The Business Owner: Oliver Pugh, EarlyBird

The entrepreneur discusses why running a business is about more than just focusing on the numbers, and growing from your mistakes

The Business Owner: Oliver Pugh, EarlyBird

Name: EarlyBird
Founders: Oliver Pugh and Jamie Trinder
Location: TechHub Office, Shoreditch, London
Proposition: Snack subscription service
Size: 7 people

How is your business different from what’s already out there?

Basically we deliver healthy snack boxes to our customers but we have a unique offering and like to think our TasteBox is like a festival in a box. We feature new artists’ work in our TasteBoxes every month, and we’re developing EB Studios, which will give EarlyBird’s subscribers access to exclusive music content in the boxes and online, such as podcasts from up and coming artists and free downloads.

How did you finance your business?

I invested my savings in the company when we initially started, and since then we’ve raised over £125,000 via the crowdfunding platform Crowdcube, and a further £175,000 through private investments.

We’ve just launched our second crowdfunding campaign on Crowdcube in order to raise £300,000.

What is the most important thing to keep track of in business and why?

I used to think that it was all about the numbers, but over the past year, I’ve realised that it’s just as important to listen to people, from your customers, to your employees and your suppliers. We’re constantly gathering feedback to look at the ways in which we can improve.

It’s hard to tell from numbers where the real issues lie, and it’s only when you listen to your customers that you can really improve. It’s also imperative for us that every team member at EarlyBird is happy. We’re a passionate bunch of people and work hard to ensure that we’re delivering a great product to our consumers, and it’s so important to not get bogged down by numbers and lose sight of where we’ve come from and our beliefs as a company.

What is the biggest day-to-day challenge you face?

Our biggest challenge is ensuring that everything is running smoothly, from our supply chain to our website. Like every business, we’ve had our fair share of problems, and it’s important to recognise that whilst we do encounter issues, we’re constantly learning from them and are progressing and moving forward.

What marketing techniques do you use to attract new customers?

We’re really active on our social channels as this is where our customer base is. We are focused on making interactive and engaging content that people want to share. Value additions are also an important part of our proposal. We have a discounted first box offer, which is available to everyone via our website, and we also give customers a share code which when gives the referee and referral a free box – win, win.

We’ve also been running promotions online with bloggers and have supplied snacks to a few events and festivals.

Do you think it’s important for small businesses to export, any tips?

Exporting provides great opportunities for small businesses to increase sales and gain a global market share. Ultimately it depends on what you’re selling and what the demand is for your product.

You may not be the first to market domestically, but you could well gain the first-mover advantage abroad.

What’s the business app you couldn’t do without?

LinkedIn because it’s a great platform to connect with other entrepreneurs, follow inspirational business people and find interesting business stories.

The EarlyBird team also couldn’t live without Borrow My Doggy, which allows you to borrow someone’s dog for a day. Dogs are proven to reduce stress in the workplace so it’s definitely worth using!

Describe your company’s culture in three words:

Fun, energetic and young.

What would you like the government to do for small business?

I’d like to see the government extend the SCIS scheme and see them encouraging students to be entrepreneurial. I don’t believe there’s enough on the curriculum to inspire students to start their own company.

I think that Young Enterprise is a great initiative and believe this should be compulsory as it teaches you so many skills about business that students don’t gain through their school studies.

Who’s your biggest small and medium enterprise hero?

Paul McManus, who owns a chain of pubs in Northampton. Paul taught me everything I know about business, and I’m so grateful for it.

Where do you want the business to be in three years?

In three years, we would like a wider customer reach and a larger range of snacks in our portfolio. We also aim to fully develop our music platform, which would include securing exclusive deals with up and coming musicians as well as having a great bank of artists that we’ve featured in our TasteBoxes so far.

What’s your top tip for keeping it lean and making profit?

For EarlyBird, it’s not about keeping it lean. We want to make a difference in the world and unfortunately we can’t do this with eyes fixed on the bottom line. We’re trying to build something of value.

Of course, we want to make a profit, but our main focus at the moment is satisfying our customers and pushing the boundaries in terms of what we can achieve.

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