Zoola Fix: Richard Walker-Smith
The start-up founder on trusting his instinct and the challenges of working full-time whilst building a business
Name: Richard Walker-Smith
Company name: Zoola Fix
Location: Greater London
Date launched: 18/12/2014
Number of Employees: 1
Tell us what your business does:
Zoola Fix allows users to book savvy local hosts to help them experience an authentic nightlife away from home.
Where did the idea for your business come from?
After partying in over thirty countries I was frustrated at feeling like an outsider. I didn’t want to get caught by another tourist trap nightspot or waste any more time standing in lines only to be turned away at the door.
I wanted to party like a local wherever I went and learned that with nightlife, who you know is just as important as what you know. I knew that having a local accomplice was the answer.
How did you know there was a market for it?
Specifically speaking, I don’t. I just know that people like to party when they travel and often struggle doing so. Aside from that I’m taking a gamble based on personal frustration.
What were you doing before starting up?
I have started several other companies under the ‘Zoola’ brand. Most recently I was running an underground club night and before that, I built a chain of 12 fish spas.
Have you always wanted to run your own business?
Yes, well ever since I was old enough to understand what running your own business means and what the potential rewards are!
How did you raise the money?
I received an insurance pay-out when my car was stolen and instead of spending it on a new one, I used it to pay a developer to build the site. More recently I begrudgingly took on a nine-to-five to help support the business in the early days until I manage to secure funding.
Describe your business model and how you make money:
The business model is very simple. Guests pay on-site to book a ‘Fixer’ and 20% of the booking value is paid to Zoola Fix as a fee.
What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?
Trying to get Fixers on board ahead of launch was a lot more challenging than we had anticipated. It was difficult to get them to buy into the concept but now that the site is live the problem has been overcome and we’re receiving loads of applications from all over the world.
What was your first big breakthrough
As with any business, getting our first customer felt like a huge breakthrough. This fortunately only took three days, which was a lot quicker than we were expecting.
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
Aside from watching every bit of Elon Musk footage they can find on YouTube, my advice would be to always remember to prepare for the negative side. It’s easy to get caught up in success but it’s foolish to think it can’t disappear in an instant. You should always have a plan B and enough cash in the bank to execute on it should you need to.
Where do you want to be in five years’ time?
Even further beyond my comfort zone.