Pete Dowds and Tom Brooks, two university friends who both worked in the city for five years, founded Mopp after a “terrible experience” trying to find a last-minute cleaner after a house party. After spending hours online searching for one, two no-shows and a hungover cleaner later, an idea was born. They launched Mopp in April 2013 and three weeks later were working full-time on their new venture. Within a year they were taking 10,000 bookings a month and in September this year they were bought out by Handy in a multi-million dollar deal.
We caught up with Pete and Tom to find out what their secret to success is.
Did you get a Start Up Loan prior to launching your business? How difficult was it to secure the loan and what did you use it for?
No, we launched the site in April, but didn’t take out a loan with Start Up Loans until November. We bootstrapped until June, when we were able to raise initial seed funding, and hire our first employees. When we pitched to Start Up Loans in November they were really receptive to our idea, and the money we got from them tided us over until we raised £800,000 through a leading European VC on Christmas Eve – a nice Christmas present!
You now take around 10,000 bookings a month. How have you done this? How much of your business is from repeat customers?
An aggressive growth strategy coupled with a great team has helped us manage this. The business has grown on average by over 100% per month this year, which has been quite crazy at times! I’d say the majority of our business comes from repeat customers, about 60-70%. The nice thing for us is that people like Mopp and what we’re trying to do, and tend to stay with us.
How do you drive people to your site and how do you convert them to sales once they are there?
For a long time we used PPC advertising heavily on search engines, but we’re at the point now where we get a lot more conversions from organic search. We also do things like run competitions on Twitter and Facebook, and we manage to get a lot of press, which helps people to find out about us.
With regard to how this converts to Sales, we’ve always tried to make things as convenient as possible for the customer, from the home page, to the booking process, to designing a mobile app so that they can book a cleaner on the move too.
The Guardian article reported that you grew 11 times your original size within the first 8 months. How did you do this?
We’ve always had a lot of customers by word of mouth, I think because the concept was straightforward and engaging, and people wanted to be a part of that. We’ve been fortunate enough to get some great PR, which really ramped up when we hired marketing staff in February. We do create a lot of content, which helps spread the brand, but the main thing for us has always been the quality of service, without which there’s no way we would have had that acceleration.
You have a strong PR strategy but how have you converted this into sales?
It’s quite simple really, more people becoming aware of your business helps drive traffic to the site, and if they’re interested enough in what they’ve read of the concept, people are usually interested in trying it out. As you don’t have to sign up for a contract with Mopp, it’s not a big commitment, so most people do just that!
What have you done PR wise? What has been your hook for getting featured?
A big one for us was online content, and a strong social media presence to promote it. We launched our YouTube channel MoppTV to drive traffic to the site, with content ranging from weekly cleaning tips, to customer testimonials, to some fun behind-the-scenes office stuff. We were recently nominated for an award by The Guardian Small Business Awards for PR & Marketing excellence, and the main thing they wrote about was our content strategy.
On the PR side of things, we’ve been quite lucky in that our business concept has been original enough for people to be interested in writing about it. We launched our iOS app – the first of its kind in the UK – in March, and since then coverage in national, business and consumer tech has been fairly constant. We’ve also had some great news coverage of our cleaners – recently we had a cleaner with a cat that rid customers’ homes of mice featured in The Croydon Advertiser, and before that we had a cleaner who became a model featured in The Bristol Post and The Daily Mail.
In the beginning you handed out flyers; did advertising work for you? Do you still advertise and how much business comes from it?
Flyering is a great way of getting quick exposure, but we found that PPC advertising worked better at gaining customers quickly while keeping a low CPA
Do you have a business mentor? If so how did you get one? What help/guidance have they given you?
Start Up Loans assigned Jon Golding to us as a business mentor. He was really helpful to us, although we were quickly able to secure VC funding, after which we were advised more by our investors.
Based on your experience, do you have any top tips for start ups?
Get your product onto the market as soon as you can, and make changes to it as you go along. We’ve made loads of changes to both our model and our site since we launched of course, but we’ve learned from our mistakes by having people use our product, while being able to build our brand at the same time.
Perhaps the only real problems we had were issues with supply and demand that resulted from trying to scale too quickly, but at the same time I don’t think we would have come this far were it not for having such an aggressive growth strategy.