What made you want to start your own business and how did you come up with the idea for Butlers in the Buff?
When I was 21 years old, I finished university and landed a full time job. Amongst other things I realized there was an allowance of 20 days of holiday a year and I thought this is not very much. I wanted to work for myself and be in control of what I was doing professionally and make it, as I wanted it to be. My current business partners (Jason Didcott and Will Jones) approached me with the idea of Butlers in the Buff, as Will knew I had a marketing background. At the time, Jason had just came out of the navy, had a good body and thought it would be a great thing to do, a bit of a party trick really and it worked everyone loved it; there was a huge gap in the market for something charming yet cheeky for hen and birthday parties. Strippers had become old and dated and what we offered with Butlers in the Buff was fresh and new. I had a solid background in PR and marketing, so we joined forces to launch the business. At this point, I still had a full time job as it was giving me secure income. We were all employed for about a year and a bit until the business took off.
How did you market your business in the beginning stages?
I came from a PR background, so that helped because I had knowledge of how to market a business to the press. I spent time writing hundreds of press releases and finding different angles that would be appealing to the media. As we were the first company to provide semi naked butlers we were lucky as no-one had ever heard of Butlers in the Buff for parties so we had a really good newsworthy story.
I had built a great list of contacts from already being in the PR industry so this came in very handy when I began pitching Butlers in the Buff. I remember contacting the Telegraph and they said they were not able to write about the business. A couple of months later we were approached by ITV who wanted to make a documentary about our company, so we got involved with that. The show featured four businesses that fitted under the main topic of “Going to work naked” and Butlers in the Buff was one of the companies presented in the documentary.
The following week the Telegraph phoned me and wanted to feature Butlers in the Buff. The power of media definitely helped and overnight, our inbox was fast overflowing with emails from people wanting to book a butler to people wanting to become one. Also good old fashioned word of mouth really helped! Word began to spread and the rest as they say is history.
Looking back from when you first started until now, how important would you say social media is for business owners? And what is your preferred social media channel for business and why?
Social media is massive for business. Facebook is still our biggest channel but Instagram is coming a near second! Back when we started, social media was not a developed platform for companies, so PR was the leader. But now I would say it’s really important. The power it has just by enabling people to share your content and speak about and recommend your business to a huge reach of people is absolutely invaluable. I definitely think there should be a balance between PR, social media and advertising (if you have the budget). For Butlers in the Buff, all these channels helped us especially when looking for butlers. We have high standards for our butlers and they have to be charming, polite, friendly and definitely not sleazy. So being able to use these platforms to find the right people and to communicate with our customers is really great.
What would you say the hardest thing was for you when you first started?
In any business, you have to get your accounts right; getting a good accountant was a challenge to start with because we had very little knowledge in that subject. We are a fun business but it is serious at the same time because we have to make profit to keep going. For us at Butlers in the Buff, it is important to work with the right people so finding the right ones to hire can be a bit of a process. When we began, we got all sorts of applicants as you can imagine, but at the end of the day we have a criteria we follow and that’s important to us. Getting your story out there is very can also be challenging but finding a way to make it work is worth it.
Butlers in the Buff services are available in many different countries including UK, Australia, US and Canada. How did you identify that these markets will work for the brand?
We picked English speaking countries because it was just easier to communicate with our audience- translating the websites would have been more complex and more time consuming. We did a lot of market research, especially for the US as the bachelorette industry there is huge. We knew Australia would love it as it is similar to the UK in this field. My business partner is married to a Canadian so he knew the country and how it works there so that fitted nicely.
We know that being a business owner is not a 9 to 5 job. How do you keep your work life balance?
It is challenging, especially dealing with different time zones. For this reason, sometimes I have very early morning meetings and late night ones so they can be congruent with each country. But technology makes it a lot easier; our philosophy is work hard but work smart. I make lots of lists, spreadsheets and prioritize a lot. Priority lists are vital, it’s easy to get distracted by the things you enjoy doing or the easier jobs but try to not get distracted and keep focused on the priority and time sensitive ones. Allocate some quiet time for yourself so you can focus on one project at a time. But you do need to relax for a little bit too so much sure you have a break as well. Get some fresh air and you’ll be more productive!
What advice do you have for those individuals who plan to start a business with an international market angle?
It can be very hard, we started with full time jobs and we worked our day jobs then met up in the evening to get the business off the ground! If you have a vision and believe in it then put everything you have in it and do it. Learn how to market it and come up with catchy story angles that will make the headlines; do a launch event, do something that you can get to the press with that stands out. Use social media to get the word out there about it and connect with your audience to build a loyal community for your business. Dream, believe it and achieve it!