Startups aren't all about inventing something new - often they're abut taking a new approach to an established industry or model. This is the case for Where's My Market, a new online platform for market traders and market shoppers alike. Aiming to bring together information about local markets, as well as providing a place for market stalls to sell more flexibly and to amplify their audience, it's a breath of fresh air into an industry that needs a bit of a shake up. We sat down for a cuppa with founder Matthew Walters.
1. Explain your business in the time it would take the kettle to boil or drink to be poured
A market trader directory - a one-stop online platform for market shoppers to find out all the information they need about the local market traders in the areas they are in or visiting, as there is information online about markets but very little about the traders of these markets.
This is a platform for market traders to join the online world, and retain their customers and keep their markets full rather than join the online world and in return leave the markets empty.
2. Where are you based and why is it a good location for your business?
Where's My Market will be based around the West Midlands to begin with because it’s a location I feel is in need of something to boost the local markets back to their previous glory, especially in areas nearer to my home and I know I can start this with Where's My Market. In my opinion markets aren't as good as they once were when I was young and I want to bring back that trade and bring it back to that level.
3. How did you come up with the idea?
The idea came about was whilst I was still in university. I have always aspired to be an entrepreneur and run many successful businesses, both profit and non-profit.
Once I finished my business studies course at university, I knew I wanted to pursue self-employment and work for myself. I was inspired by the market tasks in The Apprentice as I thought I could easily do that, so I decided that would be my first mini business. I had previous market knowledge as my mum had done a few brick-a-brack markets when I was young, and I remember helping. My plan was to build up revenue until I could buy a shop and sell products, but as markets aren't on every day, I would only have a limited time to sell.
However, I finally had a lightbulb moment as it occurred to me that market traders have no online presence in terms of a one way shop for all, where people could search local markets and stock, and where traders could sell online, as well as offering delivery services and making their markets 24/7, like I wanted to do. I have since developed the idea to be simple and affordable, leaving space for further development and other routes and avenues.
4. What’s the business model?
This would be a monthly subscription model for membership for the website so that market traders have their stall listed, whilst keeping the price as low as possible to benefit the traders.
5. Who are your competitors?
When I initially thought of the idea I thought I had none, but then when setting up my social media pages and blog I came to find a few similar yet still different platforms. One is Market Snap (yet to launch), another called The Market People (a market search service recently launched). There are other website I have found but seem to be used more for affiliate marketing purposes rather than to benefit the trader, none of which you will find on Google when searching for market traders.
6. What’s unique about your business?
Where's My Market is unique because this will be the only website that is specifically for the market trader. Where's My Market will only promote the market traders - our members won’t have to worry about competing with small businesses. This business also has the ability to reach thousands of market lovers across the UK.
7. What stage was your business at when you applied for the Start Up Loan?
The stage I was at when applied for the loan was at the dream stage, just a note in my mobile phone.
8. How have you used it to grow your business?
The money has been used to start the business by developing the website, and for a lot of serious online and offline marketing ready for launch.
9. Who is your regional delivery partner and how did they help you get a Virgin StartUp loan?
Business Enterprise Support, and they have helped me hugely - in fact if it was not for Glenn Watts I don't think I would have received the thumbs up for the loan. Glenn was as enthusiastic as I was about the idea, if not more at times, and the advice he gave me was excellent. Glenn was the one who advised me to set up my social media campaigns, specifically the blog. He introduced me to a lot of great people, and I learned a lot from him - they sent me to great courses and masterclasses to help me improve myself, as well as networking events (he practically showed me how to network). The support was incredible.
10. Biggest achievement so far?
A big personal achievement for me was completing university. When it comes to the business, The Market Shoppers Blog has currently been viewed over 4,200 times since August and has had over 2,200 unique viewers, with a total of 15 blogs released so far. The Market Shoppers Twitter has been a great success as I have been able to connect with many markets and big market organisations such as the National Market Trader's Foundation (NMTF), as well as the National Association of British Markets authorities (NABMA). The Twitter page has acquired over 775 followers, the majority being market-associated, and is growing strong.
But the most successful social media campaign would have to be the Markets Still Matter Facebook page, with a following currently over 4,100 and growing very quickly since August 2015 launch. Since January 2016 the Facebook page has really taken off, as at the beginning of the month we had only 2,000 followers. We more than doubled this by 31st January. The page has had easily over 100,000 interactions in January, and we've gained 5,000 direct followers in 5 months across our channels, which is by far my biggest achievement.
12. What’s next for your business?
The next step for my business is to launch the website, as it is still under development, and show the benefits of the website by bring the shoppers back to all the markets.