We talk to Dan Parker, founder of online SMS business, FireText.
Tell us a bit about your business, FireText.
FireText is a simple & affordable online platform for sending and receiving text messages. UK businesses can reach their customers with a single SMS in minutes – no matter where the customer is!
After all, we nearly all carry a mobile phone with us.
Whether you are a restaurant looking to fill empty seats, a hotel wanting to welcome a guest whilst on their way, an e-commerce website looking to update customer in a personal way (email has become so boring!) or even a charity looking to update fundraisers, FireText make it very easy for seasoned and new marketers alike.
Where did you get the idea to start it?
FireText started at University. We were after a way to communicate within our sports clubs.
Informing all players of cancelled match was a real chore and often left new members out of the loop.
We developed a system where a single text message could be sent to a few or thousands of individuals.
After working with over a few hundred clubs in the UK, we realised we had a business model and set about launching FireText for businesses. After securing a unique method of allow replies through landline numbers, we launched in 2010.
What were you doing before you set up FireText?
Before FireText, I was working for my family’s SCUBA Diving company. Here, I spent time marketing the latest in diving technology.
The same company recently provided equipment for Hollywood director, James Cameron’s dive to the Mariana Trench.
Have you always wanted to be your own boss?
Working for your family always has extra pressures, but for sure they gave me the passion to start up on my own.
There is the freedom, but we do spend most waking hours glued to the business.
Both the team and myself are addicted to watching the business grow – even if it does mean I spend most of the time glued to my iPhone.
What have you enjoyed most about setting up your own business?
I thrive under pressure and it still surprises me what can be done. However, the challenge to create a product from scratch that enhances other businesses is a real thrill.
I’ve met a great bunch of like-minded business owners that have been crucial for bouncing ideas back and forth.
What were the major challenges you had to overcome when starting up?
We were very lucky with a successful platform for the University sports clubs.
This gave us an insight into SMS from the beginning. It was then a case of negotiating the highest quality routes at prices where we can make a profit.
I had a lot of support from family & friends at the very beginning. They provided places to work and also places to stay.
Starting up can be like dropping all your income as part of the leap – it’s up to you to make it back as quick as you can.
How have you been marketing your business?
I think we’ve done ok. We work with some very high profile customers as well as smaller owner managed businesses. Both are important to us.
We rank highly in Google, but are about to launch a new strategy over the next 6 months.
FireText has appeared in numerous publications from local business publications to national ones too.
However, I am very much the business, so it’s as important to market yourself where you can too.
I work with local schools to inspire students with their careers. This is really great work and also gets good publicity for the company too.
In 2011 I was lucky to win Young Business Person of the Year at the Cornwall Business Awards and later Entrepreneur at the Cornwall HUB Awards.
This year I have been shortlisted again for Young Business Person of the Year.
What are your plans for the future?
We’ve started to work with companies across Europe and South Africa.
It can be a like a start-up all over again, however, increasing our business outside of the UK is one big focus.
As a company we are continuing to support charity projects (such as Surfers Against Sewage) as well as supporting a new project to help young people gain crucial work experience.
Any tips for other budding entrepreneurs out there?
Don’t feel obliged to action all advice.
I’ve heard so many business “lecturers” talk about business plans and market research. Don’t worry too much about it. This is because as entrepreneurs, you need to be adaptable and may change your path to hit your targets.
If you’ve got an innovative product, the chances are your customers don’t realise they want it yet. How you get it there could change.
A business plan is a good base to start from as is essential for business investment – but you could spend more time tweaking that than getting on and making your business happen.
Check out Dan's business at FireText.co.uk
You can also follow Dan on Twitter @ThisIsDanParker