Interview with Edgar Thoemmes & Jack Head
“Ah well there’s two of us so it’s gotta be two things! 1. Be passionate about your product or service and ensure it’s always top quality. 2. Once you do start, keep focused. Once you set up your own business there are a lot of things to do, it’s very easy to get distracted. As an entrepreneur you need to focus what is important – and almost always this is driving growth..” – Edgar Thoemmes & Jack Head
Today we feature Edgar Thoemmes & Jack Head, the founder at Virtually There. We hear their story in their own words, their successes, their challenges and their insights.
Let’s start by getting to know you. Can you please tell us a little bit about you and what you do?
Sure. So, we’re Jack and Edgar and together we are the Co-Founders of virtual services provider, Virtually There.
We’ve known each other for a very long time, having grown up just doors apart on the same street. We have a history of running businesses together, and I guess you could say an entrepreneurial flair from pretty early on. Our very first business was a car washing enterprise when we were just eleven years old! Fast forward a few years and we’ve kept up that spirit, both as individuals and as part of a team.
Respectively, we are also serial entrepreneurs who run or co-run other companies. Specifically, Jack is the founder of award-winning Bristol letting agency and property management service, The Letting Game, whilst Edgar is the co-founder of luxury UK tea supplier Canton.
A great introduction and start to this interview. Can you please tell us, how did you start, from what age, and what made you decide to change direction and start?
Each of us switched from working in offices to running our own business. We were seeking more agency in our working lives, not to mention that we both love a challenge! At the heart of each of our decisions to start up independently, however, was a really strong product or service that we believed in. We believed that we needed to bring those things to the people seeking them – simple as that.
Whilst independently trying to get our separate ventures off the ground, we realised just how tough starting up and running a business could really be.
You suddenly become incredibly busy with lots of responsibilities to take care of, and you realise you could really use some support. We joined forces back in 2012, with a vision for helping other business owners to avoid the challenges we’d faced, get their time back and ultimately focus on what’s important. In turn, Virtually There was born.
Thank you for that insight. So can you tell us…What does your business do and where is your company based?
Virtually There helps founders and start ups get back to what matters – delivering a top-notch product or service at all times and growing the business.
We were founded in Bristol, but we now offer virtual office spaces across nine major cities in the UK, which companies can use as their registered address, as well as divert all their business-related post to for us to handle.
We also offer virtual call answering services and personal assistants who can take calls and messages, schedule appointments, respond to live chats etc.
Through all of this, we aim to be like an extension of each of our client’s team. By allowing them to outsource the nitty-gritty bits to our superb team of trained professionals.
What’s the story behind your success? What led to your aha moment? how did you get to where you are now?
Hmm so, I guess our ah-ha moment came from of our individual personal experiences of running a business, discussing the challenges, and thinking up a solution. The best products or services are born out of a personal need or experience, which was likewise the case here.
It took a while for things to become “successful” as a business however. To begin, we really lacked direction and were both busy doing other things.
It wasn’t until we started seeing a change in working patterns and the business environment that things picked up.
It just so happened that we we were pretty future-thinking with regards to how we work, and when the demand for more flexibility and individual agency picked up, we were there with the means to put it into practice.
I guess you could say the moral here is simply: “good things come to those who wait!”
Thank you for sharing that. What’s been your life’s biggest lesson so far?
Our biggest lesson would have to be the importance of staying focused. Like we said when starting the business we were still involved in other things, meaning we spread ourselves too thinly across the board.
A new business requires a lot of attention and for leaders to concentrate on refining and growing the company, so it’s an essential part of success.
Nowadays we still both work on numerous businesses, but we’ve learnt how to effectively manage and prioritise our time and workloads.
Creating and committing to a realistic and suitable timetable is key to being productive. Work out where you need to block out hours, mornings or even whole days for other things. Consider, for example, ‘when are you most likely to get people on the phone?’ ‘What’s happening next month that requires some planning?’ Experiment a bit until you find what works for you and your business.
