The founder talks us through growing a business from something that paid the rent into a million pound turnover company
About your business
Founder name: Daniel Foster
Company name: 34SP.com
Company location: Manchester
Staff numbers: 18
Date started:September 2000
Tell us what your business does:
34SP.com is a UK web hosting provider that aims to bridge the gap between sophisticated hosting solutions and cost effective ones by offering affordable hosting prices coupled with exceptional service and support.
Where did the idea for your business come from? What motivated you to start it?
I’d just finished university and I was struggling to find a reliable and secure web hosting company so myself and Stuart decided to set up 34SP.com – not realising that it would turn into a such a successful business for us. As we had both just graduated and were short on cash and struggling to pay our rent, motivation also came from a need to make some money!
What did you do before?
Myself and Stuart were students at UMIST in Manchester just a few months before starting 34SP.com. It was during the dotcom boom and we’d come up with a couple of other business ideas but noticed that each time we did, we had to go elsewhere for hosting. The penny dropped, we thought why not move one step up the chain and host both our own projects and for other people.
What did you have to overcome (if anything) to start it and get it off the ground?
We didn’t encounter many barriers to entry and started out as a true home business, firmly establishing that cashflow was important through not having much to invest in the business.
What makes your business stand out from others like it?
34SP.com operates in a crowded and hugely competitive marketplace. From the start we’ve made sure that our customer service differentiates us from our competitors.
What was your first big breakthrough?
We don’t like to rely on flagship customers or single events but I suppose some milestones do stick in the mind, but they’re more internal like moving the business from a bedroom to an office or hiring our first employee.
Your business tips
You’re prime minister for a day. What would you change for small businesses?
Aside from dealing with red tape, we’ve had almost no interaction with the government. I don’t feel like we’ve been held back, but with two governments that have claimed small business are the lifeblood of the economy, we also haven’t seen much help. I don’t claim to have the answers, but reducing the costs and risks around hiring staff would probably make a difference to many small businesses.
What’s your best customer service tip?
Communication is key. Keep your customers informed and be honest with them.
What would you do differently? (What have you learnt?)
Personally, I haven’t suffered any significant career setbacks. We founded 34SP.com right out of university and 14 years later we’re still here. As a business we’ve invested time in projects that came to nothing, but we didn’t know that was going to happen and learned things along the way.
What one piece of advice would you give to people who want to start their own business?
Get out there and do it! It’s easy to come up with reasons why you shouldn’t have a go and reasons why your idea might fail but there’s only one way to find out if it will all work out and that’s to try.