Posted: Mon 1st Aug 2022
Enterprise Nation partnered with Mastercard and Strive to deliver an online ‘One Stop Shop’ for entrepreneurs.
An initiative of the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth, the Strive programme will give 650,000 British micro and small enterprises the support they need to thrive in the digital economy over the next three years and beyond.
We're catching up with some of the business owners who have been taking part in the initiative to find out about how it's benefited them so far. Here, we talk to Max Clark, whose Bilden Home & Hardware Market operates as a digital marketplace for the interior, hardware, DIY and home renovations industry.
Max, what prompted you to set up your business?
I was renovating my home and encountering a lot of problems, and the whole process inspired me to launch Bilden Home & Hardware Market.
To source high-quality homeware products, you're forced to visit a number of vendors in various locations. The process is time-consuming and offers no guarantee you'll find what you need when you get there. Added to that, your options are often limited to a single brand or store.
I needed tools, and to get them I had to visit traditional high-street hardware stores, which are cramped, overstocked and uninspiring. They mainly cater to trade and value speed over aesthetics and design.
I also visited chain, warehouse-style home improvement stores that were impersonal and whose products were largely mass-produced and poor-quality.
I realised there was a problem in the industry that was there to be solved. There needed to be a one-stop shop online marketplace that provides all the elements for performing a home renovation or interior design project. They exist for fashion and even for buying a home, but not for interiors. Our mission is to offer more choices in a fraction of the time.
What support did you make use of when starting up?
Although I've run a service-based business for the past 15 years, I've never launched a new idea or sold a product. I enrolled in a short course at King's College, which helped me begin the groundwork for my business plan and create a business model canvas.
Through the London Business Hub, I applied for a series of small-scale incubators, which allowed me to work alongside a series of business coaches, experienced business owners and other entrepreneurs. That helped me flesh out my idea and test my assumptions.
In my own time, I used Enterprise Nation and accessed its e-learning programmes, which accelerated my knowledge and confidence. It's an invaluable resource with such a diverse range of topics.
What was your experience in those early weeks and months? What problems did you encounter?
The early weeks were very much two steps forward and one step back. I'd have an idea, but when it came to implementing it, I needed to educate myself on a subject.
For example, to complete a three-year cost forecast, I had to know how much my initial inventory would cost. So, that meant I had to be visible to suppliers to excite them and get agreements to sell their products.
I also needed a logo, a website and some social media presence, but I had no budget and no investment – it was just me. So, I went back and taught myself how to use Illustrator, then designed a logo and created my website.
Finally, I used Enterprise Nation to educate myself on how to pitch, market my brand and engage in negotiations.
Now you’re established and looking to grow, what do you see as the next steps for your business?
I'll be launching my MVP in September with some amazing brands. I've had some excellent feedback from the industry. I'm looking to attract some early adopters and validate my idea while ironing out any glitches with the platform and business model.
Alongside this soft launch, it will be all about marketing and getting our name out there.
What are your more longer-term plans?
The long-term plan is to establish Bilden Home & Hardware Market as the leading online marketplace for high-end homeware. We serve the interior, hardware, DIY and home renovations industry.
I want to make sure that I deliver on my promise to offer everything one needs to perform a full-scale home renovation project.
You used the Make a Plan tool. What in particular did it help with?
The hardest thing about launching a business alone is holding yourself accountable, proving your assumptions and having your ideas validated. The Make a Plan tool fills in the gaps you might miss when you're in your bubble.
What are the most important lessons you’ve learned from going into business for yourself?
Prove your assumptions and find a balance between trusting your instinct and listening to outside opinions. Both are important.
About Strive Make a Plan
Create an account, answer some quick questions about your business, get personalised feedback, then build an action plan that will help accelerate your business's growth. Take the Make a Plan tool today