Holly Tucker: three tips to launching a successful start up from notonthehighstreet.com

Online market place Notonthehighstreet.com started from a kitchen table in 2006 with Sophie Cornish and our #Pitch2Rich judge Holly Tucker. Since then, it’s revolutionised the way we shop in the UK with thousands of creative small businesses on board and over 100 staff. We caught up with Holly ahead of #Pitch2Rich to find out her top tips for start ups and uncover the three new businesses that have caught her eye over the last year.

Tips

1.) Collaborate to accelerate – The single fastest way to grow your business is through strategic partnerships with companies from which you and the company you’re working with can both benefit. The key here is to identify a business that you would like to work with then figure out how you can solve a problem for them.  If you offer them value, then most likely, they’ll repay the favour.

At notonthehighstreet.com, we do well by ensuring the businesses that sell on our site do well - it’s a win-win business model. As the company has grown, new ways of supporting our small business partners have been introduced including facilitating Partner to Partner collaboration. We have an online forum where Partners can share stories and ideas, an annual Make, Do & Meet event which includes business and innovation workshops and our own Make Awards which champion Partners’ talents and award the best with a trophy and valuable publicity.

2.) Offer Value – In order to build long standing relationships and boost engagement, it is important to communicate with customers at a relevant time about products and services that will be genuinely interesting to them. Aim to give them more than one reason to engage with your business. For us, that means coming up with fresh blog content such as interior styling ideas and posting relevant products on Facebook. It’s all about knowing your customers well enough to make those recommendations.

3.) Fail gracefully – Failing isn’t all that bad. It’s the single best way to learn so don’t be afraid to try new things and little ideas to see if they work or impact on your business. We made lots of mistakes in the early days (and often still do!) but the key is to learn from them and use those learnings moving forward. Many businesses say they do it, but it's a future-thinking business who actually embraces it properly.

Three innovate businesses I like

1.)     I’m a big fan of Hubbub, the grocery service which delivers products from local shops to your front door.  Like notonthehighstreet.com, the company is supporting small businesses by giving them access to the latest internet know-how and creating an online marketplace for their products. I’m passionate about technological innovation which enables traditional businesses to thrive and flourish.

2.)     I love taking photographs and finding less ordinary ways to use them so I was very excited when I read about Boomf. They allow you to submit photographs from your Instagram account and have them printed on marshmallows! The idea of turning social media activity into bespoke products is something we have already explored on notonthehighstreet.com and I think we can expect to see much more of it in the near future.

3.)     Bang Bang Tents recently joined notonthehighstreet.com as a Partner. Their Solar Powered, highly imaginative yet practical tents provide campers and festival goers with mobile phone/USB charging adapters to ensure they are able to stay connected in the great outdoors.

Pitch to Rich

Pitch to Rich is the nationwide search to find the bets and most innovative entrepreneurs in the UK, offering you a once in a lifetime to win £5,000 to grow your business from Sir Richard Branson.

Enter online now until midday 7 April. From the initial applications five entrepreneurs will be short-listed for each award and asked to prepare pitch videos to face a public vote. The entrepreneurs with the most votes by 22nd April will then pitch to Sir Richard Branson himself and our panel of judges on 13th May at the Branson family home in Oxfordshire.

Last year’s Pitch to Rich competition was won by brothers Joshua and John Okungbaiye, founders of High Spirit, which makes theft-proof rucksacks.

To enter, or to find out more about Virgin Media Pioneers, go to www.virginmediapioneers.com or on Twitter @VMPioneers #Pitch2Rich or Facebook @VirginMediaPioneers.