I recently spoke to two brothers, Nic and James Auckland who back in 2004 had the spark that eventually turned into Trade Radiators. Without further ado, read on for the interview:
How are you guys today?
Good thanks, just 'taking stock' while the weather is hot and preparing our most popular lines ready for when the British Summer comes to an end!
Can you give me a bit of background about yourselves?
We're two brothers in our 30's, I studied in Nottingham, worked in NYC before settling down in Glasgow. James studied in Sheffield, moved to Nottingham setting up as graphic designer and now settled in Leicestershire. The entrepreneurial spirit was instilled in us from an early age; the only way to really succeed was to work hard and work for yourself.
So what is Trade Radiators?
It's a dedicated radiator website offering great products at affordable prices to end users and trade customers alike.
How did it all begin? What was the inspiration?
With my background of sales and my brother James’ background in graphics we had been discussing setting up a business together and realised the internet was the ideal platform on which to trial our ideas. We both had other full time work commitments so it seemed the most logical and cost effective way on which to get things started. So with an open mind I chanced upon a range of high quality products (at an appealing price) whilst working for a property developer and spec'ing out one of their penthouse apartments.
We managed to open an account with the supplier and after sorting out a way in which we could get the products to the customers we took the plunge. Our approach initially was to advertise everything from their brochure to see what would sell. The market then dictated what products we should focus on.
What was it that made you go full time on the business?
The way it took off! It soon became unable to manage successfully part time so the joint decision was made to make it our sole focus as we could see with more time the potential for growth was great and it was exciting!
What was the initial take up like? and how did you get your first few customers?
We initially 'tested the water' with a £1 product listing on eBay, it blossomed from there with reinvesting the profits to list more and more products, whilst at the same time developing our own website. We now have a large customer base, with many ordering from us time and time again.
What makes you different to your competition?
A Unique Selling Point in retail is always quite difficult to pin point unless you have a unique product. So we have worked on a combination of products, price and focus on the customer experience. We would never look at cutting corners in areas of customer service as the customer at the end of the day is key! We also pride ourselves in our long standing knowledgeable team, many of whom have been with us from near the beginning.
What has been your biggest challenge since starting the business?
Growing our business during the economic down turn and recession. Consumer confidence and reduced spending was really affecting the general retail environment, with the housing & construction industries being especially hard hit - both being our key customer groups!
How have you overcome this challenge?
We kept our focus, doubling our efforts on the areas that historically had worked, especially when it came to advertising. Continuing to listen to our customers needs as their feedback proved invaluable on whether we were going in the right direction.
What has growth been like and what has been key in growing the business?
Growth has been good, I would say brisk in the first few years with steady year on year growth since. Reinvesting the profits in our business has helped with growth, it's allowed us flexibility to jump at opportunities as they've arisen and afforded us the ability to expand our team and our advertising through good and challenging market times.
How did you fund the business initially?
One of the main initial costs we faced was the website design and development, but as James already had skills in this field he designed it in all his available spare time. I enrolled on an ecommerce training course in how our website software worked and what could and couldn't be done. Before our main site emerged, and as mentioned before, the first product listing cost us £1 on eBay, so I would have to say apart from the big investment in both of our time in the early stages it was the £1 product listing where 'funds' were actually put into the company.
What advice would you give to any aspiring entrepreneurs?
Be prepared to work hard, success very rarely happens overnight, be patient and flexible but don't loose focus on what your core business is and who your customers are. Enjoy it, it reflects well on to your customers. Bounce back quick from disappointments and learn from them. Reinvest in your business. Just go for it, life's too short to look back and think 'what if I had just...'
Where do you want to be in 5 years?
We don’t like to look too far ahead, keeping our main focus on what’s happening now with our customers and products. I would like to see us maintaining steady growth, the introduction of new product lines, increasing our market share and continuing to hold our own against the ‘big boys’. Incorporating the latest technologies and embracing new and exciting social media channels and platforms. Continuing investment in our brilliant Team, and at the end of the day I hope the journey ahead is as exciting as the past 10 years have proved!
Thanks guys and good luck!
Trade Radiators are also running a great competition over on their Facebook page which asks entrepreneurs and tradespeople to provide a short piece on how they feel hiring an apprentice or intern would help to improve their business. The winning entrant will win £3000 in capital to support taking on an apprentice or intern to get their business off the ground. Nice!