Rainbow Zebra Director Talks Business at YENA

Rainbow Zebra Director Talks Business at YENA

Many people dream of starting their own business. In fact thousands of people do just that every year. However, building a business takes hard work and dedication and to many individuals surprise isn’t as simple as having a great idea and putting it into practice.

Whether you simply want to work for yourself, have spotted a gap in the market, or just want to make lots of money commitment and motivation are vital to drive success. So if you’re thinking about starting up your own business why don’t you take a look at our Managing Director Paul who’s detailing his experiences in the latest YENA Q&A video?


The Importance of Networking

We tend to define entrepreneurs as successful role models who have worked hard to reach their goals. Whether you look up to Bill Gates, Richard Branson, or Mark Zuckerberg these people all have one thing in common; they work hard and persevere with their goals.

Succeeding in business is about making connections which allow you to expand to many different industries, grow your expertise, and multiply reach. One of the greatest investment tools at your disposal is therefore networking. Whilst potentially daunting, networking delivers so much value, not just in numerical terms, but with opportunities to expose you to other businesses and individuals. According to Richard Branson, the ability to forge connections is the greatest asset for any entrepreneur.

Therefore Rainbow Zebra often attend networking events such as YENA. The Young Entrepreneur Networking Association offers serious networking environment to people between the ages of 15-30. There are often barriers to opportunities and potential success for those under a certain age which can unfortunately limit growth capabilities for businesses started by young entrepreneurs. But YENA aim to break that.

This month the Rainbow Zebra Managing Director Paul not only attended the event but was interviewed on his experiences as a young entrepreneur.

Initial Introductions

“So my name is Paul and I run a company called Rainbow Zebra and we sell office furniture such as desks. And, no we don’t sell any kind of wildlife or any other kind of African animal!

The reason we came up with the name is because I wanted to create a brand. I didn’t want to have something in our name that related to a product and would then make us have to stick to a certain product. So Rainbow Zebra… we’re building a brand; we’ve got customer loyalty, they know that they’re going to get a great service from us and a great product, and we can adapt into any field that we want to go into in the future.

We’re trying to make the name stick, hence why I’m trying to do more networking, because in the past I have been useless at doing them. We’re trying to get the awareness up and the name to stick, and once the name has stuck we can move into other product areas”.

Humble Beginnings

“Our website went live in January 2011, from my bedroom in my parents’ house and I’ve recently just taken on my first member of staff and moved to an office in Aztec. So 4 and a half years in total.

I’m happy with where it is at the moment but the challenge has moved on to the next step and it’s not just me I’ve got to worry about, now it’s myself and somebody else. So that’s certainly the next challenge”.

Our Biggest Challenge

“My biggest challenge has probably been having to balance everything that goes with running a business. Everything from ensuring that sales come in, so you’ve actually got a business, to understanding everything such as AdWords and email marketing.

The one thing I say is make sure you understand something that you are trying do, whether in house or outsourcing, so that you aren’t taken for granted. I outsourced AdWords because I thought someone else could do it better. They were an agency that have been doing it for years, and it was probably the worst mistake I’ve made. I don’t know whether they didn’t get the business or they didn’t understand the market, but that was kind of their job to understand the market as I was paying them to promote it.

So make sure you research because I ended up taking it back and ran PPC myself which I still do now. I don’t know if Google still do it but I did an accredited AdWords programme, and plenty of research. So what I’m trying to say is make sure you know what you’re doing before you get into it. That was my biggest challenge, having enough knowledge so that you aren’t taken for granted”.

A Fine Line for Taking on Too Much

“There’s an obvious danger taking on too much if you try and do everything yourself but I’m not suggesting you should try and do everything as a ‘professional’ would. You just need to have enough knowledge about what you’re asking someone to outsource for you and then you’ll know that they are doing a good enough job.

If you don’t know anything about what you are asking them to do, whether that be outsourcing sales, AdWords, organic stuff, then who knows what they’re doing. You need enough knowledge of what is going on but you shouldn’t try and do everything yourself; outsourcing is great and certainly has its place”.

Why Furniture?

“Yes, not exactly the most exciting of industries! I worked for my dad who runs an office fit-out business so he does ceilings, partition walls, and carpet as well as the furniture. I worked for him driving and delivering all the chairs and desks so I had some experience with that area. But at the time I didn’t want to get into that.

So I went travelling, came back and joined M&S as a Christmas temp and applied for their graduate scheme in 2008. They kept on putting the starting date off, so I just thought I need to do something else or I’m going to still be on the shop floor in 10 years. I went to dad and he gave me a bit of seed capital, but other than that I didn’t take any of his business, none of his customers. It’s a completely separate company; a new brand. So that’s how I got into it, and it started paying for itself so I was able to give Dad his money back”.

A Family Agreement?

“My dad’s in Bristol, so he’s South West based. He’s also a one man band, he had staff in the past, but has gone back to a one man band. He physically goes out to offices, measures up and does all of that stuff whereas I’m online and I have the whole of the UK as a market place. So there’s not much cross over. He does the full service whereas we just deliver via a courier and you build it yourself. There’s been no cross over at all to be honest”.

How Do You Deal With Shipping?

“That was a large part of setting up the business. I spoke to 5 or 6 big suppliers of office furniture in the UK. Their business model is that they don’t sell directly to you, but to a middle man like myself to sell on. So that was part of the opening business process, to talk with suppliers and see how that would work. So we get everything drop shipped but don’t hold any stock ourselves, which is a benefit.

So if you come on to the website and order a desk, as far as you’re concerned I deliver the desk, or Rainbow Zebra delivers the desk. Whereas behind the scenes I order that from which ever manufacturer, and they deliver on my behalf. So there is minimal risk because we don’t have a warehouse full of stock sat there waiting to be sold. So when you are starting conversations with suppliers it is key to explain to them everything, don’t hold back on your vision or anything and they’ll be better placed to suggest ways they can help”.

The Rainbow Zebra Vision

“As far as the name goes, I didn’t want to restrict myself. If it said officechairs.co.uk you can only ever sell office chairs and struggle to somehow sell something else. So the whole idea was to build a brand, concentrating here because I had experience with building desks and chairs, it made sense. Then as it grows we can then sell other stuff still under the umbrella of Rainbow Zebra and keep office chairs and furniture there. But at the moment we’re concentrating on building the office furniture bit. But as that grows other bits can come in.

The short term vision, 18 months, is to grow the business, potentially take on another member of staff, and try and get a turnover of half a million . We’re currently on about £300,000 so it will be doable. Then the longer game, I haven’t really thought about what other things we can sell under the Rainbow Zebra umbrella. But there are plenty of options.

Personally I want to get my pilots license in the next 2 or 3 years and I can only do that if the business is successful and I can pay myself enough to have that sort of disposable income”.

How to Boost Sales

“Predominantly we get out sales through email marketing and Google AdWords, they’re the two biggest ones. Then we have organic SEO which ticks along in the background and grows and grows. We also make cold calls but are generally the least successful. And now recently having taken on a new person we can share the load. She calls customers so we can make an effort to keep in contact on a regular basis, probably at least every 6 weeks to let them know we have new products, we’ve got these services, did you know this, did you know that”?

A Final Thought

We’d like to thank the team at YENA for giving us the opportunity to share our experiences and hopefully inspire other young entrepreneurs in their journey.

If you’re not already a member of YENA or any other networking event, or even think you could do a bit more, why don’t you join us this month?

Posted by Paul Randall
11th August 2015