Meet Serial Entrepreneur Simon Leonard
Simon Leonard has extensive experience and knowledge within the subscription club model and looks set to take the Ashleigh Shopping Club and Redu to new heights this year. Simon was previously a main shareholder and director of 4 businesses including the hugely successful Gourmet Society and Tastecard, that resulted in M&A and exit deals in excess of €300M between April 2014 and September 2015.
Thank you so much for joining me Simon and congrats on joining the board at Redu. Why was this an important move for you?
Well, the Ashleigh Shopping Club is quite an exciting company and fills a massive gap within the market, so it was a natural move for me to be a part of a company that focused on the end consumer and wants to continue innovating in their sector. So, I was thrilled to get involved when they reached out and asked me to. It’s mainly because they are filling a genuine gap in the market and nobody else is doing this.
With previous experience at Gourmet Society and Tastecard. What do you think makes the Ashleigh Shopping Club the next big thing?
It’s day in day out savings, and with numerous other discount schemes out there, it's great if you have a high-income level and you can afford to go to restaurants once a week or more. However, the great thing about Ashleigh Shopping Club is that it’s for everyone, regardless of our income brackets, so you don’t have to be a high earner or a middle earner. It’s so easy that you can literally save money on your baked beans, so that’s the difference in value that it offers to everyone.
And you have a lot of experience with the subscription club business model. What are your tops tips to get it right the first time?
I would absolutely say transparency with your customer, so your customer is fully aware of what the subscription is and what it has to offer them. Secondly, your offering has to be superior to the competition, and so compelling that your customer would want to use it week in week out, whatever the product is. Whether it’s a toothbrush or for instance one of my other businesses, which is a razor company, you want it to be compelling enough that your customer would want to continue using it. If it’s not exciting or offers good value, there is no reason for people to subscribe.
We’ve been talking a lot about business, but who is the man behind all of the experiences and success?
I’m your archetypical entrepreneur; I’ve been doing it since I was 11 years old selling different things in school, as a lot of people did at that age. As I got older it stayed with me, which meant that I have never worked for anyone else but myself. I did law at university, it wasn’t for me, but I graduated and went straight into business working for myself, so working for Ashleigh Shopping is my first job. It’s a little bit different from me, but it’s something that I am quite excited about.
Nowadays, I love building products; there is something quite satisfying to create a product from scratch and seeing the end result in your customer's hands. In one of my previous businesses, Restaurant Choice, I love the fact that I can walk into a Tescos for instance and find a gondola with lots of Restaurant Choice cards. I mean, that’s where I get my buzz, actually seeing something that I’ve made out in the world and people using it.
I do feel that is one of the best feelings about being an entrepreneur; bringing an idea to life and seeing other people using it.
Yes, like with Ashleigh, there isn’t anything else like it out there, so it’s exciting to be on board and helping to create something that is new and innovative. That’s the best thing, building something that is new rather than just copying an existing product.
How did you go from being that 11-year-old boy, running so many successful companies, to now being on the board of one of the most innovative companies in the UK?
I started my previous business Gourmet Society, literally knocking on doors and restaurants trying to persuade people of the concept, and the idea that was in my head, and bit by bit, I got the idea down and managed to convince people that it was a good thing. I then moved on to selling it to members of the public, then, of course, making every mistake in the world, from door knocking to phoning companies and advertising that didn’t work. Just numerous things that didn’t work, until I found the angle that did work for us as a business, and eventually I sold the business to private equity, which is why I’ve since been invited onto the board of various companies to share my expertise and help to build a strong company.
What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs who have similar goals to yourself?
The best thing I ever learnt, probably six or seven years ago from a great Mentor of mine, he got into my head that you need to focus. Decide what your strategy is and then focus on it and don’t deviate from it once you’ve decided that’s the route you’re going down, rather than going off on tangents and down rabbit holes. My comrade in arms, a guy called Andy Shaw, he’s exceptionally good at pulling me back when I start coming up with ideas of what we should do next and how, so he’s an excellent reminder for me to focus and get our heads back down and continue down the route that we chose.
With so much work on your hands – how do you unwind and declutter your mind?
Well, I think to unwind is the wrong word for me, because I have three children under five, so they are my focus when I’m not working. We make the most of my weekends – I love spending time with my family. There is, of course, the gym, which I enjoy as well as playing a game of chess.
I’m looking forward to what you’ll be adding to the Ashleigh Shopping Club. Is there anything in the pipeline that you’d like to share?
We have loads of ideas that we’re working on that will help grow the Club and the overall business. Our primary focus for 2019 is to get the Ashleigh Shopping Club out there so we can have a real impact on our users’ savings. In particular, we’re lining up some great unique partnerships that will add massive value to our users - we can’t say too much right now, but watch this space!