Posted: Fri 18th Oct 2019
How did you come up with your business idea?
We are a busy family who enjoy shopping online but aren't always home to receive deliveries. We got fed up with getting home to find 'sorry we missed you' cards on our doormat and having to travel across town to collect our parcels from a depot or collection point. Having searched online and realised there was nothing available that met our needs, we decided to create our own solution, and iParcelBox was born!
With some initial personal investment we created an MVP product, then funded a small batch of trial units which we tested with 'early adopters' across the UK during 2Q and 3Q 2019. This provided invaluable feedback which we were able to incorporate into our first production model which went on sale early September 2019.
What start-up challenges have you faced?
To start with all the development was done 'in-house' in the garage or round our dining table. We realised that this wouldn't be sustainable, but rather than taking on staff when we're still such a new company, our strategy has been to work with a range of organisations who are able to supplement our small team with the skills and capability we need.
We're proud members of Made In Britain and the majority of our components are made and assembled here in the UK, from Pickering in Yorkshire to Fareham in Hampshire.
We learnt a lot going through the necessary regulatory testing to ensure our product could be CE marked. Originally we wanted to sell the 'trial' units for a discount, but then realised we couldn't do that unless they were fully tested. In the end we gave them away, but it enabled us to get the feedback we needed so that we could incorporate the lessons learned into the first production model.
Testing also took quite a lot longer than we'd hoped, and as we didn't want to take the risk of placing any production orders until everything had passed testing. That probably delayed our main product launch by about three months.
Until mid-September, all the development of the business had been done during evenings and weekends, as I had a full time job in central London. I recognised that I needed to spend some time really focusing on iParcelBox to give it a better chance of being a success, and thanks to the amazing support of my company I'm now on a sabbatical so able to dedicate all my time to the business.
What has been your biggest achievement so far?
We've gone from a 'one-off' home-made product for our personal use to a CE marked, patent pending product that's on the market for sale to consumers in just over a year, including a period of field testing with trial users.
What is your next big business goal?
Scale up our operation and achieve tangible order volumes, either through direct sales to consumers or with a B2B agreement. Although we're primarily aiming at consumers who love online shopping but hate missed deliveries, we also believe there's a potential market for companies who need to distribute parts or tools to their workforce (often overnight), or who need to arrange collections of parts for return logistics.
What do you think will be your biggest challenge?
We recognise that the B2C market is extremely challenging, and getting any product to mass-market scale will involve a huge amount of investment in marketing and product awareness. For a young start-up, the biggest challenge will inevitably be having enough cash to support the initial phases when sales volumes are still relatively low, but expenditure is necessarily high.
How has Enterprise Nation helped your business?
I'm a new member to Enterprise Nation, but have already found that the help and support is really valuable for a start-up business.
Which other entrepreneur inspires you and why?
I'm always inspired by Richard Branson. I've followed him on social media for years and just love his blog posts on how his experiences (and failures) have helped him to develop both in business and personally.
What are your three tips for business success?
1. Keep going. It's inevitable that there will be challenges on the way and at the time some will feel insurmountable but if you have a positive attitude you can work through them.
2. Make sure you've got people around you who can help when you need it. Sometimes that's the moral support of friends and family, but I've also found it useful to have professionals that I can call on when needed.
3. Always assume that you'll need more money/cash than you expect. Cashflow is king and it's inevitable that there will be unexpected costs that crop up that you may not have planned for.