Name: Paul Robinson
Company Name: Maple Bear Limited
Location (Town, Region): London, UK
Mentor: Chelsey Baker
When did you start your business?: 28/10/2012
Brief Bio – Tell us a little about yourself
I am passionate about my business and absolutely love what I do. My education is heavily founded in computers, technology and electrical engineering. I have always enjoyed a good challenge and expanding my skills from everything practical to include sales and business admin is no exception; I am ecstatic to be doing so well.
I’ve always had an adventurous spirit and love to explore and learn new things. Moving from Canada 5 years ago, I left everything that I knew behind to build a new life for myself in the UK; the only things I could bring with me had to be worth their weight and fit in a small suitcase. In my opinion, there is no better way to relax than to set out on a small boat and raise a couple of sails. One my goals in life is to take my own boat and circumnavigate the globe.
What made you want to start your business?
My business began as a research project from the simple idea of investing money into reducing ongoing costs, with helping the environment as a primary focus. A lot of research had to be done to prove which technologies are worth investing in and being financially viable at the same time. In order to pay the bills while creating my business model and finding contractors who could do this type of work, I held various jobs. I was a fitness instructor (gym), lifeguard/first aider and did some bar work too.
The idea of not having a boss quietly watching my every move from around the corner was always a driving force towards continuing the research in my spare time. With Maple Bear now incorporated, it is wonderful not having to ask anyone’s permission to take lunch early or worry about being 2 minutes late in the morning! Given a choice, I would much rather put that energy into making my clients happy. I get a lot of enjoyment from being out in the world, meeting new people and seeing new places; the fact that this is now my job is simply amazing!
Outside of work, what do you enjoy?
I actually find running my business fun, which forms some of my recreation. I like being outside, going to shows, playing sports (badminton and football mostly) and beyond everything else, it is finding opportunities to get out on the water and go sailing.
Tell us about your business
One of Maple Bear’s core values is to provide exceptional customer service and to do everything we possibly can. We work with our client’s PR team, assisting their efforts to improve their own corporate image along side what we do; we can also support in internal meetings and help get all the key stakeholders onboard. We also assist with various unquantifiable benefits that are related to our work. For example, we work closely with the facilities team to use the change in lighting as a springboard encouraging a more positive and environmentally friendly company culture. Encouraging the turning of computers and lights off when not needed or in use, as well as taking the stairs more; we have even composed memos for our clients to send internally to staff.
Our work extends beyond simple consultation and lighting designs; we can implement our own recommendations with our client’s interest at heart. Once a plan has been agreed, we can complete the installation with minimal disruption to our client’s normal operations. We can work at night, on weekends or however and whenever is most appropriate. Many employees do not even notice our presence, only the results!
What is your business?
Maple Bear Limited works in the commercial property sector and assists corporations and other businesses identify ways to reduce their energy consumption, with a focus on lighting. We use our expertise to redesign the lighting of any area to find the best balance between efficiency and cost compared to their current lighting. We understand that it is difficult to quantify that which cannot be seen (except on electricity bills), but our method allows us to show various changes in lighting with their energy consumption all without installing anything. We are committed to providing solutions that are financially viable and to answering any and all questions to give our clients the utmost confidence to know they are doing the right thing.
When did you officially start?
The company incorporated in October 2012 marking the official start; however, I have been involved in one form or another in energy efficiency since 2010.
Had you applied for funding from anywhere else?
I had looked into other sources of funding (banks), except that the amount of profit they expected to see in the cash flow forecast was so extreme that having such a profit would eliminate the need to have any loan in the first place! I loved the sound of the Start Up Loan scheme (with the mentoring) and fortunately when I met people from Rockstar Youth, the age limit was being increased to 30! Without the loan and mentoring support, this business would not have succeeded.
What other steps have you taken to getting your business started?
The business began as a research project nearly 3 years before incorporating the company. The idea grew from the simple concept of investing money (to benefit the environment) with financial incentives. As a result, in this initial period I was working normal jobs, sometimes a part time job in addition to a full time one to make sure ends meet and to fund the investment into market research. Outside of my job’s hours I was researching online various things, sending emails and anything necessary. I would often make various phone calls just before or after work; frequently during my lunch breaks to speak during normal working hours. I was also arranging suppliers and electricians to be able to make any recommendation happen.
