If you've ever had a business idea, read this Q&A
Creating your own start-up business is no small feat. We at YourParkingSpace know first-hand how competitive the start-up landscape can be. We were enthused when one of our customers reached out to us, notifying us of their start-up launch, and with a similar business model to ours.
Andy Bradshaw, co-owner of Search a Subby, founded the business recently with his best friend. The company aims to bring together self-employed workers and businesses that need them.
In this article, we ask Andy to spill the beans on what it’s like to start your own business, what his enterprise can offer in these modern times of tech and online marketplaces, and what advice he would give those budding entrepreneurs looking to start their own venture.
Q. Can you give us some background information on yourself?
A. Search a Subby was founded by myself Andy Bradshaw and my best friend of over 25 yrs Darren Stodell.
I have been a self-employed Refrigeration & Air-conditioning Engineer for over 20 yrs; servicing, installing and repairing commercial and industrial systems. I have also worked as an employee for both national and global companies.
Darren has also spent many years self-employed working as a plasterer. And then also venturing into the health and safety industry as a teacher in this field for a short time. He then went on to be an Ambulance Technician for the NHS.
We believe our combined 44 years in the construction industry gives us a great insight into the needs of self-employed workers, the services they can provide for businesses, and more importantly, the way in which they source and find work.
Q. What is SearchaSubby?
A. Search a Subby is a website aimed at self-employed workers and the companies that utilise their services. Our customers can subscribe to our website, create an in-depth profile detailing their qualifications, skills and work history.
If a company needs two plumbers and three electricians with specific qualifications, such as IPAF, CSCS cards, etc. once the member or businesses are subscribed, they can use the site to search for their specific requirements. This could save companies a fortune by finding subcontractors closer to the job instead of sending them hundreds of miles and paying out on travel and lodging expenses, as well as saving them thousands in recruitment fees. This will, ultimately, deliver higher profit margins.
Small businesses can now take on larger contracts by using the network of subcontractors that they have engaged through the website to fulfil the work. If an Electrical company wins a contract to maintain a chain of shops located nationally, they can use the website to find workers in more local areas, thus reducing expenses and potential agency fees.
Q. What is the business model? How does the business make money?
A. We make our money by charging our customers a low monthly subscription fee. We believe in offering value for money, which is why the maximum price is no more than a few takeaway coffees each month. One day's work found through the website could easily pay for a 12-month subscription making it very affordable for the customer.
Q. Was SearchaSubby a ‘Eureka’ moment, or was the business idea a slower, more deliberate, process?
A. The idea to create this website came when I left permanent employment and became self-employed for the third time in my career. I had started working more as a subcontractor and quickly realised the only way to find more work was either through people you knew or had worked with before or by contacting companies offering your services by email or phone.
I have arrived on site on numerous occasions and witnessed subcontractors being turned away because they didn't have the correct qualification or card to be allowed on site. These subcontractors had sometimes travelled hundreds of miles and stayed overnight to get there. I started to see a way that could benefit the individuals and businesses that could be more efficient and more profitable.
I used to subcontract for a company that utilised eight other guys. We used to travel the country every day carrying out work for the company, staying in hotels Monday to Friday. I realised the expenses of the company were close to £6000 per week, that's potentially £12k per month savings, just from travel and hotel bills. I knew there were huge sums of money to be saved by these companies if they had an alternative way to source more local labour.
Additionally, all the emissions from each contractor travelling long distances could be reduced. It’s bad for the environment, and in 2019 we seriously need to be thinking about how to reduce our carbon footprint, too!
Q. What inspired your idea?
A. Working in the industries seeing businesses wasting so much money every day in so many ways. We wanted to create a way in which our industries can work more efficiently and become more profitable and also more affordable to the customer, as this will make the companies more competitive on quotes, thus winning the work.
Q. After formulating your business plan, how did you start reaching out to ‘subbies’ and ‘companies’, and who did you contact first?
A. We are still very much in the early stages, however, we have been working tirelessly to get our brand recognised. Primarily using social media, email marketing and also direct contact. We are contacting companies with authority within our industry to get on board with the concept and use Search a Subby as a new way to find labour and fulfil their work commitments. It’s very much a chicken and egg situation—without the companies, we don’t entice subbies and vice versa, so now we are trying very hard to get the word out to as many people as possible.
Q. What marketing strategies did you find were most effective for improving the businesses visibility in the early stages?
A. We are still in those very early stages and have some great ideas for marketing. These include social media campaigns, email marketing, promotional material on trade counters, etc. and many more great ideas. Obviously, marketing can cost huge sums of money, and as a start up company, we have to prioritise and deploy the spend accordingly. We find the old school ways a lot more effective, going and talking to people and explaining it face-to-face is the best way, but the hard work is actually getting in front of people in the first place.
Q. Do you think there is room for more marketplace platforms with similar models to SearchaSubby, or do you think the landscape is becoming saturated?
A. Subcontractors make up approximately 15% of the UK workforce and this is growing every year. This equates to around 5 million people. Of those, 25% are in the construction industry. Our site can cater for many of those industries, not just construction, which alone would be 1.25 million workers. We believe there is ample room for other business models similar to Search a Subby. We want to make our website the No.1 in the UK within our field.
Q. What was the biggest hurdle you had to overcome whilst setting up your business?
A. To be honest, the hardest part of this process has been the actual website build. Being very naive in the beginning means we made many mistakes, from choosing the incorrect company for the build, and also the processes involved in building a business like this. We were, unfortunately, let down by our first website developer who pulled out 2 weeks from going live, almost 18 months ago now. We then chose a second company, a local design agency who have finally completed our website which we are very pleased about, although there have been huge delays along the way with them, too, and the deadline just kept getting missed—they were going through a restructuring process which created some internal issues. But despite all the hurdles, both Darren and I are very determined individuals and believe now that the site is live, we can push Search a Subby to be a successful business!
Q. What advice would you give to someone who has a business idea but doesn’t know how to get started?
A. Always take advice from whoever will give it. Be determined and don't give up. As explained in the previous question we have been through many difficult and frankly stressful times during this process and sometimes thought that we would never get to where we are now. We have completed this process whilst still working our normal jobs. So we are living proof that perseverance pays off in the end.
Q. What would you have done differently, if anything?
A. You can't look back and dwell on what could be done differently, you can only move forward with what you have now and that is what we will do.
Q. Are there any negatives to running your own business?
A. Running your own business is, of course, stressful, but the benefits outweigh all of that, so no, it has to be positive otherwise there is no point.
Q. What are the most important things to get right in the early stages of a fledgeling business?
A. Make sure you have a good business model, a good business plan (and stick to it), and do plenty of market research. Get great people around you to support and advise. Take advice and never give up!
Q. Where can you see the business in 5 years?
A. We believe, in 5 years, Search a Subby will be the biggest online network of subcontractors, self-employed and the businesses that utilise these on the web. Our plan is to create a one-stop-shop for every industry that engages self-employed workers, offering a number of services to aid their everyday working life from finding work, advertising their business, as well as finding useful resources needed to run their own businesses.
SEO Specialist | Digital Marketing Executive