We always find it so inspiring to hear entrepreneurs talk about their experiences. Often running your own business is as much about a personal journey as it is about a business one! As part of our series of Guest Blogs, we’re asking inspiring entrepreneurs to tell us their stories.
This week we spoke to James Hind, Founder and CEO of carwow, a comparison site for new car buyers. James tells us how he went from running his business from his kitchen table to leading a team of 16 employees.
1. Tell us about yourself and how you came up with the idea of carwow
I’m James Hind, co-founder & CEO of carwow. I started the business after graduating university. I’d always envisaged a career in finance but after a short stint interning at a finance company I realised it wasn’t what I wanted to do with my life.
I guess it was always in the back of my mind that one day I wanted to start a business, and doing so straight out of uni is a good time to do so as you have little to no existing commitments.
A lot of my friends and family were asking me for advice on what car to buy, so we created a site that aggregated reviews from across the web to offer advice to prospective car buyers. Pretty soon our users were asking if we knew where they could buy a car from, so we built carwow, the UKs first & only comparison site for new car buying.
2. Did you see self-employment as a viable career option after graduation or did you stumble upon it?
A bit of both to be honest. I studied finance and always figured I’d go into that, but at the same time I always wanted to run my own thing.
A summer internship at a finance company put me off that route, so I worked a ski season abroad while I assessed my options and just decided to jump in headfirst to running my own business.
3. What’s the biggest challenge you have overcome in starting-up?
We’re trying to improve an industry that’s been doing business the same way for decades, so change can appear very alien to decision makers.
A big part of our business involves getting dealerships on board to offer our users a fair price and amazing customer service. In the early days it was very difficult getting dealers to sign up, it was a numbers game and a tough slog but eventually we got our first 3 dealers to sign up and then things started to pick up. Fast-forward 12 months and we work with almost 400 dealers across the UK and last month 5% of all new Volkswagen Golfs sold in the UK were sold via carwow.
4. What has been the most exciting development in your business so far?
In February we raised a substantial investment from some of the leading investors in Europe – the investors behind companies like LoveFilm, Betfair & Zoopla. That was a real turning point for the business, it allowed us to hire an awesome team and scale really quickly.
5. What do you feel is the most rewarding aspect of running your own business?
Just seeing it take off. We ran the business as a review aggregator for the first couple of years before turning it into a comparison site.
Since making that change we’ve seen unbelievable growth, scaling from zero to in excess of £10m worth of new cars sold each month. In our first 12 months of operation we’ve helped sell over £75m worth of cars and saved our customers over £9m.
It’s been an amazing experience to run something that’s growing so quickly, it’s weird to think that only 16 months ago I was running the business at my kitchen table, and now we have an office and 16 staff.
6. What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
Patience and perseverance. Starting a business is hard, things will change a lot and it’s unlikely you’ll end up building and scaling your original idea, it will evolve or even change entirely. We started out as a review aggregator and turned into a comparison site. It’s important that you’re patient, willing to accept change and never give up.