One of our guest lectures this February – as part of the BETA Enterprise programme and first year module Entrepreneurial Thought and Action was from alumni and entrepreneur Paul Randall. Around one hundred students joined us to hear from the founder of on-line furniture company Rainbow Zebra, to hear his advice on e-commerce and his journey from Plymouth graduate to entrepreneur.
Paul graduated from Plymouth University in 2007 after studying BA (Hons) in Business Studies and Rainbow Zebra went live in 2010. Paul reached a stage in 2015 that he was able to hire his first full time employee. As a young entrepreneur Paul emphasised the importance of doing research before talking to potential investors as he found when he was initially looking to fund the start-up of his business.
Paul also recommended being transparent with mentors and investors for a beneficial business relationship with long term potential.
“Mentors are very important. Find a mentor if you can. Be open, be coachable. It is ok to disagree but be ready to learn from your mistakes.”
Even better, he says, is to learn from other people’s mistakes so you do not have to make them.
E-commerce and e-marketing:
Paul told us of early pit falls he encountered in e-commerce, as well as how to set up an on-line business. His tips for stress-free e-marketing include:
- If you do sell on-line try to have a merchant account to protect yourself from fraudulent transactions.
- Make buying your product or service no more than a 3 step/click process at most to checkout or it is too much hassle and you will have fewer sales and very few return customers.
- Once a person clicks on the website you have five seconds to convince a potential customer to stay. Rainbow Zebra has about a 50% bounce rate which is average and a 3% conversion rate which is good.
With regards to website creation and hosting offers, Paul recommends Amazon hosting from personal experience and confirms our suspicions that if an offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Paul emphasised the importance of planning for the future and adapting quickly to find ways to future proof parts of your business. For instance, Rainbow Zebra is updating its website again due to the popularity of mobiles so that the website looks good and is easy to use on a mobile. This is probably the 5th version of the Rainbow Zebra website homepage over the last 4 years.
To finish, Paul recommended that we always trust our instincts in business and do the research to understand our hunches.
Please let me know via firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to know any more about Paul Randall, Rainbow Zebra and the BETA Enterprise entrepreneurial guest lecture series.