Can entrepreneurialism run in the family? Well one Horncastle family put it to the test after launching their new business, and ten years later it’s not only seen sales increase by 30% year-on-year, but it’s recruiting more staff and expanding into overseas sales.
Vyair launched in 2004 as a bit of a side project to the Stainton's family clothing business. But when the clothing company fell victim the recession, they decided to shut up shop and invest their time and energy developing Vyair.
"Our whole business relies on internet sales and superfast broadband," said 21-year-old Sam Stainton who heads up the firm with his Dad.
"Over the last 10 years, our yearly takings have increased by 30% year-on-year. And looking at our sales forecast for this year, we're expecting steady growth of another 30% or so.
"Online is our main form of sales income; in fact I would say it’s around 95% and growing, because we very rarely get customers coming into the shop. International clients account for 20% of our sales, and we mainly export to the Eurozone to customers in Italy, Germany and Spain.
"onlincolnshire has opened my eyes to even more new markets that we can reach with online sales and social media. We were already strong, but we have the potential and knowledge to go even further now with what we have learnt on the course.
"My Dad started working at Vyair first, and was soon joined by my sister who began refreshing the processes of the business. I then joined in 2011, juggling part-time work with my sixth form studies. Things have grown so quickly from those early days that we now employ five full-time members of staff and one part-time staff member.”
Vyair sells very efficient water filtration systems. Its customers are anyone who needs pure filtered water such as window cleaners, aquatic suppliers, and dental practices - as well professional car valets, pharmacies and food and drink producers like brewers.
"It all started with air conditioning units," continued Sam. "We worked with water chillers and coolers initially. It took us a while to move this stock, but when we did it allowed us to concentrate on water filtration, where the demand is much bigger.
"Back in those early days we ran operations from home, with the back bedroom, office and garage as our stock rooms. But things were going so well that we soon moved the stock to Lincoln and started using pallets to organise operations. Despite this, our HQ remains in Horncastle.
"Two years on from those early days we were able to offer the part-time members of staff full-time positions, which gave us all a huge sense of achievement. We developed a dedicated sales team and started looking at different tools we could use to reach new customers and markets. This is where we first came across the power of social media.
"We researched social media as a tool for sales, and as soon as we started using it the results were phenomenal. Not only did it increase sales, but it raised our profile and we were able to deal directly with customers.
"After doing an audit, we discovered the most beneficial ones for us were Twitter, LinkedIn and selling online through Amazon and Ebay".
After finding out about the onlincolnshire programme Sam signed up to attend a full day’s course. The morning session focused on selling online, whilst the afternoon session concentrated on social media exploring the role of Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+.
After attending the course Sam felt he was much more aware of what was available and what Vyair's competitors were using already. "We had the capacity and market demand to grow the business," explained Sam.
"And now we have a better array of online tools to help us do it. This really is our starting point. Soon we will be recruiting, investing in automated online sales software and we already have four new websites being developed which are tailored to different retail, commercial and wholesale markets.
"At the moment we are selling to individual customers, and the next step is selling to wholesalers in bigger quantities. We'd also like to work closer with businesses looking for filtered water for their staff rooms and waiting rooms around Lincolnshire. This forms part of our growth plan, and what we have learnt through onlincolnshire will help in our marketing strategy.
"Through social media we can target new customers, and then using e-commerce sites like Amazon and Ebay we can sell to them. Without Amazon or Ebay we'd just be reliant on our website, and we would not be where we are today.
"For any business out there, I would urge you to have a look at what onlincolnshire has on offer. We found out about the course by reading Chamber Business Matters, the Lincolnshire Chamber of Commerce's member magazine. Then we received an email about an upcoming course, and booked on.
"We have massively benefited from the advice received through the course, and looking back I'm so pleased I took the time to attend. In fact I kick myself for not doing it sooner".
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