The Business Owner: Simon Heap, Rugged Interactive

On a mission to get everyone healthy, the entrepreneur talks to is4profit about why it's important small businesses have ambition when exporting

The Business Owner: Simon Heap, Rugged Interactive

Name: Simon Heap
Company: Rugged Interactive
Location: Fowey, Cornwall
Proposition: Helping everyone get healthy through motivational fitness technology
Size: Six full-time employees

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

We design and manufacture motivational equipment that combines what’s great about indoor gyms with play. We use competition and fun as a motivating factor as well as a radically different form of exercise.

How did you finance your business?

Initially savings, then a loan from an EU-funded lender plus a couple of small grants. As we have grown we have attracted outside equity investors.

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

Cashflow and customers – understanding one drives the other and without either there’s no business.

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

It’s a truism but it’s tough to work on the business and not get dragged into working in the business.

What marketing techniques do you use to attract new customers?

We do very little advertising; instead we work our exhibitions, social media, videos and web presence hard. Word of mouth is always key – evangelists are the strongest sales force any business can have.

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

It’s enormously important for any business to have ambitions beyond their local market and if that means export then the internet enables that to happen easily.

But it’s easy to forget the cost of service, maintenance and the extra time it takes to communicate with export customers. Initially, I’d say find a great distributor (easier said than done!) and depend on them.

Of course there’s also differences in interpretation, local trading laws (both legal and ‘on the ground’) and networks that are just not available to an outside exporter.

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

Basecamp, a project communication tool.

Describe your company’s culture in three words:

Flexible, curious, ambitious.

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

Reduce red tape and somehow get the banks to accept that small businesses are the backbone of the economy so they’d be wise to do better business with them.

Who’s your biggest small and medium enterprise hero?

I don’t really have heroes, but I love the ambition and work ethic of US YouTuber Casey Neistat

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

To have doubled our turnover every year, to be selling in eight different territories and to have launched a consumer product.

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

Do the best job you can, keep away from business consultants, do as much as possible in-house and hire people better than you!

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