Elliott Herrod-Taylor, The Bunch
Trying to sort out shared utility bills for nine other housemates was such a nightmare it inspired Elliott Herrod-Taylor to create tech business The Bunch to solve the problem. He won Young Entrepreneur of the Year at the 2021 Growing Business Awards.
- What does your business do?
The Bunch is a utility management platform for tenants in shared accommodation. It sets up and manages all the utility bills for a property such as water, broadband, energy and TV packages, and shares the bills equally amongst all the tenants. The Bunch chooses the utility provider and handles everything so tenants only need to speak to us and not the utility providers. Every month each tenant just pays one consolidated bill to the Bunch and is only ever liable for their share of the bill.
We have now got 10,000 customers in more than 50 cities in the UK and a turnover of £5.5 million.
- Why did you decide to start your business?
I was studying Politics at Leeds University and in my second year I moved out of Halls of Residence into a house with ten friends. I was the unlucky one who was put in charge of setting up all the bills and it turned out to be an absolute nightmare. I was constantly chasing people for money and we ended up overpaying for many of the utilities. I thought there had to be a better way of doing it.
I started the business in my second year at university in 2017 and asked the university if I could take a year off to run it. I got it off the ground in that year and then went back and completed my studies while running it at the same time.
- How did you finance the growth of your business?
I got £15,000 worth of grants from Leeds University and I took a £25,000 personal loan from Start Up Loans, a government backed scheme. I was also running an events business putting on student nights and I sold that in my last year of university to a competitor for about £5000.
At the start I outsourced the tech platform to an agency but we now have our own in-house development team.
- What has been the most difficult or challenging part of growing your business?
I found it really difficult being the only one in my friendship group who was running a business. When you are going to the pub and worrying about a £50,000 VAT bill you can’t really identify with your mate who works in a corporate business and doesn’t have the same problems.
The other big challenge has also been a positive - it is my first time starting a business and I have never worked for anyone else so I have been making it up as I go along. There are areas where I have definitely taken the longer route but on the flip side that has been quite good because I have not been trained in any particular way.
- What key lesson have you learnt about setting up and growing a business?
That you have got to try and remain as optimistic and positive as you can, otherwise you would go insane.
- What has been the impact of the pandemic on your business and how have you dealt with this?
From a customer standpoint it hasn’t really affected us that much because everyone is always going to need to pay bills. The biggest impact has been managing the wellbeing of the staff and ensuring that everyone is ok.
- What has been your biggest mistake?
My biggest mistake has been my hiring strategy. For a long time I took the view that if someone seemed like a good person and I got along with them then they could have a job. Then I would hand them a phone on their first day and just tell them to get on with it. In hindsight I think that slowed us down and meant that in some areas we hired the wrong people.
- What has been the secret of your success so far?
We have a very good culture in the business and people are willing to go the extra mile.
- What personal quality or characteristic has been most useful to you as an entrepreneur as you grow your business?
- What advice would you give an entrepreneur just starting out about how to grow their business?
Don’t wait to have the perfect product before you try and sell it. Just get it off the ground and use the feedback you get to make adjustments. I know people who have spent a year developing a product and when they have tried to sell it they have realised it is not what people wanted.