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Direct Sitters - Startacus interviews Founder Marcus Simpson

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by Startacus Admin

Direct Sitters is such a simple idea, and in hindsight one we wished we had thought of first! Direct Sitters provide quality CRB checked, fully insured, vetted and trustworthy house sitters to wait for engineers, repairmen and home deliveries, saving you the hassle - simple!

Even more simple and impressive is the pretty low loan of £2700 that Marcus Simpson, then in his early 20’s gained from The Prince’s Trust to set up Direct Sitters in the first place. A few years on and Marcus, still a young entrepreneur, is a fine example of what can be achieved with a good idea, lots of hard work, and some cash upfront to start the ball rolling.

Therefore it seemed a rather simple decision for us to contact Marcus to ask him a few questions about the inspiration behind his now successful business, the support he Marcus Simpson Direct Sittersreceived and also to gain some handy tidbits of advice to pass on to other wannabe self starters...(hopefully you then!)

Let’s go back to the beginning of Direct Sitters - how easy was it to get the support you needed to start the business?

I really wouldn’t say I needed a lot of support – I did get some money from the Prince’s Trust which helped me get started – this was great as it got the ball rolling. They gave me a mentor to help me when I wanted, and she is still very much actively involved today. But, by the time I came to the decision to start Direct Sitters, I had already failed at starting up another business and it was just a matter of getting over the mental side of failing, dusting myself off and moving on. One of the key support factors or enablers for me was the support I got from my family and friends. They never gave me money or anything as investment. But, they helped in other little ways they could, by just being supportive and being great soundboards to bounce ideas off.

What was the initial inspiration behind the business and how well received was the idea in the early days?

I always wanted to start my own business, but I never knew what was I was going to do. I tried one idea, but it didn’t take off. This left me demoralized and depressed. I just said to myself, you need to come up with something better. So while watching a morning TV show (The Wright Stuff), they had a section on one of the shows which suggested ways for people to earn extra cash, and one of the ideas was ‘House Sitting’ for people who go on holidays. I thought it was something easy that I could do, and it didn’t take much experience to get going. But, after looking into it a bit more, it was an industry where age and maturity was an advantage. I was around 21 years old at the time, and nobody was going to let a 21 year old into their house for 6 weeks! However, the next day or so my mum asked me to stay at home for a plumber, and after a bit of arguing of how bored I would be, I thought that it would great to put the House Sitting idea together to solve the problem of people waiting at home for Plumbers, Sky/Virgin Media Engineers, and Deliveries, because everyone hates doing it.

At the time, we were the first in the world to do something like this. This was great as there were no competitors at the time, and it was something new and different. But, it was hard. I remember describing it to my mentor from the Princes Trust - Thinking outside the box is great, but the problem is, there is nobody to buy what you’re selling outside the box, and you have to wait for box to move towards you. – My main motivation to keep me going was that when I spoke to people about what Direct Sitters does, their face lit up and they would tell me how great and idea it was, so I had to keep on going.

Direct SittersNow you are an established business, what has been the hardest business lesson you have learned along the way?

It sounds stupid. But, the biggest lesson I’ve learnt is that you really have to work hard everyday to make what you’re doing a success. When I started up, I really thought all I had to do is offer a great service which solves a problem a lot of people hate, create a website, it will automatically get up on Google the first day, and people will book us. It has taken a lot more work than I thought it would have and still takes more to keep it going.

Who has been your biggest mentor to date?

I wouldn’t say I have a mentor that I look up to or anyone who has had a huge impact in the way which I do things. I have an admiration for many people and what they have achieved. But, I always try to be open to other people’s opinions and experiences. I find I learn better that way. Even my mentor who I got from the Prince’s Trust, I never really looked up to her. I respected her and admired what she’s achieved, but I always looked at it as she was helping me work toward my vision. I remember when I first met her, and talking about my plans and how in 5-10yrs time we were going to be working together. Now she is part of our board, and has a stake in the business.

What now for the business - any plans you can share with Startacus?

I’m working on a few things at the moment. The main aim is to continue to build and grow the Direct Sitters brand/name. I know we still have a long way to go until we become a household name like Virgin Media, Sky, BT or British Gas. But, I’m working on it. Other plans are just expansion. We’re in the process of scouting a few other cities in the UK. Since we started back in 2009, our main focus has really been London. So over the last year or so, I’ve been travelling to different cities and working on how we could work in different cities and what the possible challenges are going to be. We’ve got our first handful of cities selected already and they are in the pipeline for the next 12-18mths. Other than that, we have a few MI5 type projects going on behind the scenes that are going to be game changing. So watch this space.

Cheers Marcus and a great inspiration you are to other wannabe and established self starters everywhere. You can follow Direct Sitters on Twitter via @DirectSitters or Marcus himself @MTBsimpson.

If you like this interview you might also like our recent interview with Kate Jackson - From commercial Lawyer to Startup Entrepreneur or our interview with Philip Crilly - From idea to business launch in 3 months

If you like what you see here on Startacus, why not become a member of our growing community? It's free! And you'll get all this - exclusive access to our Business Toolkit, discounts and offers galore for your business via our member only business deals, the chance to network and connect with loads of fellow self-starters, and maybe even become our celebrated 'Self-Starter of the Week' and tell the world your startup tale! Join right here for free...

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Published on: 6th June 2013

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