After our feature on him a while ago, I decided it was time to do an long overdue catchup and interview with him.
Hi Chester, Its’ great to have you on YHP, how are you doing today?
Great. I’m in a really good place right now; things are going my way both in business and my personal life right now.
What about you?
I’m great Chester, thanks for asking, as you know we launched our digital magazine, so that’s been great.
Can you give us some background information about yourself?
I was born in London, but grew up in Devon. I was a difficult child and got expelled from primary school at a young age. I went on the ‘straight and narrow’ during secondary school and went on to read Philosophy at UCL, were I set-up a couple businesses. I graduated last year and am now the Consultant Entrepreneur at UCL Business Plc and I also run one of the businesses I founded while at UCL.
How did you get into entrepreneurship? What was your first business?
I started my first business washing cars at the weekend, when I was about 7 years old. I started selling CDs in the playground by 13 years old and I formed my first company at 17 years. I used to import jumping stilts and other daft items from China for UK market traders, but I closed that to finish my A Level exams and then take a year to travel Australia, before university.
Tell me about your university experience, graduating from UCL?
Yes, UCL is where my passion for wheeling and dealing was nurtured into something more sophisticated. I won several entrepreneurship awards while at UCL and received a lot of support and investment from UCL Advances, the universities centre for entrepreneurship. I still have tied with UCL, as I am the Consultant Entrepreneur at UCL Business Plc and they have invested in my business.
What would you say was some of the biggest lessons you took away from your university experience?
I learnt that a university has much more to offer than a good education in your chosen subject and that it is the things you do when you are not in class that really matter.
How did the idea for Charity Checkout come about?
The idea was inspired by the very first charities to register on our not-for-profit site, AliveandGiving.com. When we launched the site in 2009 I made a real effort to speak to as many of the new charities as possible. I noticed many were telling me they were intended to use the site to accept donations via their website. I did not think this was a good idea, sending donors off to a third party site to make their donation. Then I realised this was almost the norm amongst smaller charities, so I figured we could build something more flexible and suitable for this purpose.
What is Charity Checkout?
Charity Checkout is a donation-processing gateway for charities. We provide a utility that allows charities to easily set-up branded and customisable donation pages for their own website, email newsletters and social media profiles, so they can take donation easily via the web. We also process Gift Aid on behalf of our charities and are the only provider in the UK to offer discounts to smaller charities.
Since the last time we wrote about your company, what has been happening?
We’ve actually made some really positive changes. We have gone commission free, which means we do not take a cut of your donation for ourselves. This means we have the lowest transaction costs in our industry. We also offer free trials and we have been acquiring new clients much faster.
How have you been able to fund the company?
We’ve had various investors; UCL Advances and UCL Business Plc have been a great support.
What’s your business model?
We charge a small monthly fee for access to our system and we are now also offering websites to small and medium charities.
Is the company profitable?
We run a subscription based revenue model, so this will take time as the number of charities using our platform grows month on month. We’re making sales and growing our user base a good pace so we’re looking good.
What has been your most memorable moment so far on your journey?
The launch party AliveandGiving.com was pretty memorable; I’d never launched anything like that before and was very optimistic about the whole thing. It was great fun, although someone broke my laptop that night.
What has been some of the most crucial things you have done to grow your business?
I’ve managed to put together a very experienced and talented team through a partnership with another company. That’s protected me from making some major mistakes that most young entrepreneurs will probably make.
What three pieces of advice would you offer entrepreneurs starting out today?
Can I give a quote instead? Nolan Bushnell said, "A lot of people have ideas, but there are few who decide to do something about them now. Not tomorrow. Not next week. But today. The true entrepreneur is a doer, not a dreamer."
What plans do you have now to expand your business further in 2012?
We’re going to significantly increase our sales effort and affiliate scheme. This year is all about sales. We’ve also got a few little tricks up our sleeve…