you give to anyone thinking of starting a business? Start planning now, and just do it, what’s the worst that can happen?

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