What was the inspiration behind the company concept?
After leaving my job in the City, I returned home for a while and was keen to start a new business. Whilst at my mother’s house one afternoon, we witnessed her struggling to carry cumbersome pet food home from the supermarket. Both Lexi and I quickly identified a gap in the market for a home delivery pet food service. The idea for PetShopBowl.co.uk was born – focusing on saving pet owners’ time and money by delivering these heavy repetitive products direct to their homes.
Do you have pets yourselves?
We have two cats; Hugo and Schofield.
Where does the name PetShopBowl come from?
The name PetShopBowl.co.uk represents the mixture between the traditional e-tailing that we offer, as well as reflecting our hero product; the Bottomless Bowl auto delivery service. Bottomless Bowl is a unique auto delivery service that allows consumers to receive their pet food on a regular subscription-style basis.
How does the payment service work?
We use Streamline to manage all of our online payments via the website. We offer our customers the option to pay for a one-off pet food purchase or to subscribe to Bottomless Bowl; our auto billing and delivery service which allows customers to choose how often and when they want their pet food billed and delivered. This unique subscription service has been made possible by Streamline, which unlike PayPal, is flexible in allowing customised delivery times.
What methods have you taken to keep up to date with online payments?
Sagepay is our basic payment platform and by integrating Streamline into it, we have been able to offer unique payment flexibility to our customers. This is crucial to our business and makes us unique in keeping up with consumer demand for ever-more convenient ways of shopping for their pet food.
Why did you choose Streamline as a solution?
We are a low margin business and Streamline really understood our needs. It has a great reputation and is more cost-effective, secure and flexible than any other payment provider.
Streamline walked us through the entire set-up process with fantastic customer service and this is the same type of service that we now offer at PetShopBowl.co.uk. Having now used Streamline for three years, we could not be happier with the service they provide.
What kind of problems have you encountered since starting the business?
Setting up a mass market, high volume but relatively low margin business has had its challenges. We needed to market and build our customer base quickly to bring down our cost and benefit from economies of scale in order to make it a profitable business model.
What was particularly challenging was marketing our business without many funds. We were armed only with our £5,000 Prince’s Trust loan. We therefore had to be creative with our marketing activities to grow our customer base and as a result, have managed to increase our Facebook fans to 73,000 within two and half years.
Are there any moments you wished you hadn’t had or could relive?
No, we have been very fortunate with our business journey to date! We have reached key business milestones and made important decisions, such as moving from the incubator into our first commercial space, recruiting our first employee and finding funds to keep growing. We have benefited from having great mentors as well as being able to seize good opportunities which have benefited us and prevented any disasters.
So what is the next step for you both?
PetShopBowl.co.uk already ships to consumers in France and Germany but we’re hopeful that we will continue to expand our network to include the rest of the EU as well as growing our presence in France and Germany.
What sort of figures are you expecting next year?
PetShopBowl.co.uk earnings are increasing at a rapid rate. We are on track to treble our turnover from last year in 2013 and are optimistic for 2014.
Where do you see the business in ten years’ time?
The trend of growing affection and stronger bonds between people and their pets is set to increase over the next decade. Supplying pet food has remained recession-proof and has actually grown as a market over the last few years- this stands as a testament to the fact that people in the UK really love their pets.
This trend has created several changes in the industry, such as people’s need for the very best pet care to prolong their pet’s life as much as possible. This provides an exciting prospect for PetShopBowl.co.uk, to be at the forefront of the market in providing advice to pet owners about pet nutrition and offering good quality pet food without breaking the bank!
Can you give any parting advice to our readers and wannabe entrepreneurs?
Research your market well, make sure it is scalable and that there is a real need for your idea by test trading as early as possible. This way, you can test a good idea before investing lots of time and money.
Lastly, it is important to find good mentors; we have benefited greatly from mentors that have seen us through the different growth stages of our business.