Meet the founder of Childcare.co.uk
As an avid user of Childcare.co.uk, I'm so chuffed to find out more about the founder behind the business. Who is Richard Conway?
Thank you for having me! Well, I’m the CEO and founder of Childcare.co.uk, the UK’s largest online childcare platform with over 1.7m members. We help connect parents seeking childcare with childcare providers, such as registered childminders, nannies, babysitters and tutors.
Inspiration is always a great indication of why people launch businesses. Who or what inspired you to get started?
I’ve been an entrepreneur for as long as I can remember! Even at junior school, I was always starting mini businesses and selling to my friends. I’ve always been interested in technology and when I came across the early stages of the internet, I could see it was going to change the world forever.
At the time I had just started university and had a business selling mobile phones, long before Carphone Warehouse even existed. I was selling to other students, friends and people in my immediate network.
When I realised I could create a website and start selling worldwide, I started to learn how to create a simple website. During this process, it gave me so many ideas for other internet-based businesses. I realised that the small guy working from his student bedroom could compete with larger companies.
I went on to create a number of other internet businesses. When my wife and I had our first child in 2007, I realised there wasn’t a market leading ‘Amazon’ of childcare websites, so decided to have a go at creating one myself. This led to Childcare.co.uk being born in early 2009.
How do you set yourself apart from other businesses in your industry?
The internet industry is very fast moving. Many popular websites of today are the has-beens of tomorrow. Remember Myspace? In this business you can’t stand still. Innovation is key, we are always trying to improve our platform and add new features. We try and focus on the customer and give them what they want, whilst at the same time trying to offer great value.
Customer service is also important. Isn’t it frustrating when you contact a company and they take days to respond? Our average customer response time is less than 30 minutes. It’s not possible to build a hugely success business on your own. I come up with a lot of the ideas, but I have a small team of very valued and talented staff that help make the ideas a reality.
What’s the single most important decision that you made, that contributed to your business?
I think it’s unusual for the success of any business to be based on one decision. Success is journey through a long obstacle course. We make lots of small decisions every day, which all contribute to the overall success of business in the long run.
How did you fund the launch of your business and what creative strategies did you use to execute a minimal cash flow?
I have been very fortunate never to need any outside funding for Childcare.co.uk. For some of my previous businesses, it was a case of maxing out several credit cards and using student loans, but after having some success with previous businesses, I invested my own money to start Childcare.co.uk.
My advice is to take small steps. Don’t raise a lot of money and spend it quickly without testing the concept and ensuring you are going to get value. I’ve seen many companies raise huge sums of money and burn through it no time.
Think carefully before taking on an investor, as you could end up losing control of your business. The more investors you have, the less quickly you can make decisions, as everyone wants their say and may have differing opinions.
What plans do you have for Childcare.co.uk over the coming 12 months?
We have brand new version of our iOS mobile app launching in the next few weeks, which has been the result of months of work. Our mobile apps are an important part of our platform, with over 50% of our users also accessing our service via our apps. We also have a new look for the website launching soon and many new innovative features to help improve our platform.
What would be your number one tip for young entrepreneurs who are ready to launch their own business?
Go for it! It’s never been easier to launch a business. If you’ve got a great idea, then don’t wait. If it’s a good idea, then the chances are that someone else will do it if you don’t get there first.
What’s the most important question entrepreneurs should be asking themselves?
Am I wasting my time with this? Some people come up with ideas where it is often obvious that the idea isn’t ever going to be successful. Often entrepreneurs don’t have any meaningful success until their third or fourth plus business, so if it’s becoming obvious that your current idea isn’t going anywhere, then perhaps it’s time to come up with the next one.
What habits do you think helped you to become successful?
Persistence! If you truly believe in your idea, then don’t take no for an answer. You will find that many people have negative opinions and there will be obstacles in the way on a daily basis. You just have to keep moving.
What are your thoughts on networking to build your business?
Building great contacts is always useful and so networking is an important part of growing any business. However, I would recommend being selective in the type and number of networking events that any entrepreneur attends. There are so many networking events that it’s easy to attend such events almost daily. Being selective, means that these types of events do not take you away from growing your business.
What would be your top marketing tip, to grow a business that is so niche, yet incredibly timeless?
Niche businesses need very careful marketing. You don’t want to waste money advertising your business to people who will never be interested in it. Social media marketing is a great way of fine tuning the demographics you are targeting. You can used Facebook paid advertising to target people with specific interests and Twitter paid advertising to target followers of other specific Twitter users. This can be a good way to ensure that you are only reaching the people that are likely to want your product or service.