Wheelie Good Mobility specialises in used and new mobility scooters and new mobility aids. We sell our used scooters via our workshop in Hartley and all new mobility aids via our online department store and mail order catalogue. We’re a family business consisting of me Charmaine Kemp, my Dad Bob, my nephew Dan and Stu in the workshop.
I can remember exactly when the business started it was in November 2008 two weeks before recession was announced. I had failed to find employment and I had got quite down about it. My mum wanted to keep me busy and said that Grandad needed mobility equipment so me and my father bought an old mobility scooter and restored it. Grandad accused us of trying to ‘bump him off’ and refused to get on it – he was 96, so it was quite a funny family moment. My Grandad made it quite evident the scooter wasn’t going to be used, so we sold it and made money. This was the lightbulb moment!
I was unemployed and I had to have a serious think about what I was good at. I had gained some valuable skills at university obtaining two BA’s, the first in creative media and the second in consumer behaviour and marketing. I wanted to put these to good use so the business was created and we started refurbishing more scooters in the family garage. Eventually we moved out of the garage and into what is now a fully working mobility scooter servicing unit. We had found a market for refurbished mobility scooters but I felt there was still more to offer our customer base so I developed a mail order catalogue. This ended up being the perfect tool for our offline customers, plus I could apply my skills from university in its production, saving money.
Money. This for me has been one of the biggest barriers in developing the business. I started with £500 and a loan from the Princes’ Trust of £2500. As part of our strategy the business has done everything it possibly can to remain debt-free and recession-proof. However, it hasn’t come without drawbacks, I still invest all the money I can back into the business and its expansion. The key is not to borrow and not to spend what you cannot afford. You need to identify ‘needs’ and ‘wants’ for the business. Then find a cheaper alternative as long as the objective is met. You don’t need a flashy van, or a brand new office. Make do, as it’ll come.
Wheelie Good Mobility has won a few awards after support from the Princes Trust. In 2010 I won two Young Entrepreneur of the Year Awards, the first was a KEiBA (Kent Excellence in Business Award) judged by Kent Foundation’s very own Paul Barron, the second was from Shell LivewIRE in a national competition. In 2011 we won Maidstone, The Mall’s ‘Retail Factor’ which provided us with a free promotional stand in the shopping centre. In 2012 the University of Greenwich recognised us with a ‘Small Business Award’. In 2014 I had a crack at the Kent Invicta Chamber over 30s category for ‘Entrepreneur of the Year’ and was excited to come away with a trophy. For 2015, we’ve already heard that we’ve won a Headline Award from Scoot, a leader in online business directories. This one is brilliant as I love the similarity of the Scoot website and us selling scooters 🙂
Wheelie Good Mobility is soon to become ‘Wheelie Good Mobility Ltd.’ as we make the transition from sole trader to limited company. Finally, my head won’t be on the chopping block. See, as a sole trader – you are personally liable for all the bills and debts within the business – it’s a breath of fresh air to have the limitation.
This turning point means we can now apply for funding to expand the business and take on staff. It’s a glorious thought to us, the four of us work like octopi on computers or in the workshop and we still don’t have enough hands on deck. We’d eventually love to take on apprentices, but the first priority is an office move, there’s only just enough room for us all at the moment. Also in the pipeline is Wheelie Good Kids specialising in pediatric mobility aids, so watch this space.
My Business Tips:
Just hold on to every penny like it’s your last. Your business’ lifeblood is the customer, yes indeed, but the money brought in is as equally precious. Don’t spend on what you don’t need to. Teaching yourself can save on costs – my first website was in Word and so was the first mail order catalogue. Youtube and webinars taught me a lot, right through from using photoshop to online advertising. Now they are all pretty nifty ‘shop windows’ and I’ve saved thousands in graphic and web designers. Don’t get all ‘billy big potato’ because you’re an entrepreneur. Once you’ve built it and sold it for £20m, you can then buy yourself a top hat. Until then, work, work, work. Day and night. Time and money are both are precious to an entrepreneur, so prioritise both, but don’t forget to give yourself a pat on the back when the rewards start coming in, it’s well deserved.