We recently attended the virtual regional finals of the Great British Entrepreneur Awards (GBEA), where we discovered e-commerce start up Local e Sourced! The awards celebrate entrepreneurs; championing spirit and highlighting talent from businesses all over the country – and boy do these guys have a story to tell!
Regional winners of the ‘start up entrepreneur of the year’ award for the midlands, Local e Sourced launched their business venture at the very height of the pandemic. Read on for the full interview, plus some top tips on how to get your e-commerce business off the ground (against all odds!).
Hi Hamish! Firstly please tell us all about Local e Sourced.
Local e Sourced brings together Herefordshire’s independent local businesses and products on a single platform. This creates a unique shopping experience within an online marketplace which celebrates and showcases our locally sourced products nationally. Local e Sourced is designed to help improve presence, aligning both the suppliers’ online and offline worlds.
Local e Sourced was started to change customer buying habits and to create more focus on supporting local. Our aim is to create a ‘Buy British’ mentality and reduce the impact on our environment. By developing this central platform we can both support our communities and showcase local suppliers.
What was the inspiration behind this online business venture?
We had the idea in late 2019 to bring all these wonderful businesses onto one e-commerce site and create something unique to Herefordshire. We wanted a site to showcase the wealth and range of our local products. Between the team, we have the contacts, knowledge and capability to build, and manage the website. We had originally intended to launch in the summer 2020, however with the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, I brought this launch forward to April.
Since then, we’ve added over 1000 products and have over 75 local suppliers on the site. We advertise our suppliers’ products through paid advertising across Google, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Our plans for the future are to be inclusive of EVERYTHING Herefordshire. From food and drink to clothing, fashion, the arts and even tourism. We want to expand and point visitors in the direction of our small holiday lets and B&Bs, raising awareness of Herefordshire’s wonderful small businesses nationally.
A lot of the amazing British products lose out to the large supermarkets and global e-commerce giants. I felt if we could create a platform to showcase these talented local suppliers and offer customers a central area to purchase a range of products in a single transaction with one delivery charge, we could help them showcase their wares.
Your e-commerce website launch was bought forward at the start of the pandemic. How did you pivot so quickly?
I had to bring the idea to life immediately thanks to the start of the pandemic and the following lockdown. This was done to help the local suppliers who were feeling the effects their shops closing. The website and branding were developed within weeks.
With circumstances changing how people live their lives, online shopping would be a significant part of this. Shopping habits are dramatically changing, so it was time to encourage the county to support their local suppliers via our platform.
Despite the early launch, nothing felt rushed. The team with their strengths in different areas pulled out all the stops to get everything in place in such a short space of time. My thanks go out to them for the many extra hours of work they put in to make this happen, it was a monumental effort.
What have been the biggest challenges when launching a new business during a global pandemic?
Much like everyone, we have had to adapt. Some might say I’m mad to start a business at the start of a global pandemic – but it was going to be started anyway. Covid-19 was simply the catalyst. If not us, who? If not now, when? Is there ever a right time to start a business?! Bringing the idea to market when I did just felt like the right thing to do.
Local e Sourced was officially born and we started taking our first orders only four weeks later, but the hard work had only just begun. I then began to showcase everything Herefordshire had to offer the whole of the UK. The voices in my head back in April that whispered, ‘Are you sure this is a good idea, now?’ are now shouting ‘How far can we go?!’.
You’ve been awarded Start-up Entrepreneur of the Year for the Midlands GBEA regionals! How does it feel?
Incredible! But it’s not just for us, it’s for the county of Herefordshire and the suppliers with their fantastic products. They have allowed us to make Local e Sourced what it is today!
This award is not only a testament to mine and my team’s tireless efforts to deliver and maintain such a fantastic platform, but it is dedicated to those who helped and continue to help make it happen. Supplier endorsements valued customers near and far and the trust shown to help accelerate the project to where it is today. We’re not yet even six months old as a venture, but we’ve put a lifetime’s worth of effort already.
This award is dedicated to all those who have supported and contributed to the success of Local e Sourced both now and going forward. Now, more than ever, is the time to support one another. Now is the time to work even harder to repay the trust and confidence our customers, suppliers and these awards have placed in our business.
What encouraged you to apply to GBEA in the first place?
