A watercooler moment with Lexi Tamasan, co-founder of online pet supplies retailer PetShopBowl.co.uk
In a nutshell, what does PetShopBowl.co.uk do?
PetShopBowl is an online pet supplies retailer. We sell everything from pet food to pet accessories at a discount; sometimes as much as 33% in comparison to a mainstream supermarket. The goods are delivered directly to your door.
Where did the idea for PetShopBowl.co.uk come from?
I started the business with my partner Adam. The idea came when I was at his mum’s house four years ago and I watched her struggle carrying pet supplies for her two dogs and four cats at the time. We thought there must be a better way of doing this where you can have it delivered to your door. We also thought you can surely have this sent automatically so you don’t have to remember to buy pet supplies, you don’t run out and you don’t struggle to carry the pet supplies.
If you know your dog will eat dry food or cans for 12 years of their life, why not just have the same quantity delivered every month, and it just pops up at your door.
When did you start up?
How has it gone so far?
We’re doing really well; we’re turning over a few million pounds. We are now employing more people and we should have ten by the end of this month. We have just under 100,000 fans on Facebook at the moment.
What has been the biggest challenge so far?
The biggest challenge as a start-up was managing growth. When we started renting out premises for example, we knew we’d need bigger premises within three years but at the time we couldn’t afford to rent big warehouse spaces and so the challenge was growing and managing the money we had, knowing that we would grow quite quickly.
We moved into an industrial park and stayed for six months in one of the smaller units before we had to upgrade.
How would you say you differentiate yourself from the competition?
When we set up the business, the pet food delivery service was our main point of differentiation. It quickly became very obvious that customer service needed to be another one. So we call our customers to wish their pets a happy birthday and we address parcels to the pet and their pet parents, as we call them. We do develop a real rapport with our customers and I think that keeps them there. We attract customers because we are easy to deal with and you don’t have to worry about arranging repeat delivery.
What has been the best decision you have made to-date?
I’d say the biggest and best decision we’ve made was moving out of London to the Midlands. We’ve managed to move closer to all of our suppliers. There are obvious logistical benefits to being in the middle of the country such as parcels getting to customers quicker. It just eliminates a lot of the time and online shopping is all about quick turnaround and quick delivery.
Where do you see the business in 12 months’ time?
We’re looking to start up a vet website to sell stuff like Frontline for cats, and veterinary supplies. We’re also very excited about moving into Europe. We already sell to some countries in Europe but we definitely want to be become a bit more established in these countries and employ multilingual workers for customer service teams dedicated to those countries and so on. 2014 is definitely about conquering Europe.
If you had one piece of advice for entrepreneurs, what would it be?
From my experience of being an entrepreneur, you can find that the boundaries between your personal and work life become rather blurred. I’ve often found myself going home and working late, going on the internet, looking at competition and so forth. My advice would be to make sure to take time off when you need to. Just by taking a step back, you can refocus and look at things and problems from a fresh perspective.