Ben Dale, founder of modern-rugs.co.uk, talks to us about how he set up his own successful e-commerce business.
Why did you decide to work in the industry and how did it start?
After I finished university I was working as a marketing manager for a large ecommerce website design company called Enigma Interactive. While I enjoyed helping other businesses get into ecommerce, it was something I really wanted to do for myself. I felt I had enough knowledge to start my own online business but I wasn’t sure what product I could sell.
My dad had a small carpet shop in our home town – obviously carpets seemed too large to sell online but rugs seemed well suited. They were not too big to deliver with couriers and not easily damaged. Selling online would also mean I could offer a much bigger selection of designs and sizes than any physical shop could.
What was the turning point in your career?
When I felt confident I could run it as a full time business. I left my job at Enigma and we converted by dad’s carpet premises into the warehouse and office for Modern Rugs. Since then the business has grown and grown every year.
What was the most important thing you learned in education/university?
I studied for a BA (Hons) in Marketing Management and my dissertation was a study on how to build a successful ecommerce brand looking at examples such as Amazon. At that time (around 2003) the ‘Dot-com bubble’ had already burst. Ecommerce marketing was fresh and exciting; I found it really interesting and knew it was something I wanted get into.
Some people have the misconception that setting up a successful ecommerce business is easy, but building the business to the point it is at today has involved a lot of hard work. We have over 10,000 designs on our website now which has been gradually built up over the last 8 years.
What does the future look like for you?
The next big step is moving to new larger premises which will allow us to employ more people and hold more stock. We’re always looking at new exciting products and new ways to grow the business, for example we should soon be at the stage where we can look into targeted television advertising.
What key skills do you need to get into the industry?
I think you need to be committed 100% to what you are doing; I might even use the word obsessive! Of course you also need to have good general business sense and skills. The ability to take calculated risks is also important.
Finally, there is only so much one person can do, so I think it is important to surround yourself with the right people that are going to work with you towards your goals.
Do you have any motivational words for students aspiring to make it in this very competitive industry?
If you really believe in something but you are not successful the first time, try not to give up. Refine your ideas, work hard, get experience and gain skills in all aspects of business, and try again.