TMA Technology: Keith Milburn
Milburn's e-commerce app allows users to 'try on' products and share them with friends
Tell us what your business does:
We offer businesses a white labeled, smartphone app called iShopOS. Key functions of iShopOS are that you can: ‘try on’ products using your smartphone, share photos with Facebook/Twitter and complete sales. We focus on mCommerce and keeping shopping social.
Where did the idea for your business come from?
My wife (and first client) runs Tiara Belles, a wedding accessory company. Each year she attended the National Wedding Show and as I saw the queues of brides at her stand, I thought of how a smartphone app could help these brides and others that do not attend the shows. Once I started working on it, I realised that by approaching the solution as a new business venture I could have my own business, just like my wife!
How did you know there was a market for it?
I researched current market offerings, who the competitors would be, what language they used, how ‘big’ their business seemed to be and targeted industry magazines to see what they considered to be the ‘latest technology’ to build a picture. No one does this app as a white label offering, competitors will develop from scratch which takes on average three months. My app can be live within two weeks.
What were you doing before starting up?
I am a project based business analyst by trade and have worked with businesses to identify their requirements for improving business needs. I also work closely with my wife on her various Tiara Belles ventures, mainly in terms of social media and marketing, (we have retail, trade and corporate jewellery arms).
Have you always wanted to run your own business?
Yes, but in a wishy-washy kind of way. I didn’t think it was realistic given my commitments. I needed a big idea to really make it happen.
How did you raise the money?
I consolidated some debts and used savings. I also only spent money when I needed to, rather than spending a huge outlay right at the beginning. See the return-on-investment and then spend the money is my motto!
What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?
Finding a developer and building a relationship takes time and in the early days I held back because I thought there was a danger the developer was going to run off with my idea. It made the pace very slow. Once I learnt to trust then we were able to work much faster and make changes sooner. The second biggest challenge is getting news outlets interested in the business. Not yet found the magic solution, but I haven’t given up looking!
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Describe your business model and how you make money:
We offer a range of packages for iShopOS, from the basic app, to a fully integrated version and we offer optional designer and technical support all the way through to launch. We can also host data for clients and provide insights into the sales and downloads of their app for a monthly fee.
What was your first big breakthrough?
Getting our first client’s app through the Apple approval process. The submission process was a very long journey, but the success came when Apple approved the app within a few days (they usually take 13 weeks). It validated the idea, the design and the effort to get it ready.
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
Starting is the hardest part. Just like going to the gym. Once you start though you start to feel good very quickly! Don’t buy that new car. Get a banger and use the money to start your business. It doesn’t cost much to start a business these days and what you learn is yours to keep.
Where do you want to be in five years’ time?
Within the next five years TMA Technology will be a global leader in mCommerce and interactive shopping. I’d love to have produced software where users can use Kinect or Google glasses to try on products and complete sales.