We actually entered quite late on. There was so much focus and attention on making the idea work and be successful (along with the usual day-to-day struggles we all had living through a lockdown) that we didn’t stop to think about anything else. We had only been trading for two months before entries closed, but there was so much positivity from everyone with the project. A friend of mine one day said what a brilliant idea Local e Sourced was, it was just what everyone needed at that time. It was more than simply a business, it was an effort to unite our independent business communities and help one another through the difficult times. It was this that led them to suggest it was such a fantastic e-commerce start up idea, and that I should enter the Great British Entrepreneur Awards.
As it was such a new venture, I felt I hadn’t proven myself yet. The encouragement continued so I took a leap of faith and began my entry. I simply told my story, my values and why I set up Local e Sourced – the rest as they say was history! To achieve so much in such a short space of time is proof there was so much at stake that I couldn’t fail.
What does it take to be an entrepreneur in these unprecedented times?
Perseverance. Dedication. Belief. You have to make it happen. You have to continue to make it happen. If you believe in your idea and yourself, you will make it happen. Personally, I am a shy, thoughtful driven character, success of achievement far outweighs the financial gain. When we near the ends of our lives and look back and reflect on our achievements, I would like to think I have created a business that has supported and developed a community. I hope to have added value to the beautiful county of Herefordshire and even left my mark on buying and supporting British. There was far more at stake to me than making the businesses a success. I saw the immediate value that Local e Sourced would add to the county and the businesses within. This was my main motivation.
What advice would you give to other budding e-commerce businesses put off by the current climate?
Focus on your ‘why’ – not the balance sheet. If what you’re doing will add significant value to your community, society as a whole or the world, success will follow. Success should be a result and reflection of your passion and innovation. The conveyor belt of business never stops, it may slow, or it may speed up but don’t fall off and hold tight!
Surrounding yourself with a great team and the right people is also vital. Embrace the skillsets of others. Listen to every piece of advice and act on the bits that are relevant or useful to you. One thing that always sticks in my mind is the idea of ‘just get on with it – don’t overthink it’. People can get so hung up on the minor details and never launch or miss the boat. We live in a time where customers are a little more forgiving. As long as you communicate with them most things can be overcome. Be sensible with your start-up, don’t get mis-sold big e-commerce solutions, leaving no budget for digital marketing and remember the website is never finished – it’s an organic entity!
You’re a completely online business. How important is e-commerce to you and your community?
People love to hate the ‘new normal’ phrase that has been coined recently. However the adjustments we all have to make are having a huge impact on the footfall in our towns and cities. There has been a significant change in how we are now living our lives and our buying habits. Whether you feel safer shopping online, find it easier or even enjoy it – we’re all using more e-commerce. Being an online marketplace and a collective of unique independent businesses, we offer a taste of Herefordshire. Around 85% of potential customers will look online before making a purchase either in-store or on the website.
How did you come across Printed.com?
We discovered Printed.com following the need for some printed promotional material. I had the issue of only needing a small amount initially but encountered the dreaded ‘minimum order’ quantities and costs that came with that. Printed.com had no minimum order quantities and this was what appealed to me. I downloaded a template, created the artwork, uploaded it on the website and checked out. The turnaround is excellent with no compromises on cost or quality. We could not be happier with the service, products and the team are really helpful too! We’re always quick to recommend Printed.com as it’s such a hassle free and easy to use service.
How important is print for your e-commerce business?
We always include a little thank you Postcard in all our orders and it’s this personal touch that shows our customers that we value and appreciate them. They are more than customers, they are the heart of our business and without them, we’d be nothing. It’s our little token of appreciation and human touch to what may seem as a very digital, automated process as we’ll never meet in person! When events and shows pick up, we will be out spreading the word about Local e Sourced and with the range that Printed.com offer we know we’ll have everything we need in one place!
What does the future hold for Local e Sourced?
Local e Sourced has not stopped evolving since launch. We are continually improving and reaching out to new suppliers to create a complete and comprehensive taste of our county. Interest in the venture has the attention of a neighbouring councils so franchising is also a potential future endeavour. We have an excellent marketing strategy and we intend to create a platform that doesn’t compete with suppliers’ existing presence but adds a new dynamic to their digital presence. As well as the focus on growing and developing, we’ll also be looking to disrupt. Disrupt buying habits, push for more awareness of buying local, offer an alternative to global e-commerce giants or huge supermarket chains.
And finally- where can people find you online?
Here at Printed.com, we’re on a mission to help and encourage entrepreneurs to thrive and grow. With innovative technology, specialised services and cost-effective business print solutions, we’ve got the tools you need to succeed. If you’ve got a new project or business venture that you’d like to discuss, don’t hesitate to reach out to our team.