The Business Owner: Mat Dusting, M-24
The Somerset based business, that turns used truck tarpaulin into bags, talks to is4profit about their mission to improve the environment
Founder: Mat Dusting
Location: Somerset, London
Proposition: Designing and selling bags from used truck tarpaulin
Size: Small business
How is your business different from what’s already out there?
We manufacture bags from used truck tarpaulins not new material. The material comes from the side of lorries and is used to protect goods while travelling on roads. We salvage this used plastic ,from haulage companies, around the UK back to Somerset where we process the material into a usable form before cutting and stitching them into bags. We are very different to most bag companies.
How did you finance your business?
With a £2,000 loan from The Prince’s Trust, £2,500 of grant money from the local council, and competitions. After three years of trading, I secured angel investment from two people that totaled £70,000.
What is the most important thing to keep track of in business and why?
The end vision is vital for anyone starting a business. Thinking big is key and will ultimately attract customers, employees and potential investors. Obviously cash flow is the most important financial thing to keep track of. Cash is King.
What is the biggest day-to-day challenge you face?
I think it’s really important to surround yourself with like-minded people because you’ll be able to bounce ideas around and self-motivate quickly. For the first two years of running M-24, I hopped from coffee house to coffee house and didn’t get feedback on ideas that I came up with. This was difficult because I was never 100% sure if I was doing the right thing.
Now the biggest challenge is building a bigger customer base. This is an on-going process that I love!
What marketing techniques do you use to attract new customers?
There are plenty of mainstream techniques that most companies use to get customers like competitions, email marketing, social media sharing, bloggers etc but I find the ones which are most effective tend to be less common techniques.
We recently launched three pop-up shops in central London during 2015. Each shop provided a very powerful way of attracting new customers. We chose high footfall locations and ensured everyone who walked into the store went away with some form of marketing material if not a product.
In terms of online, I’ve been experimenting with Instagram – which is proving very fruitful at the moment.
Do you think it’s important for small businesses to export, any tips?
From my experience no. You’re a small business – become known in your own country before going abroad. I learnt the hard way and ended up spending loads of time working out how to reach people on the other side of the planet when I know there are plenty of people in my own country who haven’t heard of me. Spend time and money reaching people on your doorstep first.
What’s the business app you couldn’t do without?
Shopify. It’s an e-commerce platform that allows me to sell my products online. I can manage stock, customers, fulfillment and much more from my mobile. I dread to think how much time it saves me. Brilliant app from e-commerce!
Describe your company’s culture in three words:
Urban, creative and honest.
What would you like the government to do for small business?
I think the government have done quite a lot, from funding to free advice. There is a lot of help out there. Being totally selfish, I would love to see them reduce business rates for small independent retailers to help diversify our high streets. Most of them are dominated by the same big brands.
Who’s your biggest small and medium enterprise hero?
My dad is top of the list because he’s a great inspiration. Naveen Jain has to be my number one high profile inspiration. He thinks on a completely different level to most entrepreneurs. Very inspiring. Google him.
Where do you want the business to be in three years?
M-24 has the potential to become a household name within three years. We’re on a mission to become an innovative luggage brand committed to improving the environment and spreading awareness of what is possible using second hand materials.
What’s your top tip for keeping it lean and making profit?
Do as much as you can for free. Beg, borrow and use your friends to help in the beginning stages. I didn’t want to pay a professional photographer at the beginning so I borrowed my friend’s very expensive camera and in return gave him an M-24 bag. I saved myself about £400.
I’m a firm believer that if you keep an eye on the costs, the profits will look after themselves.
Finally, don’t think “how am I going to build a million-pound business” but think “how do I improve a million people’s lives”