The Entrepreneur: Mark Sait, SaveMoneyCutCarbon
The founder of the "UK's No.1" for energy saving solutions on starting up from his kitchen table, overcoming dyslexia, and the need for government to get with the times...
Founder: Mark Sait
Description in one line: The ‘go to’ people for businesses and households who want to save money on utility bills and reduce their impact on the planet.
Previous companies: iBAHN
12 month target: £3.5m
Describe your business model and what makes your business unique:
- We provide money-saving energy and water efficiency solutions for businesses and consumers via our website and our field services team.
- Our expertise allows us to measure, model, specify, supply and install proven products and drive stakeholder engagement.
- We offer proven, repeatable, sustainable energy and carbon savings that can save businesses and consumers millions of pounds.
What is your greatest business achievement to date?
In the last three years, the business has saved more than £1m from customers’ energy and water bills, thanks to the energy-saving work we have done with a range of small, medium and large-sized businesses as well as individuals. That is the equivalent of taking 2,800 families off the National Grid for a year, and the carbon emissions reduction is equivalent to taking more than 1,200 cars off UK roads for a year. The water saved would fill around 68 Olympic sized swimming pools.
But what we have achieved to date is only the tip of the iceberg.
What numbers do you look at every day in your business?
Numbers are key to what we do, whether it be measuring the energy use of our customers so we can recommend more efficient products or analysing our own company performance. On a daily basis I tend to look at our online sales performance, sales pipeline growth and full-service project completions.
To what extent does your business trade internationally and what are your plans?
Our current focus is primarily on the UK, with the exception of a small number of non-UK online sales. However, we are looking at opportunities to expand into Europe over the next one to two years as driven by customer demand.
Describe your growth funding path:
Our initial seed investors are high net worth individuals who bring a mix of skills to help shape the business, including environmental, property and financial expertise. Recent funding from asset houses has brought with it complementary skills as well as new opportunities. We also have plans in place for a significant funding round in 2015 which will support our plans to move into the mainstream.
What technology has made the biggest difference to your business?
The biggest single technology that has made a difference to our business has been the invention of LED – the significance of which was recently recognised when LED inventor Dr. Shuji Nakamura was awarded the 2014 Nobel Prize in Physics. That’s because LED lighting delivers very impressive results, cutting electricity use by up to 90 per cent, which enables us to offer huge energy-saving, and as a result, money-saving solutions to our customers.
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We also rely heavily on a technically sound website with complex back end capabilities, which again enables us to accurately advice our customers. Plus increased use of smartphone apps for internal and customer use and our exclusive rights for US-based GEM system (intelligent HVAC controls) opens a relatively untapped market in EMEA.
Where would you like your business to be in three years?
Energy bills are forecast to double again in the next 10 years and businesses and consumers will be increasingly looking to cut costs and save carbon. As a result, in three years time we expect to be turning over £10m in the UK, plus we expect to be working with pan-EMEA groups driven by customer demand
What is the hardest thing you have ever done in business?
Quite frankly, this is it! Setting up a business from scratch takes a huge amount of vision, energy and staying power. What we’ve managed to do is turn a conversation round the kitchen table into what SaveMoneyCutCarbon is today in only a few years. It has been incredibly hard work and, to be honest, it still is.
Also, we are working within the restraints of a government that has been slow to take the initiative and is failing to see the obvious options in carbon efficiency. The government’s strategy of focusing on carbon reduction rather than potential cost savings has badly backfired.
There isn’t a home or a business in the country that doesn’t want to reduce its energy bills if it is explained in the right way, but not everybody is interested in carbon reduction. As a result, many businesses and individuals don’t realise the big impact that small changes – such as installing LED light bulbs – can make to their bottom line. We see it as our job to help people make the link between carbon cutting and saving money.
What was your biggest business mistake?
Setting up a computer shop in the ‘90s when I should have set up a mobile phone shop. Easy to say in hindsight!
Piece of Red Tape that hampers growth most:
As a business we are growing fast and we have strong growth ambitions for the future. But going through the employment process in order to find good people who support our company ethos can sometimes be quite challenging.
Additionally, the lack of interest or support from business banks can often feel like pushing water uphill.
What is the most common serious mistake you see entrepreneurs make?
Making the transition from concept to viability.
How will your market look in three years?
In three years I hope that energy and water efficiency will be more widely understood by government, business and householders as the simple but sensible approach to resource management. This will really open up the market for companies like ours to offer the best money and energy saving solutions available. The difference is, we’ll have a head start on everyone else.
What is the single most important piece of advice you would offer to a less experienced entrepreneur?
Instilling a level of urgency is key.
Time with my family.
Executive education or learn it on the job?
What would make you a better leader?
My dyslexia causes me daily problems and I would be a changed man without it.
The Lean Start Up: How Constant Innovation Creates Radically Successful Businesses by Eric Ries.