At 23-years-old, Will Emmett is one of the directors of MeeMeep, a new Melbourne-based online start-up, which is pioneering in the collaborative consumption space.
MeeMeep, which describes itself as “a new way to move stuff”, has created a unique concept whereby people can post jobs to cars, trucks and vans that are already on the move.
Emmett talks to StartupSmart about the pros and cons of running a family business, and why social media can only take you so far in your marketing efforts.
What prompted you to launch MeeMeep? What niche did you identify?
We launched MeeMeep after we noticed a supply of transport capacity that was being wasted every day in Australia.
Of course, once transport is spent it cannot be used again. It is just like an airline seat or a hotel room.
A lot of this space in the back of courier trucks and vans is wasted every day, and we’re seeking to create a market for that.
How did you fund the business?
We bootstrap financed the start-up of the business. The costs were wide-ranging and typical I suppose.
We wanted to make sure we’d done our homework, so research costs made up much of the initial spend. This included market research and scoping the project in full.
In saying that though, you can only learn so much from research and the best learning takes place from doing things and getting started, which is certainly something I’ve picked up along the way.
Further costs have included development, which we have outsourced domestically, brand development and some initial marketing spend.
When you start out launching a new company in a new segment, or challenging an older segment, you need to be prepared to spend money learning what works and what doesn’t.
How do you promote the business?
This is a very interesting and good question. We have tried a number of different approaches to promoting the business, all with varying types of success.
We started out on a social path promoting the business through Facebook and Twitter. These channels have been great for getting us out there and building our presence, particularly within the tech community who are typically your early adopters.
However, social can only take you so far, and Facebook really are forcing companies to pay for building their audience even though many would consider it a “free” medium.
We’re a business that relies on a high volume of smaller transactions, so our next approach was to focus on getting ourselves out in the media and expanding our reach.
We think we’ve got a fairly unique and interesting story and we’re quite serious about challenging the transport market in Australia and around the world.
This approach has positioned us well in a crowded start-up marketplace. Trust and credibility is very important for a business like ours and our media presence has helped with this too.
We are now focusing on promoting the business through affiliate partners. We have a very strong proposition for online retail outlets that do not offer a delivery solution.
We will very soon be launching two major partnerships where we will be promoted next to every sale made on these websites.
How many staff do you have?
We have four full-time staff who run the business.
What are your revenue projections for 2012/13?
It is difficult to project revenue for such a young company – we’re basically in our first year of operation.
We have a clear idea of where we want to be in five years’ time and we’re now on track to make that happen.
I understand you’re a family business. What are the pros and cons of that?
There are family members involved in MeeMeep, yes. It can be a fantastic working relationship but it also has its challenges.
We operate very professionally and we’re all good at separating work from anything else that is going on.
The advantages include working with people who know you very well and can understand your approach to things.
Sometimes it’s a challenge to not work all the time – because there is often someone around to talk about the next project or the next idea or the next challenge – which I suppose could be seen as good or bad.
What has been your greatest challenge and how did you overcome it?
Our greatest challenge has been finding our place in the market and shaping the business to match the needs of our customers.
We’ve overcome this through a lot of research, talking with our customers, and pure trial and error.
We’ve discovered a sweet spot for us in the market focusing on consumer trading sites like eBay, Simple Trade and Gumtree, and online retail outlets that offer pickup-only sales.
Is there anything you would have done differently?
It’s difficult to say if we would have done anything differently as everything we’ve been through so far will form part of our story and we’ve learnt from it.
I think if anything, we would have got started earlier testing our product with consumers rather than being slightly cautious to begin with.
The best learning takes place through trial, which of course has become known as the lean start-up model.
What’s the biggest risk you face?
Our biggest risk is not being able to offer consumers an effective delivery product. We work hard to get people on our website who can offer deliveries of all types to all places.
However, there are sometimes deliveries that need to be made to difficult places or tricky items that we struggle to fulfil while we’re at such an early stage.
I suppose this could be described as making sure that supply follows demand.
What advice would you give to other young entrepreneurs?
I would say get started! Succeed or fail in building a successful business – at least you’re someone who is out there creating something, which can be rare today.
The wide range of skills that I’ve had to develop through this experience have been beyond anything I could have imagined.
It is so satisfying to watch our business grow and begin to succeed. There is still a long road ahead, but I’m sure it will be just as fun as the one we’ve just been down.