Startup tips from ClickMechanic co-founder Andrew Jervis
In this interview, Andrew Jervis (pictured right) – co-founder of mobile car mechanic service ClickMechanic – shares his advice for student and graduate entrepreneurs.
What key advice would you give to a university student looking to start their own business?
- Solve problems for big markets;
- Make your MVP [Minimum Viable Product] – quickly learn and iterate;
- Stretch every penny and make the most of free services.
ClickMechanic was started in 2-3 weeks, a one page website with a Paypal link. The first customer came from free Adwords credits when there were no mechanics on the system – we were testing a hypothesis to see if people would book a mechanic online. It was a lean start but led to the business getting off the ground and is now thriving over 5 years later.
Is it practical to combine university and enterprise?
This is surprisingly feasible when you manage your time effectively. There are some obvious concessions you have to make but, by prioritising tasks, you can make setting up a business fit around your schedule, I managed to make it work with a merchandise company, PieBoy. As part of any university, dedicated societies and events for enterprise are encouraged and will have their own community of people around them, meaning you don’t have to miss out on so much socialising. Even better, this socialising can be called networking as you can easily absorb a lot of expertise, even recruiting new talent to work alongside.
How did you seek help and investment?
- Be open to new opportunities, such as networking events and hackathons;
- Put yourself out there, sharing your journey and building a network;
- Get stuck in with business societies and enterprise communities in your city;
- Find investment through startup grants and loans;
- Join incubators/accelerators and get training on enterprise through EF or NEF;
- Leverage your network and get access to investors and advisors.
What was the biggest challenge to setting up CM?
There are always challenges to getting started, but starting ClickMechanic was a fairly scrappy affair taking just two weeks and £10 to get up and running.
The biggest challenges usually revolve around hitting milestones, like the first customer, generating revenue, or hitting profitability. These are business challenges that are constantly evolving as the business expands.
Other key challenges have involved pitching and negotiating with investors. To sell your business on a stage to angel investors is a test but one that should be embraced and can be a vital step to growing if you go down the investment route. Similarly, negotiating with investors and getting them to buy into the vision can be a full time role at times as the business grows.
As the business scales, how do you maintain the startup culture?
As you grow in size, you will start to pick up more processes and routines to help foster a company spirit. This might include company socials, Friday drinks, or even the infamous start-up beanbag. It’s also important that every new employee adds something new to the company, shifting how teams and the wider company works by adding their own ideas to the pot. At ClickMechanic, we have focussed on empowering employees, granting them ownership and responsibility which breeds innovation. The culture this breeds is exactly the kind of start-up environment that can continue to thrive as the business evolves.
Do you miss anything about the early days of CM?
As with every start-up story, there are many sleepless nights and weekends spent toiling away. This time and effort is vital to being able to quickly turn your idea into a reality. The effort is absolutely paid off in the early days by reaching key milestones. The records, breakthroughs and business partnerships are all massive achievements, especially as they will be self propelled in the early days. Those early successes are always special.
What do you feel is the state of enterprise in the UK?
Over the last 10 years, there have been incredible shifts in our economy and culture. In pre-crash 2008, everyone wanted to be a high earning banker or stock market tycoon. We have seen a massive overhaul in ambitions, with the rise of high profile entrepreneurs and businesses. There is also more support and funding for new business than ever before, with the government keen to kick-start the economy. A ripe startup environment has meant more angel investors, venture capital companies, and even crowdfunding options are flooding markets with cash for those who work hard for it. With all of this opportunity, comes plenty of fierce competition that prospective entrepreneurs will have to put even more effort into winning.
Can you give us a one sentence description of a successful entrepreneur?
A hardworking individual with the grit and determination to push through challenges.