Mazuma Money is an innovative accounting company that successfully rode the economic downturn and now boasts several offices across the UK, from which the company offers a range of services to clients. inspiresme.co.uk finds out more about what makes Mazuma Money unique from founders Sophie Hughes and Lucy Cohen.
From an early age, Sophie wanted to be an accountant. After taking her A-Levels she was keen to get into the workplace, and passed on the opportunity to go to university in favour of a fast track non-graduate accounting course from the Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT) that allowed her to become a chartered accountant.
“I knew university wasn’t the right option for me, and the course seemed like the perfect first step into my chosen career and a quicker route to my end goal.”
Meanwhile, Lucy took a gap year after her A-levels and worked as a runner for television and film. Quickly realising that being a runner wasn’t all it was cracked up to me, Lucy started seriously thinking about accountancy and enrolled in the same course as Sophie.
By chance, the two founders bumped into each other at an exam revision class and – having discovered they were old school friends – decided to go for a drink together. They discussed business ideas and came up with the seed for Mazuma, which was created in December 2006.
Mazuma Money is a national service specialising in providing monthly bookkeeping and accountancy to sole traders, the self employed and owners managing limited companies throughout the UK.
The company grew rapidly. The co-founder invested proceeds from their first sales straight back into the business for the first 6–9 months of trading to be able to fund their start-up growth. They used a very small amount of personal money to purchase their first batch of business stationery and software.
Since Mazuma’s early days, Lucy and Sophie have expanded quickly and now have an array of branches throughout the UK. They’ve recently moved into a new head office in Bridgend, West Cardiff to allow room for even more expansion. With 25 staff and 1200 clients across the UK, things are moving fast. The duo has just opened their first office internationally, in Salt Lake City, US.
Lucy commented: “We’re continually evolving and growing as a business. We spotted a gap in the marketplace and took advantage. We offer a service like no other - easy to understand, no fuss and low cost. Our customers appreciate this approach and we go to great lengths to always make sure the customer comes first.”
They have won numerous awards such as HSBC Start Up Stars, UK Winner, 2010, HSBC Start Up Stars, Wales Regional winner, 2010, National Chamber of Commerce: Winners of Wales Region, and the Excellence in Customer Service for two years running.
The awards have been won in recognition of their ‘Purpleforce Package’ – customers enter a few details online and receive an instant quote. A welcome pack is then sent out with 12 purple freepost envelopes. The customers puts all accounts, invoices and sales figures into an envelope, pops it in the post. Mazuma confirm receipt of the information and, within five working days, the accounts are sent back completed.
Running Mazuma has not always been plain sailing, however. Like all businesses, the co-founders faced some challenges when setting up Mazuma. One of these was ageism.
“As we were both in our early twenties when we started Mazuma, the biggest issue we faced was the public’s perception of us as we were young. Due to our age many people thought we were not qualified, or we were running our parents’ business! Neither of us went to university and, instead, decided to pursue accountancy after completing our A Levels, so we qualified at a younger age.”
The duo also struggled to fight stereotypes.
“Accountants are easily stereotyped, and we go against the grain, so we found it a challenge at times for people to take us seriously as people expect accountants to be older men in suits, and we are certainly very different from the stereotype! We overcame both these issues by providing an excellence service and earning a good reputation, but this did take time to earn.”
They also had to deal with the concerns of those around them.
When we first started out, not many people believed in us or our business proposition. However, we knew we had a good idea and we persevered.
Sophie explains: “I had to overcome worries from my family and friends who were concerned that I was leaving a good job to start up my own business. I knew that they had my best interests at heart and were only worried in case it did not work out, but luckily it did and I think they are now pleased that I did my own thing!”
What’s on the horizon for Mazuma Money?
“We have just launched a venture in the USA – www.mazumamoney.com – and are very excited to see how that goes. If it all goes to plan and we know that we can successfully expand into other countries, we’ll start looking at the next country!”
Sophie and Lucy’s top tips for entrepreneurs starting a business:
Get as much feedback as you can from others about your idea
There are lots of organisations out there that can help you by providing free business advice, and your friends and colleagues should also be able to give you honest opinions on your business idea. You don’t need to take on board what everyone says – in fact one advisor told us our business idea would never work and luckily we didn’t listen to his advice – but it is good to hear lots of different opinions before you go off and manufacture your chocolate teapot….
You don’t need to put all your savings and hard-earned cash into your start up costs
Ensure you set yourself a budget that you can afford to lose. Starting up a business is a gamble at the end of the day, and just as you wouldn’t bet your house and savings on a horse no matter what a ‘sure bet’ it was, don’t do the same with your new business venture. As much as you may love your new gadget that you’ve invested a fortune to manufacture, others may not.
Be very careful when you look for your first members of staff
Ensure you follow all HR procedures and interview someone thoroughly before you take them on. In the early days great staff members are hard to find but are invaluable, and you need to be able to rely on them to run the fort in your absence and also represent you and your company correctly.