Dan Taylor is the founder of The Giving Card, a point of sale discount card linked to charitable giving. Here he talks to inspiresme.co.uk about his experiences of being a young entrepreneur and his tips for other innovators looking to follow in his footsteps.
Q: Have you always wanted to be an entrepreneur?
A: I remember when I was at ten years old I was told I didn’t pass the interview to write for the school newspaper, so I started my own. I got a group of friends together and started writing. Our paper outsold the main one; I still remember my teacher’s face when he read the “never take no for an answer” article! I’ve always been determined to find new and innovative ways of doing things and I think the entrepreneurship route has always appealed to me. I believe people fall into it rather than setting out to do it; I don’t believe you can just wake up in the morning and decide to be an entrepreneur but I do believe anyone can do it if they have a great idea and are resilient, determined and can persevere even with a lot of setbacks.
Q: How did you develop the idea for The Giving Card?
A: Last year, I graduated from University and decided I wanted to do something different. I knew that I wanted to go into business, but I also knew that I wanted to make a difference. I noticed that voucher schemes were thriving, whilst charities were suffering and a high percentage of the population had been affected by the crunch. I wanted to bring all these aspects together and recognised that there was a niche in the market for something that could assist all three groups. I was bored of having printing vouchers, searching through lots of different sites or having to buy discount cards for different sectors. Instead, I developed The Giving Card which is a point of sale discount card linked to charitable giving. My team and I have negotiated discounts with companies such as Halfords Autocentres to get a massive 33 percent off of MOTs and 15 percent off servicing right across the country. Members also get access to 10 percent off Interflora all year round as well as offers in other restaurants, bars, theatres, nightclubs, gyms and professional services to name but a few. From each and every sale of The Giving Card, a proportion of our profits go directly to the member’s favourite charity.
Q: You’ve literally just started your business. How do you feel?
A: It’s been an incredible few months. The team has grown substantially since we first started the company and each day brings a new challenge. There have been many sleepless nights, and there still are, but I wouldn’t want to be doing anything different right now. My job is so varied; one day I’m meeting with marketing directors and CEOs from the biggest brands in the UK and the next, I could be visiting one of the charities we’re working with. It’s all going well so far, but if you’re asking how I feel, there are several emotions that go through my head on an hourly basis.... mainly excitement!
Q: At this early hurdle, what are your current priorities?
A: We’ve got three strands of the company; the charity side, the business side and the customer side. That means that whilst we’re talking to charities to sign up, we’re also speaking to businesses to get them on board too, all whilst we’re marketing the product to ensure we focus on sales. I wish there was just one particular priority! We’ve set up the company, now we’ve just got to let people know we’re here and show them what The Giving Card has to offer.
Q: Getting a new business off the ground can be challenging. What would you say were the biggest challenges you faced?
A: Our product is only as good as the brands we are working with and contacting them is no easy feat! The biggest challenge was getting through to CEOs and Marketing Directors of the high street brands as such a new business. I think once people started to see the calibre of companies who were signing up with us, they started to take us more seriously. It was about building momentum and working hard for that “snowball effect” to kick in. We always want to talk to business owners and charity representatives and we’re always urging them to get in touch with us via our website. I’m still working hard to ensure that our product gets better each week and that’s the beauty of what we do, the product constantly evolves and improves. Whilst this is a positive for our customers, it’s a challenge for us.
Q: What are you most excited about over the next six months?
A: The business changes on a daily basis, so every single day is new for me. Being such a young business, you can never say what’s round the corner. The Giving Card is in talks with some of the biggest brands on the high street so I’m very excited to see how things develop with them and hope the number of offers increase on a weekly basis. An important thing I’ve learnt is that you can make plans for the next day, the next month and the next year, but in reality things will be very different from what you wrote down on that original business plan! Thinking on the spot is a skill I’ve had to develop fast, so whatever the next six months throws at me, I’m (hopefully!) ready.
Q: Has anyone given you any particularly worthwhile advice or guidance? What sticks out in your mind?
A: I was told that the most successful companies had a ‘human aspect’ to them and made sure that those behind the brand were also a ‘face’ for the company. I can see why so many people have said this; if you look at the companies that have done well in this country, we generally know who’s behind them. Also, with a new product I think it’s important for people to know it’s not just a website that’s randomly been put up. I’ve often been put off buying things on the internet because I’ve not heard of them before, or because I’m wary of the website. When there’s an actual face and you know who’s behind the brand, I think people instil more trust in choosing to part with their money.
Q: What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs such as yourself looking to start a business?
A: Get yourself a good mentor. There are inevitably going to be a lot of mistakes made, but any that you can prevent by speaking to people in a similar industry is time well spent. I’ve had a wonderful response from successful entrepreneurs who have kindly given a lot time to me over the last few months and will hopefully continue to do so.
Q: Do young entrepreneurs face unique challenges and if so, what are they?
A: I think young entrepreneurs are now finally being recognised as serious business people and widely seen as the next generation of businessmen and businesswomen. There has been a big push in recent times by key, influential figures to drive youth employment and encourage entrepreneurship at a younger age and I think it’s working. I’ve met some incredible young entrepreneurs who are literally changing the face of this country and around the world. I think the main challenge that young entrepreneurs face is the responsibility of driving the economy back to where it once was for future generations.
Q: Why do you think your business is going to be successful?
A: How do you answer this question modestly?! I wanted to create a product that was a ‘no brainer’ for everyone. The Giving Card brings more customers to businesses, additional revenues to charities and helps the general public to save money. I’ll tell you about why I believe The Giving Card is a premium offering in the sector it sits in. Firstly, The Giving Card is not location centric; a lot of other discount cards can only be used in a local area but we offer a card which can be used nationally. In addition, The Giving Card is not industry specific; gone are the days where you have to buy a discount card just for restaurants, or just to get a discount on your haircuts, The Giving Card offers the chance to save money in 6 categories: Restaurants, Nightlife, Arts & Entertainment, Health, Fitness & Beauty, Professional Services and Online. The Giving Card also donates £10 from the sale of every card directly to the member’s favourite charity. Hopefully we’ve covered all angles to make it as successful as possible, but only time will tell!
Q: Is it possible in business to make money and support charities?
A: Absolutely, and I think more companies should follow suit. We are a commercial organisation that took the view that the charitable aspect would not only give us an additional USP but also help thousands of people throughout the UK. I believe we have a premium product even without the charity aspect, but as something that was close to our hearts, we wanted to incorporate this within the business. Why not factor in a percentage of a product going to charity when writing your business plan?
Q: What’s next for The Giving Card?
A: I’m looking at new products and ways to make sure that the charities benefit over and above the initial donations. The website is being subtly re-designed to enhance the user experience and we’re also looking at ways to streamline the buying process. I’m looking for new companies and more charities to sign up at no cost, whilst exploring the best way to market our product. There’s going to be some exciting new brands popping up in the New Year and some marketing activities in cities right across the UK. There’s always room to improve and I like to be as pro active with the company as I can, so any comments, ideas or suggestions are always welcome to my personal e-mail address: dantaylor at thegivingcard dot co dot uk.