Chris Holt, co-founder of Pubs of Oxford

Chris Holt is the co-founder of start-up company, Pubs of Oxford -  a digital marketing platform for all the pubs in Oxford offering information about their facilities, offers, jobs and events. They’re still in the startup phase at the moment so on the hunt for investors and discovering inventive marketing strategies for the company.

Q: What is your background?  Why are you doing this?
A: My background hasn’t got much to do with digital marketing. I am actually a film-maker. I freelanced in creating promo videos for a variety of clients around Oxfordshire and London. I did learn some marketing skills at University on my computer science degree but hadn’t utilised them until Pubs Of Oxford.

I decided to take on this project because I would use it myself. One hungover morning we couldn’t find a pub that served all day breakfast near us, so we thought wouldn’t it be great if there was a site easy to use to help us with this…

Q: What is your definition of entrepreneurship?
A: Entrepreneurship is about creating your own job, being your own boss and to enjoy working on something full time, that you created.

Q: What made you decide to become an entrepreneur?
A: I found out that I was never happy working for someone else. I got frustrated. The only way to achieve something with full satisfaction is to work on something that you created. No employer that you work for will give you that reward.

Q: So what would you say are the top 3 skills that are needed to be a successful entrepreneur? Why?
A: Communication. Perseverance. Finding the right team.
You need to be able to chat with people. Whether it’s someone to network with in the industry, a potential client to sell to or even friends and family to explain what it is you’re actually doing. Perseverance is key when you’re doing your own thing. It takes a long time to get your idea of the ground and get established. It’s too easy to think that it’s not going to happen, so you just need to keep going and build that following for your business. Finding the right team is crucial. Making sure that you have complimentary skills with the other people in your business. They also need to have the same drive, motivation and perseverance to carry on.

Q: What is your favourite part of being an entrepreneur?
A: Making decisions for myself and creating something other people can enjoy.

Q: What individual, company or organization inspires you most? Why?
A: Brewdog – the brewery. I love the way they rebelled in all aspects of their organization and made sure they stood out from the crowd in a highly competitive market. Guy Kawasaki – a marketing specialist in the US. His creative and genius marketing ideas brought to life some of the biggest products we know today. Having worked at Apple and Google, his knowledge is vast and his enthusiastic advice videos really help. Sean Parker – Co-Founder of Napster. His rule breaking idea changed the music industry forever, even if his methods were frowned upon. Jordan Belfort for his life experiences in the business world. And the usual, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg.

Q: If you could have 5 minutes with the above indiv/company/org, what would you want to ask or discuss?
A: I’d ask Brewdog to teach me how to smash accounting and always be on top of my numbers. Guy Kawasaki could help me build a marketing plan and get more of an online community for Pubs Of Oxford. I’d ask Sean Parker for a large investment, because he’s worth a rather large amount and he could bring some great ideas to the table. Jordan Belfort - to tell me everything’s going to be OK and he’s done a lot worst in the past.

Q: What has been your most satisfying or successful moment in business?
A: We did a BBC Radio Oxford interview which was pretty cool. Another cool moment was when I overheard someone in the street tell a friend to use Pubs of Oxford as they said it helped them find a pub when there was a large group of them out in town. Also when we went live with the website and we got a lot of traffic and positive feedback. Accreditation from Adobe for our website design and functionality was also pretty cool. Great moments are always popping up and I hope they continue!

Q: What would you say have been some of your mistakes, failures or lessons learned as an entrepreneur?
A: A massive mistake was starting a business (not Pubs Of Oxford) with friends who didn’t pull their weight or didn’t bring any skills to the table – they just wanted to be there for the end result if it worked. Choose your team wisely and make sure there is at least one of you making decisions.

Q: What is good about being an entrepreneur in Oxfordshire?  Bad?
A: The pros of setting up in Oxford its size. Oxford is small so reaching different areas isn’t too hard and attracting new customers is often straightforward by using social media forums attached to the city. It’s also close to London so networking in both cities is easy.

Oxford is also the 7th most visited city in the country. There are also two universities here, so there is a constant turnover of new people who want to explore the city. This also means that the marketplace never stagnates and can often provide talented individuals coming out of university that want to get involved in tech or digital startups.

However, this can be a double edged sword. With Oxford being so small, means that there are only ever around 150,000 people at one time. It’s not got the size of other major UK cities like London, Birmingham or Manchester so often reaching a larger customer base is harder. Tourists will come and go so will never really be returning customers.

Q: If a new entrepreneur or startup came to you looking for entrepreneurship information or resources in Oxfordshire, where would you send them?
A:  Oxford’s networking scene is definitely picking up. There are often entrepreneur meetings with new and old businesses at the Jam Factory and other pub locations.

Of course there is also Enterprising Oxford which is great for new startups. They also have networking meetings.

OBE – Oxford Business Enterprise can set up meetings with you and go through your business plan or give you advice with starting up.

Oxford Young Entrepreneurs on Facebook is another group that you can join that meet in a variety of pubs and network together.

Q: Any last words of advice?
A: Don’t create a business plan first. Create your idea as a project to start with and see where it goes. You’ll know soon enough if people find it interesting. Also, don’t quit your day job until you have some decent revenue coming in… Made that mistake before too.