The Business Owner: Leigh Cowell, KingstonMemoryCards.co.uk
The founder explains the importance of social interaction and why he'd like to see the government reduce VAT
Founders: Leigh Cowell
Location: Preston, Lancashire
Proposition: Independent authorised resellers of Kingston memory products including RAM upgrades for servers, laptops, desktops and anything that accepts RAM, along with SSDs and memory cards.
Describe your business model:
As an online retailer and independent authorised reseller of Kingston memory products, we sell an array of computer related parts as well as providing full custom services for local businesses, schools, education departments and government departments.
How is your business different from what’s already out there?
We offer expert advice on memory upgrades for devices such as laptops, desktops, servers, motherboards along with smartphones, digital Cameras etc.
RAM upgrades can often be confusing to the customer so we aim to reduce or remove this confusion with our specialist advice and our direct support from Kingston.
Server RAM memory upgrades can also sometimes be difficult for customers to understand, so we also offer advice on these upgrades too, whether customers are looking to maximise performance, reduce power usage or just generally get the best memory upgrade for their business’s requirements within a server environment.
How did you finance your business?
I started by selling products with a very high margin around eight years ago, which enabled me to use the capital accumulated to invest into other products and expand into other areas.
What is the most important thing to keep track of in business and why?
Cash flow, profit margins and overheads.
These are the big three for me.
As we are an e-commerce business, margins (both directly and indirectly) affect every aspect of your business.
Margins affect your cash flow and as any business will tell you, managing cash flow correctly is the key to success and growth.
Working with sensible profit margins can ensure your overheads and cash flow can be less of a headache.
What is the biggest day-to-day challenge you face?
Dealing with the constant changes in the supply and demand of memory products.
Sometimes the demand from consumers can be higher than supply from manufacturers and this can cause issues.
Often memory can go into allocation with the manufacturers so it’s important that we try and keep good stock levels to overcome this.
Price changes are also a constant problem as memory pricing can change daily which can hurt our growth forecasts.
Memory is an incredibly volatile market.
What marketing techniques do you use to attract new customers?
We use paid advertising with a mix of natural SEO, as well as social interaction.
Gathering data on what our customers are searching for both on and off our websites and building paid advertising campaigns around this data is key.
Social media is also a great way of getting your brand out there if it’s done correctly.
What’s great about social media is that its completely free and we find competitions work well too within social media environments.
Do you think it’s important for small businesses to export, any tips?
I guess this would depend on the product you are offering and the demand for it overseas.
We offer shipping outside of the UK on our products.
This makes up a small amount of our sales percentage for the year.
What’s the business app you couldn’t do without?
This is a cloud based app that enables us to work remotely and connect with suppliers seamlessly.
It’s become a vital part of our business within the last 12 months.
Describe your company’s culture in three words:
Experts. Friendly. Memory!
What would you like the government to do for small business?
In general, I would like to see an overall reduction on the VAT rate.
This would help drive sales because prices would be more attractive to the customer.
This would result in the government collecting more in the way of corporation tax as sales would rise.
The benefits to the economy on reduced VAT rates would be hugely significant in my opinion.
Everyone would have more money in their pockets!
Who’s your biggest small and medium enterprise hero?
I always had a fascination with guys like Richard Branson and Alan Sugar from a young age.
One of my old bosses was inspirational for me for a small sized business.
I always admire entrepreneurs who start with nothing, literally a few pounds, and build a business into something significant with a turnover into the millions.
Where do you want the business to be in three years?
Continuing to provide great memory products to both businesses and end users!
What’s your top tip for keeping it lean and making profit?
Profit margins are the key. Know them and understand them!
These affect everything, especially the ability to grow your business positively.