The People’s Web: Tim Hayes
Tim Hayes decided that he had grown tired of executive stress and set up the People’s Web
Tim Hayes decided that he had grown tired of executive stress and set up the People’s Web, an online service for retailers, traders and consumers. He tells Startups.co.uk about the perils of internet middlemen, expensive websites and how he plans to change this.
Name: Tim Hayes Age: 46 Business: The People’s Web Type of business: Online trading company Start date: To trade: November 2004. To consumers: March 2005
When did you first decide you wanted to start your own business? The concept of The People’s Web arose from the lack of user-friendly, cost-effective channels through which to buy, sell or swap goods and services. The online services were all based on a pay-per-transaction basis as were the newspaper options. We launched The People’s Web because as consumers we were frustrated by the unnecessary overcharging made by internet middlemen. We developed the website to break the stranglehold of the high-fee auction sites and search engines.
Tell us about your business The People’s Web is a revolutionary low-cost internet service launched to help retailers and consumers buy and sell through a one-stop online marketplace. We view our company as a nationwide market place, where companies pay a small annual fee to advertise and sell as much as they want. It costs just £5 a year for consumers and £25 a year for retailers. Companies can have their entire inventory automatically uploaded via XML spreadsheet for unlimited use for just £100 a year. Following our trade launch we took time to listen to users reactions and enhance functionality. The People’s Web can be browsed free of charge and the search process is effortless.
Was it your first business idea and where did it come from?I was previously the marketing director at Stena Line, the world’s leading ferry company, where I helped introduce the revolutionary HSS Craft, which halved the crossing time to Ireland.
What makes you think there’s a market for your business? The response we’ve had from business and consumers has been staggering, and entirely positive. The Peoples Web has been inundated with messages of support since its launch last year, with consumers commenting on the need for an alternative to amongst others eBay. The fact that we donated our entire company turnover from 15 June to July 2 to Live 8 has been a popular move amongst People’s Web account holders.
Once you’d decided to start a business, what did you do first?We set about building a prototype and proving the business model.
What research did you do?We developed a prototype of the site and tested this on users – in the end we developed three versions of the site before going public.
What advice did you seek?We approached many of the government agencies that support businesses and I have to say that they have been fantastic. They have assisted us on all manner of things that a small start up needs – from sourcing finance to legal help. We were also awarded a business mentor, from the South East England Development Agency, that has assisted us as an impartial and independent ‘third voice’.
Does the government need to provide more help to people trying to start a business? From our experience there is already a lot of help for small businesses – my only request that this help becomes more widely known. In many instances the business entrepreneur needs to go and chase it.
Talk us through the process of writing your business plan. I already had a great deal of experience in writing business plans so that part of it came naturally to me. A business plan does not need to be extensive or complicated – in many ways it can be therapeutic as it helps you crystallize what needs to be done.
How useful has your business plan been and do you think you’ll stick to it as your business begins to grow? For a small business you need to adapt the plan as you go along. This is not because the first plan was wrong, but you have to respond to opportunities and close off things that do not work. We are on our tenth version of the plan – each one becomes more pertinent and challenging!
How much did it cost to start the business?The costs of starting the business were negligible, but as you get going be prepared for higher levels of investment and commitment.
When did you stop working?This was a huge personal moment. For me I was leaving a well paid job with all the trappings of corporate life, but at the end of the day you have to be able to adapt and use the skills that have been developed in other areas of your working life – above all you need to keep the faith.
Are you working from home or from premises? We work out of an office in Crawley, West Sussex.
Are you glad you made that decision? We are based in a business innovation centre, which is perfect for our needs. It is short term rent which means that we can move up in size very quickly and it is fully serviced so that we give off a professional image.
How many hours are you working at the moment? Too many.
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? You just have to plan, plan and plan again.
What about staff, is it just you?We work as a team of three.
Is the amount of red tape that comes with taking on an employee something that concerns you? If it is, what will you do about it? No not really, if we need an employee we will cope with the red tape!
What marketing and advertising have you done so far?We have used a PR company for the last seven months.
Where do you hope to be in 12 months time? Growing bit by bit as more and more people become aware of us.
What are the main obstacles to growth?Awareness.
How do you plan to overcome these? We have lots of plans but these are confidential at the moment!
Tell us about your website. The website design was created by a London agency ‘UnReal’ and the database by Sumac – another London agency. We put the package together ourselves. We wanted the site to look uncluttered and easy to use. We do not allow pop ups or sponsored links. We went through several prototypes before deciding on the final version. The ‘faces’ branding was an integral development for us.
What are your main ambitions, to make a lot of money or enjoy what you do? Enjoyment. If I had wanted to make lots of money I would have stayed in my previous job.