Our first hero is Steve Folwell, co-founder and CEO of the UK’s first by-the-box storage company, LOVESPACE.
The man behind the digital strategy that saw The Guardian go from the 9th largest newspaper to one of the largest global news-sites, Steve is no stranger to challenging established industries and forcing them to rethink the way they do business. Having joined LOVESPACE in 2013, Steve is well on his way to achieving his ambition to “do for storage what Amazon did for books”.
LOVESPACE is a pioneer when it comes to ‘by-the-box’ storage. Essentially we are cloud storage but for physical things. We help consumers and small businesses to live a bigger life and grow faster by looking after the things that they don’t need right now. We collect and store boxes which can be returned to our customers whenever and wherever via lovespace.co.uk or in the near future through our dedicated mobile app.
I joined LOVESPACE in 2013 after having successfully transformed The Guardian’s digital strategy. I was very much ready for a new challenge. As CEO and co-founder, I take an active role in developing the growth strategy of the business. That’s not to say I don’t get stuck in with the day-to-day.
An exciting growth area for us at the moment is student storage so you may just see me out on the road during peak season in May and June.
Like most ambitious startups who are looking to transition to a high growth business, we’ve found that the support systems that do exist aren’t great. Getting funding and encouraging investment from large companies is difficult as there is little belief in what you are trying to achieve. Today’s mobile businesses are fast paced, this doesn’t always fit in with the rigid timeframes of large companies which makes getting the financial support required to scale up a challenge.
We have also found that as a business that operates across the UK we rely on connectivity and this is a major barrier to productivity. Our weekly conference call is often disrupted by slow network speeds, making regular updates to the rest of the team difficult. Our business runs on connectivity, whether it’s communicating with colleagues and customers or managing our assets.
Digital underpins our entire business. We look after our customers’ belongings by ensuring that our digital operations work brilliantly. So much of what we do is enabled by digital and we wouldn’t be in the position we are in today without the developments that have happened in this area over the past decade.
Our bespoke cloud-based administration system gives us instant insights and is the foundation to our success as a business, we have employees across multiple locations so collaboration through the cloud is an essential tool for us. Whether through Google Docs or Dropbox, having a simple and intuitive system in place enables us to be as productive as possible regardless of location. It is also incredibly useful when we need to scale up quickly. I can set up a new warehouse in a matter of days, using innovative technology such as smartphone scanners to upload inventory and monitor customer requests on the move.
We have a process in place that ensures that admin is shared out amongst the team. It’s important as a small company not to spend too much time on aspects of running a businesses which don’t directly help us grow or improve our service – it’s essential to remain focused on what’s important. At the same time, it’s also important that vital admin is done well so we invested a lot in setting up an efficient and productive processes at the start.
Making sure that a task only needs to be done once means we can focus on finding new ways to innovate in order to grow the business. Having the right technology in place to achieve this is critical, for example our Canon printer is seamlessly integrated into our operations so that our staff can easily access customer data and print off labels for our storage boxes. This connectivity seems tiny within the scope of our business, but it enables automation which saves us time and money.
A successful business is nothing without happy customers. I want to build a brand that recognises the importance of developing a positive and impactful relationship with the customer.
We currently move 100,000 boxes a year, I’d like to be counting boxes in the millions with a view to potentially extending our operations overseas. How do we achieve this? Well we need to remain focused, hire the right talent and keep our product relevant. Keeping pace with digital innovations will be key as we look to improve the customer experience - today we are connecting with our customers through desktop and mobile, who knows what the future will hold.
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You can also find advice and insights in our Small Business Growth Guide.