The Business Owner: Vince Bridgman, Novanym

The co-founder suggests Britain needs more enterprise hubs and shares why customers should be thought of as potential lead generators

The Business Owner: Vince Bridgman, Novanym

Name: Vince Bridgman
Company: Novanym
Founders: Vince Bridgman and Dave Clark
Location: Camberley, Surrey
Proposition: Ready-made professional business names, with perfect dotcom domains, and a choice of logo designs
Size: 2

Describe your business model:

We’re a collection of great business names, created by experienced branding professionals. Every name has a perfect .com address; just the single word brand name, with no awkward compromises. So all customers have to do is browse the collection and choose a name that feels right for their business.

Once a name is purchased, buyers own the .com address and they can choose one of three professional logo designs.

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

Quality. We’re creative branding and naming specialists, so all the business names we sell have the potential to become brand names.

Off-the-peg domains are available elsewhere, but they’re usually sold by ‘domainers’, not by people who understand branding.

How did you finance your business?

We funded the launch of Novanym ourselves and now we are funded by its profits. It was a business with relatively low start-up costs and continues to have small overheads.

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

For me, it’s always been about keeping track of current customers, and making sure they’re completely happy, informed, and that we communicate with them effectively.

Every customer is a potential lead generator and we bear this in mind during every interaction.

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

In common with most e-commerce websites: visitor numbers. Therefore most of what we do every day is directly, or indirectly, linked to attracting new visitors.

What marketing techniques do you use to attract new customers?

  • Onsite content: We’re always busy writing new blogs around the issue of naming and branding.
  • Social: We’re reasonably active on most of the usual platforms – but our jury is out on which (if any) has the potential to drive sales. However, a good ‘social footprint’ can be a good thing for domain authority, so we’re sticking with it.
  • Adwords: This certainly delivers visitors to our site, but it’s been an expensive way of achieving sales. For us, Adwords pays for itself, but only just. An effective short-term tool, but not a long-term strategy.

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

For us, exporting is vital, with about 35% of sales coming from outside the UK and over the last quarter we’ve had customers from New Jersey, Bahrain, California, Italy and Tring!

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

We can (almost) run our business from our iPhones, so there are many apps we count on. But here are my top three:

  • Shopify app. Our website is custom-built on the Shopify platform, and their app notifies us of sales, allows us to process orders, manage products, and even edit any content on our site. So it has been invaluable.
  • Google Analytics app. Provides up-to-the-minute data on how many people are visiting our site, where they come from, and what they’re looking at. Brilliant, but addictive!
  • Chambers Thesaurus app. An incredibly useful and powerful reference tool when I’m developing new name ideas, and a dream to use.

Describe your company’s culture in three words:

Creative, relaxed, and focused.

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

Personally I don’t feel it’s the role of government to assist small businesses directly – but it should provide the climate that will enable them to flourish.

For example, incentivising commercial landlords to provide inspiring, high quality, flexible offices and workshops would help to provide this climate. Entrepreneurial ‘hubs’ are rare outside of major cities, and this is a missed opportunity.

Who’s your biggest small and medium enterprise hero?

I recently read Promise of a Pencil by Adam Braun. Although his big idea is a nonprofit, Braun’s approach, focus, journey and energy is truly inspiring – and relevant – to those of us who are running for-profit businesses.

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

We want to be the place that entrepreneurs and start-ups go to when they want a great name with a dotcom domain for their business. We’re never going to be mass market, but being the market leader in our niche is entirely achievable.

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

If you’re naming your business, don’t choose a name that describes what you do. Being a lean start-up means having the ability to ‘pivot’ and change direction. Descriptive names paint you into a corner. Instead, choose a name that’s open to interpretation, and just ‘feels right’.

The same goes for branding. Most start-ups only need a simple logotype, a distinctive colour, and a smart, professional website (use a platform like Squarespace to get you up and running). Pre-launch is too soon to nail down your branding, so don’t waste money on it until you know more about how your business works in the real world. You can have have some fun with your brand later.

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