We had 24 hours to find £300 to pay our server fees that were already late. We spent the entire day knocking on doors but at 6pm depression set in. It was over.
November 2010 turned out to be one of the most dramatic months of my life, with my now business partner, Nige, and I having both been made redundant from the manufacturing firm where we had worked for nearly 10 years – only weeks before Christmas.
We’d planned to set up Rent A Web in the summer of 2011, raising funds by saving our wages and borrowing from friends and family. But because our previous employer had become insolvent, we hadn’t been paid for three months and were only entitled to statutory redundancy pay, not the soundest financial start for our new business.
Struggling through 2010
It was clear from the outset we had to make every pound count. We had to purchase equipment, lease web servers and build a design team on a shoestring budget, whilst at the same time providing for our families. Setting up a company is stressful at the best of times, but juggling mortgage payments to accommodate clients settling accounts was incredibly difficult.
We struggled through the remainder of 2010 trying to stretch what little funds we had, calculating that we only had another couple of months before the coffers were empty – which meant in two months time, we couldn’t pay designers, couldn’t pay our server fees and as many at the time had suggested: we’d have to get a "proper job".
24 hours to find funds
And if things weren’t bad enough already, one of our customers went belly up leaving us £700 short. Now £700 doesn’t sound like a lot, but at that stage, it felt better than winning the Euromillions! That paid for another month of overheads that we desperately needed – and now it was gone.
It was a Wednesday in January, the day my wife usually orders the shopping from Asda. We’d order our weekly shopping online so we could keep our costs down. Nige and I had 24 hours to find £300 to pay our server fees that were already late – and if we didn’t the few clients we had would wake up on Friday and find their websites gone...
We spent the entire day knocking on doors, introducing ourselves and managing to raise a couple of small deposits, but it wasn’t enough. It was 6pm, depression set in, it was over.
That evening I was sat at home with my wife and daughter, and realised we couldn’t afford the weekly food shop. I called Nige and asked: "Nige, how much food have you got?" "A fair bit, the wife went shopping yesterday," came the reply.
If someone had told me that only three months into starting a business, I’d be borrowing food I wouldn’t have known whether to laugh or cry, but lucky for me, Nige had enough spare to keep us going, and our server got paid for.
Previously to this, we’d applied for some Venture Capital and in truth had not really expected to excite much interest. The following week we had two seriously interested investors that wanted discuss funding our start up. Talk about an emotional roller-coaster.
At the same time, our website had now climbed to the first page of Google and we’d started generating a serious amount of interest. During February alone we’d increased our client base by around 40% and the pressure over the previous month began to subside. In fact the following months we’d continue to grow by an average of 34% and exceeded our entire June turnover figures in the first week of July.
We never did take any investment; we kept plodding on and managed to get through the initial rough patch. It’s still early days and as our business continues to grow we may look down the investment route again.
While that week in January was probably the most stressful (and hungry) of my life, we fed the business instead of ourselves and it grew, we’re even now visiting the supermarket instead of buying online!