People are used to buying products online. But what about services, such as dog walkers or music teachers? Glenn Shoosmith and his partner have developed an online booking services for small businesses offering services which could make life much easier both for customers and business owners, an increasing number of whom are working mums.
People are used to buying products online. But what about services, such as dog walkers or music teachers?
Glenn Shoosmith and his partner have developed an online booking services for small businesses offering services which could make life much easier both for customers and business owners.
More and more working mums look to start portfolio careers or set up their own businesses as a way of balancing work and family life and it is important to be available to take calls and bookings. Booking Bug
, says Glenn, increases your bookings since it makes it possible for customers to book when you can’t respond to calls. It also means that you can make it perfectly clear to customers if you only work certain hours and can organise work and family life more easily.
Booking Bug launched at the end of November and has already won an award. It works by making partnerships with specialist online directories of small businesses, such as sites listing cookering schools and classes, or hyperlocal directories who then inform their members. “We don’t approach small businesses themselves, but go through directories which are trusted by them,” says Glenn.
The idea for the business was hatched two and a half years ago when Glenn was working as a contract software developer. He and his partner, a graphic designer, built the business up on the side of their regular work, working evenings and weekends. “We were frustrated that it was so easy to buy goods online and so difficult to book services,” says Glenn.
Your own boss
He became so dedicated to the idea that he says he has not had a weekend off in the last two years. “The good thing about being self employed is that you are your own boss. The bad thing is that you are a terrible one and make yourself work really hard,” he says.
His business partner is his wife’s best friend and, until recently, he lived in the US. He has now moved into the spare room of their East London home which makes it easy to run the business, since it is based there. Glenn says there are plans to relocate to an office soon and also to increase the staff through hiring talented interns. Eventually they hope to create full-time posts, but it is still early days yet and they need to keep the budget in line.
It was last February that Glenn made the decision to focus on Booking Bug full time. He was having lots of meetings with potential partners and says he couldn’t do it on a part-time basis. He had some savings and took advantage of things like mortgage holidays. He wasn’t put off by starting a business in the middle of a recession. “It’s exciting to start in a recession,” he says. “There’s an argument that this is the best time to do it because as the recession bottoms out you are ready to grow.”
Potential customers include dance, fitness and sport instructors, hypnotherapists, dog walkers, teachers and all other types of small business. Glenn says the booking system allows them to have more control over their lives and be able to set opening hours, fix holidays and shift appointments around. In the past, people might have used a diary, but people don’t carry their diary everywhere they go. The booking system allows people to book sessions at their convenience. “It may require a shift in mindset to get people to book services online, but people buy things off the internet through shopping,” says Glenn. “It just makes it easier. You can book whenever you want.”
Glenn is aided by his wife Angela, who is a librarian but helps out enthusiastically with trade shows. He says the hardest part of running the business is having to be on top of everything. “There’s a big difference between being a line manager and being an employer,” he says. “You feel a personal responsibility for everything so it’s a bit scary.”
He wouldn’t change a thing, though. “I can’t see myself ever going back to the 9-5. I’d have to do another start-up if this didn’t work out. Once you have experienced the freedom of working for yourself you don’t look back,” he says. “Right now I am looking out of my window at a blue sky across London. When I worked in a bank, there was no natural light. I arrived in the dark and left in the dark. I wouldn’t change it for the world.”