How did you convert your business idea into a reality?
During the stages of market research, I was speaking plainly and direct to those who could be potential customers. As it turns out, through the process of finding out what these people wanted, they have contracted us to do some work for them.
The business had started before any assistance from the Startup Loan scheme. Without the scheme’s financial support and mentoring from Rockstar Youth, the business would not have grown to become long-term sustainable let alone consider adding an allowance for hiring staff in the future!
Who are your customers?
It is other businesses owning or leasing premises that are my customers. Our work involves both financial and environmental figures; the departments of these companies that I ideally want to speak to are the Facility Managers and those in Corporate Social Responsibility. Quite often, the MD, FD or CEO takes a particular interest in our work and speaking to these individuals is rewarding.
Our clients get the most out of our work when all the key stakeholders of a company are involved in what we are doing. We put extra effort into helping the various departments of our clients work together to make the most out of their investment.
What are your dreams for the business?
I would love to get a contract to work on the government’s buildings. In addition, to have case studies done with national publicity and recognition for driving such a huge and positive environmental change. Furthermore, I also want to expand my business via international clients to other countries. These are my business dreams and aspirations, and I will get there. It is just one foot in front of the other (and repeat). Many businesses and organisations are already looking at upgrading their lighting, but are moving slowly and generally only replacing old lighting when it breaks. If they knew what I know, they would be doing it a lot sooner!
Biggest Challenge/ Biggest Mistake
What was the biggest set up challenge? In hindsight, what was the biggest mistake? What would be your advice to anyone starting out? What are your hopes for the future (where will you be in 5 years)?
Looking back over the last few years, sometimes I think I wasted a lot of time. Not in terms of being slow to complete tasks, more to the point that everything that I am doing now seems so obvious and I should’ve done it ages ago. All of my education has been on the technical side of things, with zero knowledge of how a business exists and runs on paper. For example, I had to research and find out on my own what is required on an invoice and how to submit a VAT return. There are plenty of little individual tasks that I had no knowledge of.
Everyone starting in business without much more than an idea has to, at some point, leave their job and let the business start paying the bills. I would not say that I made any huge mistake on this subject as things are now going strong, but with hindsight being 20/20 I would have made a few changes.
Advice to anyone starting up
Anytime you meet, phone or email someone, remember to keep focussed on your goals and aims. There is a reason why you want to have this meeting; when it is over, what is it that you want to have, learn or arrange? Always review that previous thought and ask yourself, would you be offended to get that email, or asked that question? There is an incredible amount of free information on the internet and plenty of people willing to give you time out of their busy day just to help you. All you have to do is be nice.
In the next 5 years
The success and support that I have had so far is only serving to fuel my drive to achieve more and grow my business. In 5 years, I want to have national publicity for the work I am doing, with an international presence. Personally, I want the business to have funded my student loans repaid and to be paying off a mortgage instead of rent.
Tell us how the funding provided by Start Up Loans will help you
The loan has so far allowed for the purchase of various items to be able to complete my work and aid in generating sales, a laptop, digital camera, two-way radios. I am also getting a light meter, a few other important tools, but most importantly I am getting a custom display case made which will serve to remove any remaining doubt about the quality of our work and recommendations. The loan is also serving to help with various meetings and travel to client’s sites. Each job requires several months of planning before anything can happen, so it is invaluable to have the funds to continue to generate new leads while planning existing projects.
Tell us how the mentoring from Rockstar Youth will support you?
There aren’t enough words to fully appreciate how beneficial the mentoring has been. The sessions with Chelsey have covered every area of business and the order of topics has been remarkably accurate to what I have needed. I had enough time between sessions allowing me to action what we’ve talked about before the next topic while giving an added drive to get things done.
The mentoring has been brilliant and inspirational; my understanding of business, sales and marketing has greatly improved. My confidence in what I do has grown exponentially; I am now planning to give a number of talks on energy efficiency and lighting. I’ve seen first hand why and understand why so many successful entrepreneurs have business mentors; I plan to continue having a mentor myself to support me as my business grows. The possibilities are endless and being in business is tremendously exciting.
“We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children”
-Native American Proverb