Probably that the market can change within an instant when you least expect it. We could never have anticipated the shift in working habits that there has been. Of course a lot of that recently has been down to the pandemic, which no one could have foreseen. But you need to be prepared for whatever the world might throw at you and be able to adapt. Whether that’s everything shutting down overnight, as was the case for our other businesses, or an exponential growth in demand, as was the case for Virtually There.
If you were to go back in time, what piece of advice would you give to your younger self?
Three key things for us would have to be:
1. Believe in yourself and your product. Always remind yourself why you started it in the first place if necessary, and ensure those closest to you believe in it as well.
2. Be patient, a lot of it is about timing, you might just not be approaching the market at right time (but it will come!)
3. Finally, it can be a lonely place being an entrepreneur, so having a co-founder, a chairman, or trustees can be extremely beneficial. We’re lucky we’ve always had each other to turn to for support along the way. We find a lot of value in coming together and sharing our independent viewpoints.
For us, entrepreneurship has always been the most appealing and enjoyable option. It’s certainly beneficial (and often a lot easier!) working on someone else’s terms, as you gain experience in how established businesses run. But if like us, you like a challenge and you’ve got a great idea, there’s so much reward in bringing it to life.
We’re nearly halfway through our interview so it’s a great time to ask how does your business run. What three tools make your business run better?
We absolutely swear by Google Workspace for starters. The office suite means we can manage email addresses, share documents and use hangouts really easily and at an affordable price.
For most businesses a good payment tool is essential. We’ve found the best for a subscription model is Chargebee which has been fantastic. We have some dedicated team members that handle this part of the business.
Finally, CRMs are of course really important. The best allow users to cross over departments such as sales, marketing, customer service and more. We use Hubspot, one of the bigger players in the market, but definitely a perfect option for us.
All of these are pretty instrumental to the running of the business. We’re not quite sure where we’d be without them!
What do you know now that you wished you had known before?
Probably that the market can change within an instant when you least expect it. We could never have anticipated the shift in working habits that there has been. Of course a lot of that recently has been down to the pandemic, which no one could have foreseen.
But you need to be prepared for whatever the world might throw at you and be able to adapt. Whether that’s everything shutting down overnight, as was the case for our other businesses, or an exponential growth in demand, as was the case for Virtually There.
What has been your greatest or proudest achievement or moment?
Well, we’ve both become fathers in recent years, which is obviously one the greatest experiences life can give. But with regards to business, it’s probably now having the ability to really shape the company how we want.
We’ve experienced a huge amount of growth in the past year (5 to 40 employees in one year!) and have put a lot of work into creating a culture and a brand that we’re really proud of.
One of the greatest achievements for us both is being able to offer young people a path for professional development.
This year we launched our Young Entrepreneurs Scheme, helping seven young entrepreneurs start or grow their business.
We’re currently providing each of them with 1-2-1 mentoring and hope to get them set up with our services, free of charge, of course, very soon.
What future life goals do you want to achieve and why?
Really, we just want to set a good example and provide opportunities for the next generation.
We want to continue giving back in any way we can, particularly through individual business support and career development . We’re currently exploring all sorts of exciting options for Virtually There, including an emphasis on apprenticeships, entrepreneurship and working more closely with the charity sector.
To finish our inspire questions…”We believe that sharing inspiring words can inspire others.” If there was one positive thing you would say to someone to inspire and empower them what would it be and why?
Ah well there’s two of us so it’s gotta be two things!
1. Be passionate about your product or service and ensure it’s always top quality.
2. Once you do start, keep focused. Once you set up your own business there are a lot of things to do, it’s very easy to get distracted. As an entrepreneur you need to focus what is important – and almost always this is driving growth.
“Thank you it has been great learning more about your founder story and Virtually There”
To learn more about Virtually There Visit https://virtually-there.net/
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