Posted: Mon 15th Nov 2021
Earlier in 2021, Enterprise Nation partnered with Uber to set up the Business Builder programme.
Its aim was to give 100 Uber drivers and couriers the training and funding they needed to make their business idea a reality.
After completing nine weeks of training, the participants pitched their start-up idea to a judging panel and competed for prizes in the form of business grants.
Nick, can you give us a potted history of your company, The London Experience Card?
I first had the idea in 2018. I registered the name that year, just because I thought it was fantastic. And then I was doing little bits and pieces but I wasn’t really taking it seriously.
But by the middle of 2019, I started to think, ‘You know what, it’s actually got a chance of going somewhere’, which is when I began working on it properly.
In the August, I joined Uber, so I was doing that alongside my full-time job. I left that role in January 2020 to dedicate more time to The London Experience Card, although two months later came the COVID-19 lockdown.
What was your full-time job?
Logistics manager for Ocado. I was running the warehouse. At that point, I had the idea for the business, but because of my job I couldn’t dedicate myself to it fully.
So I left Ocado to drive with Uber, as I knew it would give me the flexibility. Work when I want, pick my own hours. If I needed to have a meeting with a client or make a business call, I could just pull over and do it. That flexibility was important in letting me actually focus on what I want to achieve.
Did you always have the ambition of starting your own business?
Yeah. Going further back, I used to do videography. I set up a small production company and I’ve done a few corporate videos and things like that. But this time, I wanted to do something that was more online and subscription-based.
Having my own business appealed in that it would give me independence, but also allow me to make a difference. With a business, you can create something that actually brings about change. So that was the main driver behind starting this one.
How did you learn of the Business Builder programme? I assume it was your employer, Uber, promoting it in-house?
It was, yeah. I’m always on my email. Always checking my emails, personal and work ones. And an Uber email came through about Business Builder, and I thought, ‘This looks interesting’.
So I made an application. And then, yeah, things took off from there. I think around 3,000 people applied for the programme in the end.
What were you hoping to gain from the programme?
Once it started, I was looking for some direction in terms of where it could lead me. Because a lot of what they were teaching on the courses, I’d already studied myself. Obviously, there was plenty of new stuff that I picked up – information around the law and trademarking and so on.
So a lot of what the programme leaders were recommending we needed to do during the week, I’d already done! I was pleased with that.
Where did that come from, the motivation for self-study?
I know how powerful the internet is, so I’ve always been aware of Google, PPC and the like. And I knew that, for what I’m trying to build, I’m going to need social media.
So I started looking into marketing companies, and Facebook, and marketing companies that have run campaigns, to learn more about how they do it. And then I tried to learn it myself.
When you have a business, you look at all aspects of it. Marketing, the law, everything. If I’d known about Enterprise Nation at the very beginning, I would’ve come to you before I even tried to teach myself. I just wasn’t aware of it when I started The London Experience Card.
As a business founder and leader, do you feel well equipped in terms of your skills and knowledge? Or are there still things you want to learn?
It’s always good to keep learning new things. But as a start-up, it’s better if you can find people who have strong skills. It’ll save you a lot of time if you find someone who knows how to do what you’re planning on learning to do. Because it may take you months or even years to learn something.
Someone told me once, it’s good to know about every part of your business, but it doesn’t mean you have to specialise in them.
Like with sales, for example. I’m not the best at sales. I’m terrible, in fact. But if I get someone in who’s fantastic at it, I’m going to sign up way more businesses to my platform than the number I’m doing at the moment.
Back to the programme. When it came to pitching to the panel, how did you feel about it?
Nervous. Very, very nervous. Because I’ve never done anything like that, and, like I say, I’m not that confident with sales. And when you’re pitching, you’re basically selling the business, aren’t you? So I was very nervous, but thankfully it didn’t go too badly.
It didn’t! You were awarded a grant of £7,500. How has that helped you with the business?
I’ve still got most of it. Some of it, I used to get the London Experience Card app finalised. Thanks to that money, the app’s now available for download. I’m trying to hire someone in sales part-time, and I’ll use the grant money to do that. And I’ll use some of it for advertising as well.
Have you used any other types of business finance?
No, I’m self-funded. I do as many hours of Uber driving as I can, make as much money as possible, then invest it in the business.
I’d assume that’s been pretty difficult with the lockdowns, and London tourism being massively affected. How have you coped?
I just ended up focusing on the app. I wasn’t sure, when we finally came out of lockdown and the business closures, what businesses I’d still have on the platform. Because some of them might have had to close for good, you know?
So I just went back to the beginning. Literally started from scratch. Went through the database, checked which businesses were still up and running, and tried to get the app rolling again.
Are there any strong competitors you’re up against?
Yes, but none are identical to what we’re doing. There’s obviously Tastecard and some other local discount platforms. But we’re more than a discount platform. We don’t just have loads of offers. We have all the free stuff there is to do in London as well.
You can follow your friends on there, similar to Instagram. You can upload photos and posts. There’s a community section where you can ask questions to people in the community. Like I say, a lot more than just discounts and offers.
What are your short-term and longer-term plans for the business?
Short term, I’d like to get at least 1,000 businesses signed up to the platform. And then around 5,000 cardholders. That’s what I’d like in the short term.
Long term, so the next three to five years, it’d be good if I could conquer London. By that, I mean that anyone who visits London or lives in London is using the app. And then I’d like to incorporate events into the platform. Loyalty points and so on. Integrate more features.
And in the very long term, I’d like to move from the London Experience Card to different cities across the world.
And finally, what advice would you give to anyone who’s considering setting up their own business?
If you have an idea and you’re passionate about it, just go for it. You only live once at the end of the day. It doesn’t matter if it takes a year or five years, seven years, go for it.